Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Peace, Love, and Controversy

It always amazes me when the word—or symbol for—”peace” upsets people.

A couple in Pagosa Springs, Colo. was recently told by a community association to remove a peace sign-shaped wreath from outside their house, reports The New York Times, lest they be fined $25 a day. They told the couple the symbol was politically divisive and one member later said it looked like “a sign of the devil.”


When outrage broke out, the three members of the homeowner’s association resigned and neighbors held a march, hung their own symbols, and created a 300-foot peace sign on a local soccer field.

One of the sign’s owners said all he meant to promote was world peace.

This all brings back vivid memories from my Quaker boarding school days during the first Iraq war. A bunch of students wove blue garbage bags into a chainlink fence on our property that faced a highway to read “peace.” Oh, the calls, the harassments, the threats. The school was inundated with demands for its removal. It was my first experience of wide-eyed shock at how something that seemed so instrinsic to me, so “duh” as to be cliché, could be so controversial.


We debated long and hard at our community meeting—I lost all respect for the librarian who suggested we take it down to avoid conflict—but ultimately, peace won.

And it looks like it’s winning in Colorado. It still boggles my mind though, that it was ever a question in the first place. You know?

What are your peace-sign associations? Do you wear them, hang them, think they’re bad?

By Valerie Reiss. Amy’s on vacation.

Comments read comments(13)
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Ruth Eileen

posted November 30, 2006 at 8:24 am

response to peace sign controversy in Pagosa Springs…wow…as a child of the 60’s (literally, born in 1959) who did most of my growing up in the Bay Area of CA…fantastic cauldron of the “cultural revolution”…it is difficult to believe the narrow-mindedness of so many of our ‘neighbors”. I have great friends in Pagosa Springs and have visited there numerous times…many very conservative and wealthy (and unconscious) transplants from TX and CA rule there. I’m so glad these people stuck to their..peace sign. I will definitely ask my friends Steve and Susan about this event when I call them for the holidays. My Quaker roots seem to have had a profound influence on my being as well, alth’ I am the only one in my immediate family who has this connection with such conviction. Thanks for sharing…I don’t own a TV or read news much other than local…what I need to know seems to appear before me. Blessings, Ruth Eileen, Missoula, MT

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Janet Fraser Smith

posted November 30, 2006 at 11:37 am

I have worn the Peace sign, every day, since the beginning of the viet-nam debacle. I have greatfully joined ALL anti-war marches since then… I have lost “friends” because of my un-daunted passion for peace. I have been photographed by the FBI…as all peace marchers have been. I am 73 years of age…Never will I fail to speak my opinions to any one without FEAR! Even when I was in high-school(right after the establishment of the United Nations…in a Civics class,) the “teacher,” told me that if I did not stop talking about the U.N., He would send me to the Principal’s office. Well, I wouldn’t and he did. I was expelled from school for 3 days…when I returned, all me class-mates referred to me as, “A fugitive from the Daily Worker as a Communist. Never will I remove myself from all peace movements. From your passionate friend, Janet Fraser Smith

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Cindy Mara

posted November 30, 2006 at 3:13 pm

My daughter who is 21 yrs old, had a job at a local roadside Bar and Grill in Lincoln Park, NJ. Recently the owners sold. She has always signed her name and drew a little peace sign on the customers checks. She is a very pretty & nice young lady. I know she definately picked up the peace symbol thing from me, her mom, she was born in Marin County California and heard thousands of stories of my being on the road as a Dead Head–anyway, after the 2nd night working for this new owner, at the end of the shift, he pulled her off to the side and said”what do you think this is? a hippie bar?” she didnt know how to reply. He went on to say “I dont think we have a place for you here anymore” The poor kid came home in tears, feeling so confused and misunderstood. Give Peace a Chance!

