The Peace Sign

Rani Jayakumar

© Copyright 2020 by Rani Jayakumar

©Peace sign courtesy of
                 ©Peace sign courtesy of

I grew up in GenX - but embraced, through my parents, all the ideals of the hippies: environmentalism, peace, women's empowerment, civil rights, and beyond. This article began as an exploration of the popular symbol of peace and its origins.

Did you know that the peace sign was originally created as a protest against nuclear bombs? The semaphore symbols for N and D - for nuclear disarmament - were put together to
create this design in the 50s.

I find this really interesting for multiple reasons - as usual, partly to do with the words.
First, nuclear disarmament is something I think most ordinary humans would agree is good (though it often doesn't seem that way). As the daughter of a nuclear physicist, I see the value in science and progress in many areas but even those who invented the science behind the atomic bomb warned that it should not actually happen ( Nuclear disarmament is about nations of the world agreeing not to hurt one another, putting down their weapons and calling, "truce." Sometimes I feel that is the way it is in my house - we rise up at the smallest hurts, fists and words at the ready, but then miraculously find a way again to be with one another in peace.

Second, I love the word "disarm." While disarmament means getting rid of weapons (also something I stand by), someone who is disarming can make others feel at ease. In fact, Webster's Dictionary defines it as "to deprive of means, reason, or disposition to be hostile." This is the peace I long for - removing hostility from myself and others, finding ways to be together.

Third, as the article discusses, the peace symbol has so many conflicting origins and meanings - some say it is anti-Christian, others anti-Semitic, still others pro-Communist. It reminds me that, like all things, the good in our lives can come from a tragic history, but we have the power to reinvent what we see. We can take the symbols of oppression and turn them into freedom. We can take our own failings and turn them into strengths.

We can create space, just as we can create peace.  

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