December 27, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Brother, Lay Down Your Arms

"As we move into 2013, may we decide to lay down some of our arms on the road to a more peaceful and loving country"

By Levi Ben-Shmuel

Speaking for a Wiser Life

Levi Ben-Shmuel is a Tai Chi and Kabbalah teacher, and co-creator of "Sulam Chi: A Dance of Life."

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The carnage in Newtown ripped my heart. But the HuffPost's reporting of the continued slaughter of young and old across the nation—the last count I saw was estimated at more than 100 dead since Sandy Hook —is simply shocking. I know the problem is complicated and its solution is crying out for a multifaceted approach, but common sense says it is time to legislate laying down some of our arms.

The impact on the loved ones left behind is abstract until, God forbid, you experience it yourself, or you know of a family impacted by death due to a shooting. Sandy Hook is so powerful because of the unequivocal innocence of its victims. The image of losing a little child in this way cuts right to your heart; you tremble at the thought of it happening to your own child or a child you know.

Years ago, while visiting the battlefields of the Civil War, I came to a powerful understanding of what is underneath the violence that has been tearing apart the fabric of our country for a long time.

Seeing exhibits at Manassas gave me my first insight into the horrors of the Civil War. I had no idea that more than 620,000 soldiers died during the four years of the conflict. The number of dead astonished me. A few days later, I was on a ridge called Prospect Hill outside of Fredericksburg. It was a Confederate position overlooking the Rappahannock River.

As I gazed at the Confederate cannons still positioned to destroy the advancing Union army that had climbed the ridge 150 years earlier, I thought about the cost of war. The shock of learning how many died, sensing the violence and terror the soldiers experienced, the fact that it was Americans fighting against Americans, forced something in my heart to break open.

A verse appeared in my mind:

Brother, lay down your arms
For love can carry the day.

There are times when it is necessary to defend our country and ourselves. The Civil War was a time when, for the sake of the Union, guns and violence were necessary. Brother needed to fight against brother for a great nation to survive.

What I felt that day was that most of us carry "battlefields" in our hearts, mind, and bodies. We take the unresolved internal battles and play them out on the stage of life and continue the fight with people and situations around us. So when it comes to random shootings in some neighborhood, or road rage over some incident, or the violent act of a sick mind, what can validate taking the life of another American who is, at heart, your brother or sister? Is the right to carry any kind of weapon, in particular assault weapons, the answer?

The music video below features the song I wrote that day on Prospect Hill called, "Lay Down Your Arms." May we use our collective wisdom to find a solution to this recurring problem, to reject living in fear and take sensible measures to encourage cooperation and healing. As we move into 2013, may we decide to lay down some of our arms on the road to a more peaceful and loving country.

This blog was originally featured on the Huffington Post.

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