Pablo Picasso’s Peace Dove is tattooed on my right shoulder. I rarely get angry and almost never raise my voice. From the time I was young, I have been simultaneously terrified and disgusted by anger and violence.
I grew up in a violent household; my father was abusive to my mother. My entire family was affected in different ways by the experience until my father finally left. My mom developed posttraumatic stress disorder; my little brother still has nightmares; and I can’t remember anything before I was about seven years old, when my father left.
The experience with my family led me to seek peace in my own life but it did not protect me from violence in other places. When I was in second grade, I did my homework in the kitchen while my mom listened to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. My mom has told me that one day she looked up at me and I was trying to cover my ears with shoulders; I’m not a turtle but I was doing my best to retract into a shell. The newscaster was reporting on a massacre in Bosnia in which thousands of people were brutally murdered. It scared me—it still scares me.
I wanted to feel safe and thought everyone else should feel safe, too. But how can one feel safe when horrible things are happening to people in other parts of the world? Around the time of the Bosnian massacre, my family started to attend Quaker meeting. Hearing what happened in Bosnia made me far more interested in what Quakers stand for.
The Quaker Peace Testimony says we should not participate or help prepare for war for any reason. This rang true with me. A world without war, without violence, where people work out their differences with words is one in which I could be a much more willing participant. As I grew older, I became more involved with peace activism. Today, I am a member of my meeting’s Peace Committee and I regularly attend protests for peace.
That newscast in 1995 started me on a quest to do what I can to make the world a safer, more peaceful place. I believe so strongly in this goal that, after careful deliberation, I decided to have it permanently branded to my body, so last year I got my first and last tattoo.