Waging Peace

PRE-NOTE:  I didn’t pre-plan my blogs, but the ones for 9-11-19, 9-20-19 and 9-23-19 fit together with todays.  “Long ago” (two weeks) I didn’t factor in the phenomenal 8-night Ken Burns series on Country Music; nor the opening of the UN this week, and the Presidents dismissive comments on globalism in favor of nationalism (which he called “patriot”), nor the now active impeachment activity in the U.S. Congress..   There is much, much more to say, but for now, the below will suffice for now.  NOTE TO MYSELF: Don’t quit.   I hope you and many others will participate in the evening at the James J. Hill House on October 23.  Details here: The Future We Want001


Saturday a small but enthusiastic group walked from the St. Paul Cathedral to the State Capitol, in a “Walk for Planet Peace”.  No doubt, threatening weather interfered with attendance, though the threat never actually materialized.  It was nonetheless a good event, honoring Mahatma Gandhi’s vision as his 150th birthday approaches (Oct. 2, 1869, the actual birthdate).  Main sponsors were the India Association of Minnesota (IAM), Twin Cities Nonviolent, MN 350 and Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.

Those who attended know there was an impressive group of speakers and performers.  One who spoke was Michael Orange who has long been active in Veterans for Peace.  His remarks (a single page, shared with his permission) can be read here: Michael Orange- Walk for Planet Peace speech 092019

Michael Orange Sep 21, 2019

John Dear, whose long career as a Catholic Priest has centered on peace activism, gave the keynote remarks.  He has been about the process of helping build a nationwide movement of nonviolence, and the campaign is bearing fruit.  Here is what Fr. Dear has to say about the national nonviolent campaign.

Fr. John Dear at Minnesota State Capitol steps Sep 21, 2019

Contrasting with the Friday climate change rally, Saturday’s peace rally was much smaller, and the participants older.  The important fact is that both events were happening, and hopefully will draw attention and action nationally and locally.  Both peace and climate are necessities of life for the youth, as are other issues, as they take over the reins of decision making in this country.

Here are some of the faces at today’s program:

Fr. Harry Bury, long-time peace and justice activist, introduces the program Sep 21.  You can read more about Fr. Bury here.  His recent book, Maverick, is excellent.  I read it this summer.

Enroute from Cathedral to State Capitol Sep 21, 2019

The Planet Peace group was prepared for rain, which never did materialize on Saturday.  I would estimate the group at about 200, compared with an estimated 6,000 for the climate march a day earlier, in perfect weather.  Planet Peace was predominantly older activists; the Climate group was primarily young people.


Personal Reflections:

I often attend gatherings such as these, and my rule of thumb for each is simple: attendance is successful if I leave with at least a single ‘aha’ idea, which I can then apply to my own life.  I have rarely been disappointed, and I was not on either Friday or Saturday.  Of course, my ‘aha’ might differ from yours or anyone else’s.  The objective is to expand understanding.

From among my personal learning, here are two scribbled quotes, one from the Friday Climate event; the second from the Saturday Peace event:

Friday, while we were waiting for the march to the Capitol to begin, a young woman nearby said “It appears we’re waiting for someone to be in charge.”  I quickly scribbled her thought down on a piece of paper I’d picked up from the ground.  There were several thousand of us waiting for someone to tell us what to do next….  There was, in fact, a young woman with a bullhorn, and the march soon began, efficiently and effectively.  But what really sticks in my mind is the speaker standing close by.  The simplest course of action, often, is to wait for someone else to tell us what to do, rather than take the initiative and just do something.  Often “follow the leader” makes a lot of sense.   But what if the leader makes no sense at all?  What if nobody started the march on Friday?  Or completely changed its direction or objective?  What then?

Human beings, indeed, likely, all species, tend to organize in groups, and in one way or another choose someone to be the leader.  The ultimate leaders, always, have to be each and every one of us.  It is not an easy transition.

Saturday, John Dear, a leader doubtless many in the audience had come to hear, was wrapping up his short address by quoting Rev. James Lawson, scheduled but unable to attend due to health concerns, who quoted something Martin Luther King said not long before his death by assassination in 1968: “Hope is the final refusal to give up.”   Here’s a reference to the quote, apparently made at a retreat in Atlanta in January 1968, less than three months before MLKs death.  Lawson apparently was at the meeting.

We don’t have to invent wisdom, and we can learn from others.  King learned from Gandhi and others; Dear learned from Lawson and others and shared the wisdom; on and on.  The torch is constantly being passed and we have a choice to make, each time we’re asked to accept it.

Hanging in there is very often a tough slog, and the temptation is to just quit – to lose hope.

Among the folks who showed up on Friday and Saturday, and at other times and places, are the leaders to come.  I hope there are many of them.

At the Minnesota State Capitol, September 21, 2019

1 reply
  1. Mike McDonald
    Mike McDonald says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these important issues. The s… is hitting the fan on everything. We are heading up to Duluth on the peace bus to be part of the ‘stop line 3’ gathering. Keep doing your good work for peace.


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