Peace on Earth sparks controversy

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

As a resident of a community with a strong military presence, I’ve often heard, “Freedom isn’t free.” It’s a notion that we sometimes have to sacrifice for our way of life, and it makes sense.

As a reader of current events, I’m coming to fear something else. Apparently in Colorado, peace isn’t free, and neither is speech.

In the small town of Pagosa Springs, Lisa Jensen decorated her home with a Christmas wreath, and inside the circle there is a peace symbol. She received a letter from the president of her homeowner’s association stating, “residents are offended by the peace sign displayed on the front of your house. … This Board will not allow any signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive …”

The association is planning to fine Jensen $25 for every day her peace wreath is up, because there are a few parents who have children fighting in Iraq that have stated how offended they are.

Maybe I sleep in some mornings, but I think I missed the part where wishing for world peace was divisive and offensive. If we had world peace, I wouldn’t get my shoes searched at the airport when I fly home next week. If we had world peace, North Korea wouldn’t have a nuclear weapons test, followed by the United Nations discussing how to sanction them. If we had world peace, thousands of people would be home for the holidays with their families instead of in Iraq, and we wouldn’t have to worry about religious extremists picketing military funerals.

I know that’s a very simplistic way to look at it, but is it any more simplistic than taking a common Christmas theme and drawing offense?

Am I disrespecting a soldier if I sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” since both common Christmas carols include “peace on earth” in their lyrics?

Should the people who pull at a turkey wishbone dream of money, because wishing for world peace is disrespectful to the troops? I hope I don’t have to answer those questions seriously.

The most ridiculous argument I’ve heard against the sign has to be about the origins of the peace sign itself. Jensen’s critics have said the peace sign was originally a pagan symbol, and that’s another reason it should be taken down immediately.

By this notion, the association could send letters to every homeowner who puts up Christmas decorations, because Christmas started in Europe as a pagan holiday. It seems like a double standard to me that we can speak so vehemently against a symbol because of its origins, but ignore similar origins when it suits our mood.

We gave Christmas a chance, and that worked out. If I get the bigger end of the wishbone this holiday, I’ll wish we did the same for peace and free speech.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: