By Peggy Kingman

It is a joy to see Courthouse Square enjoyed by so many after last year’s controversial “facelift.” Still there is one thing missing and calling for resolution — a focal point in the center circle. It has been empty for the 11 years we have lived here with various proposals for a fountain, a flag pole, etc., but none of these has gained any traction.

I am proposing another option — A Peace Pole — as both timely and timeless. Before going any further, please do not dismiss this as New-agey, political or religious. It is none of these. It does communicate the universal longing and aspiration for peace. It is a mute reminder of the goals and commitment we make to ourselves, to our families, to each other as a community and to the world. Please read further for a description.

The Peace Pole project was started in Japan in 1955 by a man named Masahisa Goi as a response to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Each pole is a handcrafted monument with the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” printed in different languages.

They have become recognized as an international symbol and can be found in town squares, city halls, schools, churches, parks and any place where the spirit of peace is embraced by people of goodwill. Since the beginning, over 200,000 peace poles have been planted in approximately 200 countries.

In Tuolumne County, there are three in private yards and one gracing the Peace Park in front of St. Patrick’s Church (go see it); in Calaveras county, there is one at the Rotary Club in Arnold, one in West Point and another in Copperopolis.

More extraordinary locations include the Pyramids of El Gaza in Egypt, Gorky Park in Russia, the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima and the Allenby Bridge on the border of Israel and Jordan.

Political leaders, such as former President Jimmy Carter and religious leaders such as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama have planted peace poles

The St. Patrick’s pole consists of a clear cedar 6x6x8 post with plaques containing eight languages affixed to its four sides. The languages chosen are: English, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Me-Wok, Italian, German and Chinese. The first three represent the three great monotheistic religions of the world; the others remind us of some (but not all) the ethnic groups that were so instrumental in the history of our area. It was “planted’ and dedicated in 2010, a constant reminder to work, wish or pray unceasingly for peace in the world, throughout the days and nights — to become a people of peace.

The message May Peace Prevail on Earth may be understood as a prayer, a wish, a longing or an artistic expression. There is almost unlimited latitude in size, cost, materials, and selected languages — simple or intricate.

It should reflect the deepest aspirations and longing of the community. It could be designed by one of our local artists (a competition?) and use any material (our local limestone? Timber?). It need not be expensive and could be paid for by personal donations.

We have waited a long time for the perfect centerpiece for our square. Let’s take the time now to get it right and get it done.

Peggy Kingman is a Sonora resident and lifelong human rights advocate.

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