Every time I hear of armed conflict taking place somewhere on this blue green planet I want it to reverse. If these intractable conflicts could somehow go back to the starting point, back to the earliest signs of difficulty, they could more easily be resolved instead of leading to destruction, refugees fleeing a ruined homeland, and death. That’s what the non-violence principle of de-escalation clearly shows.
Although our world is indeed more peaceful we humans are still learning hard lessons from the tragedy of war and military aggression.
These lessons are particularly poignant when we look at people who manage to transmute horror into beauty. That’s the case with Project Peacebomb.
Between 1964 and 1973 the U.S. secretly bombed Laos. The equivalent of one B 52 bomb load showered on this thickly forested country every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. Thirty percent of the bombs dropped did not detonate, continuing to injure and kill people today.
In 1975 a Laotian man traveled back over the mountains toward home. He collected shrapnel and melted it in an earthen kiln, then cast it in hand-sculpted molds to make spoons to earn a little money. Eventually he taught the craft to his son. Today, ten families supplement their farming income by repurposing the shrapnel that still scars their homeland.
Now the spoon makers are collaborating with sustainable development groups to make ornaments and jewelry from bombs. Each bracelet purchased helps support artisan families while also helping to fund the clearance of unexploded ordnance fromLaos.
The simple beauty of this jewelry, creation wrought from destruction, reminds me of a passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, where the novel’s character sees American bombers in WW II flying in reverse.
American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over Francea few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground., to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.