Bringing a gun to a word fight.

I used to work for Partners for Democratic Change (, a wonderful organization committed to promoting peaceful conflict resolution worldwide.  My job was to set up the first community mediation centers in the former Soviet bloc.

So I brought a couple of fledgling mediators from Poland and Slovakia to visit a mediation center in a big city.  The center director, simultaneously gruff and friendly in that big city way, had a big pistol tucked into his pants.  For real.

This didn’t do much to detract from my colleagues’ stereotypes about Americans and their guns.  (When asked why he carried an unconcealed weapon in a peacebuilding center, the director simply said “because I can.”  Turns out he was a retired police officer, and was indeed legally entitled to keep a pistol in his pants).

That was more than 15 years ago, and now I run a large urban mediation center.  I don’t carry a gun.


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