Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sign of the Times

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the famous Peace Sign (right). The sign was actually created in England in 1958 as part of an Easter Ban-the-Bomb March. By all accounts, the weather was grim the day of the April march from London to the factory in the countryside that manufactured Britain's atomic weapons. As anti-nuke campaigner Pat Arrowsmith recalled: "It was quite clear that we were not just against the tests, and we were not just against the British bomb. We were against the Soviet bomb and against the U.S. bomb." The Peace Sign quickly spread around the world and became a staple at nuclear disarmament rallies in the early 1960s. In the United States, the heyday of the Peace Sign was during the Vietnam War, when the symbol was ubiquitous from sea to shining sea. In more recent years, it has become a sort of shared global logo of movements resisted oppression everywhere. As Arrowsmith noted, "It's been used as a badge against tyranny in Greece. It's been used as a badge against apartheid in South Africa, it's been used just as a general peace logo, it's been worn by U.S. U.S. troops opposing the war in Vietnam, it's become very much an anti-war symbol, but also an anti-tyranny symbol."

The peace sign is still widespread. It keeps making comebacks, usually in times of when war looms: during the nuclear arms race of the 1980s, the Gulf War of the early 1990s and the Iraq War today. It isn't going anywhere. Even if war becomes obsolete -- which, in my view, seems highly unlikely (though we can always hold out hope) -- the peace sign will endure as a symbol of the very best qualities in humanity.

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