The “n-word” got all the press last month when the former “Seinfeld” co-star Michael Richards used it against two black hecklers at a comedy club where he was performing.

As bad as that was, it really was the “p-word” used by Bill Trimarco and Lisa Jensen of Pagosa Springs, Colo., that got my attention.

With “p” standing for peace, Bill and his wife, Lisa, used a peace symbol wreath on the side of their house to communicate their reason for the season.

But what they intended for peace brought the ire of the Loma Linda Homeowners’ Association, which informed them they were in violation of covenants, codes and restrictions. The association sent them a letter ordering the removal of the symbol lest they incur a $25 per day fine.

Of course, the n-word got much more press than the p-word, because the message of hate spreads much faster than the message of peace.

In fact, it’s likely that the only reason the p-word got any press is because some interpreted the sign to be anti-something-or-another. Opinions varied over the meaning of the wreath, with some residents seeing the wreath as anti-war and others seeing the anti-Christ.

Yet, according to the Durango Herald, this peace-loving couple meant only to “honor the biblical call for peace and goodwill toward men.”

This “biblical call” is nothing less than the angelic announcement made to a field of shepherds marking the birth of the one Christians call the “Prince of Peace.”

The irony is Jesus taught that this kind of peace likely was to pit brother against brother and father against son. Or, in the Pagosa case, it was homeowner against homeowner.

Peace always will be controversial; if for no other reason than it simply is not profitable. And if it’s not profitable, it’s not understandable. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who professes to be a student of the one who declared the presence of God in one’s life would deliver a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”

The understanding of peace always has been subject to personal interpretation. When we pray for peace, what are we praying for? When the headlines announce a peace accord, what are they really announcing? Often they are announcing the cessation of conflict. Yet that is not the meaning of peace in its truest sense.

Real peace involves understanding. Real peace involves an active presence of good, not just the absence of hate or the cessation of hostilities. Real peace has to involve even more than a crafted wreath.

How can peace become more than the cliché wish of a beauty pageant contestant?

We cannot take peace for granted. We never can assume we have achieved it. We must be active in peace. We must pray for peace. Practice peace. Teach peace. Possess peace. Proclaim peace.

As I write this column, three things have happened. Michaels has hired a New York publicist to broker peace with civil rights leaders. The homeowner’s association has reached a peaceful understanding with Bill and Lisa.

The third thing is that our president has proclaimed, “We can accept nothing less than victory (in Iraq) for our children and our grandchildren.”

May I suggest we aim much higher? I’d like to suggest we let peace become the definition of our victory. For as the father of one ready to go to Iraq and as the proud new grandfather of little Theon, I’ll accept nothing less.

There. I’ve said my piece.