War is not healthy

When I was a child growing up in Northern Virginia, the Vietnam war occupied a sizable piece of my emotional real estate.  I remember the boy at my school whose father didn’t come home from the war.  I remember seeing the casualty counts on the evening news.  I remember the pictures in Life magazine.  I remember vividly the bewilderment and anxiety I felt over campus riots and the Kent State shootings—events that seemed especially close because my mother had attended Kent State and that made it a real place.  I couldn’t really understand it all, but I remember feeling that everyone should be doing something to make the chaos stop.

At some point someone, my mother I believe, gave me a necklace of Lorraine Schneider’s poster “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”  The poster was the logo for the group Another Mother for Peace, which in 1967 sent Mother’s Day cards to President Lyndon B. Johnson and the members of Congress urging them to talk peace.  The image caught on and was soon found on jewelry, posters, badges, and bumper stickers, although it never became as popular as the ubiquitous peace symbol.  I didn’t have a lot of peace symbols up in my room or decorating my notebooks, but I did like Schneider’s design.

I wore the necklace often. Its message that “war is not healthy for children” made me feel safer—it validated my anti-war sentiments, and it gave me a way to speak out though I was never an anti-war activist.  I was too young, and maybe too nice to march in the streets, but my necklace expressed both the fear that I felt as a child, and the protest that my teen self longed to make.   I wasn’t trying to rebel against the Establishment or bring down the Government.  I just wanted the grownups in charge to come to their senses.

I’ve kept the necklace ever since.  A lot of other big pendants and funky necklaces have long since passed out of my jewelry collection (even given the cyclical nature of fashion, I just couldn’t be that person any more), but I’ve held on to that big gold rectangle.  And when my own daughter started asking me if she could borrow it (since unfortunately, war is also cyclical), I did what any mother would do these days—I started searching the web so I could buy her one of her own.  Turns out that Schneider’s daughter, Carol, and another child of the original AMP founders have revitalized the group.  They’re a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to educating citizens to take an active role for peace.  If you’re of a mind, you can visit them here.

It’s hard to explain why this particular peace message is as important to me as it is.  It could have been just another slogan from the 60s and 70s—another bumper sticker to post and move on.  But somehow it became something else; it became part of me.  And it pleases me that my daughter chose this piece out of the crazy jumble in my jewelry box.  A mom is always hoping to pass along a few bits to her kids: be kind, pick up after yourself, be curious about the world and other people, remember you are beautiful and you are loved.  And don’t be afraid to be a friend of peace.

7 thoughts on “War is not healthy

  1. I am so touched by your moving musing- It is always heartstopping for me to hear and realize what an impact my mother’s work made on so many mothers, daughters, granddaughters and others in such a personal way. I am really honored that you have such significant memories and feelings about this message and the necklace. Thanks so much for sharing it-
    Best Regards,
    Carol Schneider

  2. I don’t usually get choked up reading your posts, but this one got me. I am grateful to have a friend who can put into writing what others are feeling.

  3. Very well written. It is a strange world. Yesterday, there was an auction of Ghandi’s glasses, sandals and bowl. Representatives from India said the items were a national treasure. The owner a true pacifist said he would not auction the items and give them to India, if the would give more money for health care to it citizens. The auction continued. The items collected over the years sold for 1.8 million dollars…glasses, sandals a bowl. India paid the price. Now it is their national treasure.

  4. Alice, thank you so much for your eloquent thoughts on your WAR IS NOT HEALTHY necklace. My teenage daughter also loves to wear the necklace, which makes her “feel safe” (as you insightfully put it), and connects her to a grandmother she never knew: I am “another daughter” of Lorraine and another sister to Carol Schneider, who revived and safeguards our Mom’s much needed reminder about war. I am so glad that her piece lives on in people like you and your daughter!

  5. I never realized as your older sister how that whole ethos was affecting you. It was a strange time and place to be a teenager, wondering if the older of the brothers who lived next door would come back intact (he did), hoping the boys in my class would not be drafted (it ended just as most of them came of age) and no doubt a significant source of my own life-long yearning and working for peace in its every manifestation. Yesterday I learned that my manager’s husband is in Iraq, and I have a new appreciation for what she is dealing with day to day. I’m still hoping – and praying- the grown-ups in charge will come to their senses.

  6. You struck home again girl, don’t ever give up on peace.

    Most interesting how your sister responded and the
    fact that your dad survived 2 wars and missed Nam.

    Sometimes you just get tired of fighting and search for real peace.

  7. I graduated from Kent State in 1967, just a few years before the infamous protest. Trouble certainly was brewing even then. Kent State was a bucolic campus at one time, but even there violence intruded. I think the effect on children is not often considered, thank you for reminding all of us, we need to remember. Peace is elusive.

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