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Susan Latimer

posted November 30, 2006 at 3:37 pm

Thank You to the couple who is willing to say, Christmas is about Peace! I have seen many such Peace wreaths and each one has made me pause and pray for Peace. Thank You, Susan Latimer Darby, MT

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Heather Falduto

posted November 30, 2006 at 3:47 pm

If anyone knows of a petition to sign- to help these people- please e-mail me and let me know. Thanks, Heather

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Pat S

posted November 30, 2006 at 4:31 pm

How common and uneducated. To think that it takes any part of humanity to not realize or recognize the value of compassion, which is a signal of “peace,” is so very sad. You’d think that by now all would be willing to see the truth, light and love of a higher power in our lives…

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debora alexander

posted November 30, 2006 at 4:38 pm

The peace symbol is a circle that represents the universal One. Within is a ray that starts as one and splays to three.Here is the mind, body, and soul.If you prefer the father,son and holy ghost.Either way it is beautiful in its simplicity That is what makes it too complex for so many.Peace to all.

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posted November 30, 2006 at 5:03 pm

What a wonderful testimony to peace! I admire those who stand for virtues (such as peace) even in the midst of chaos. Lets create a world of peace! Icarus

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Katherine S.

posted December 1, 2006 at 12:16 pm

When I was in the 7th grade we had an art project to do that consisted of shading and shadowing. As we were told to draw anything we liked, I chose to draw a peace symbol. I was in the process of shading and shadowing when my art teacher walked by my desk. He stopped, looked in closely and said quietly…”there’s always one”. At that moment, I realized that what I was drawing was anything but a symbol. I made no reply, only smiled and continued at my work. “Peace is the path…not the destination”. I can’t remember the grade I received that day, but my teacher’s comment remains. There’s always one…one here and there…in every class, who realizes that peace is a path that most of the world is not ready to wrap it’s mind around. Hang tough Pagosa Springs, CO and all fellow visionaries. Stay on the noble path and thank the heavens that there are still enough of us to pass this path on to our children and theirs.

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posted December 1, 2006 at 1:55 pm

In response to this article I would have to say that the peace symbol has been misunderstood by these folks. I think it is a combination of who you are and where you are that is causing a backlash on a wonderful concept such as ‘peace’. It means a multitude of things, safety, dignity, liberty to say the least. It is the thing most humanity strives for. However there are some very mixed signals out there. I know in some communities neighbors just have difficulty with certain holiday objects that they ‘object to. I think the holidays should have peace symbols. This is a good time for it. It always is. Peace out!

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posted December 1, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Diana Butler Bass, guest blogger on “God’s Politics,” did an excellent job commenting on this mind-numbing but ultimately uplifiting story, in which sanity won over hysteria, and a message of pure peace won over a pathetic jingoism: Among other things, she debunks the Orwellian religious right lunacy that the universally-recognized Peace symbol is ‘really an anti-Christ symbol.’ RUBBISH!! Meanwhile, another example of extreme right wing hysteria is upon us: a peace group’s Iraq memorial in CA has stirred outrage, because of a sign accompanying 400+ crosses. What does the sign say you ask? Perhaps a political sign criticizing GWB? Nope, the sign says… “In Memory of 2867 U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq.”Some people are apparently angry that the memorial creators have the gall to call the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room to their attention: nearly as many Americans who were killed on 9/11 have been killed in Iraq, to say nothing of the 20,000+ maimed and otherwise wounded. How dare they tell us the human cost of this war! See:

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posted December 2, 2006 at 7:21 pm

Perhaps I misunderstood, but isn’t “peace” the ultimate goal of this conflict-turned war? Wouldn’t this gesture be more appropriately interpreted as a seasonal wish for a speedy and sucessful outcome?

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J Kirby

posted December 6, 2006 at 1:15 am

Regarding the peace sign that some people object to, reminds me of a man here in Oregon who’s car was defaced because he had a magnetic sign that simply said “Peace”. They had spray painted “Traitor” on the side of his car.

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