By Dick Bernard, February 19, 2007
You may have to look a little carefully to see it (note photo),
but there it is, on the picture window of a modest home in northeast
Minneapolis MN: a Peace Symbol, silently witnessing to its neighborhood
and all passersby.
Linda, who works at a neighborhood coffee house I frequent with
a couple of friends every other Tuesday, told us about the symbol and
its history in early January. It is her home, and her personal
witness to Peace. It has attracted both kinds of attention: people
who affirm its presence...and at least one unknown soul who felt it
his (or her) duty to 'egg' it in the middle of winter (you can
see the evidence just above and to the right of the peace symbol).
It is our tendency, perhaps our wish, to see dramatic breatkthroughs:
an instant end to War; a rapid turning of our leadership from War-worshipping
policies to sanity.
It would be nice, of course, to see instant turnarounds, but the
dramatic work is really one 'peace' at a time, like the symbol in the
window; like the bumper sticker '24PEACE' I saw on a vehicle at Lake
Tahoe last October; like the giant PEACE sign outside the Basilica of
St. Mary in Minneapolis; the metallic PEACE symbol on the trunk of the
car in front of me recently; like, like, like.... Every one of
us must bear witness if we are to have any chance of turning the destructive
Titanic of War and its related war economy away from the Iceberg which
is ever more obviously signalling our collective death.
There are, also, the big dreams too, and last summer I was
privileged to become one of the early participants in the brainchild
of a University of South Florida professor, Dr. Michael Knox, whose
proposal is for a Peace Memorial in the City of War Monuments, Washington
DC. We've had this on the home page of this website since last
summer, but never really publicized it adequately.
You can visit www.uspeacememorial.org and
learn all about the Vision, and Dr. Knox's personal peace biography
in the registry section. Scrolling down you'll find my own
offering, and Noam Chomsky's, and Concepcion (Connie) Picciotto (who,
along with colleagues, has since 1981 kept a round-the-clock vigil for
peace across the street from the White House in Washington DC). And
there are others as well, some whose names will be familiar to Minnesotans. Joe
Schwartzberg, Human Rights and Peace Store, MAP, Citizens for Global
Solutions MN, First Unitarian Society, Network of Spiritual Progressives.
How about you and yours becoming a contibuting partner, now, this
Consider very strongly becoming a participating member of the Peace
Memorial project (donations are tax deductible). Register your
organization as part of the Peace Registry. Make it a point to
share this information with others.
"Tall Oaks from little acorns grow" goes the saying...but every
Tree needs water. Let's help nurture this Oak Tree to Peace!
It is easy to put off such tasks. PEACE cannot wait.
This painting, of the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis,
by Emmy White (© 2005), is the illustration
for September, 2007, on the Basilica calendar. It's
a good reminder that September 21 is International Day of Peace. (click
to see larger image - displayed here with permission from the artist)
Cindy Sheehan, and the Season for Nonviolence
By Dick Bernard, January
“I now believe that the potential destructiveness
of modern weapons totally
rules out the possibility of war ever
again achieving a negative good. If we
assume that mankind has a right to survive, then
we must find an
alternative to war and destruction. In
our day of space vehicles and
guided ballistic missiles, the choice
is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”
Martin Luther King Jr, in Strength to Love, 1963
Coincidence brought the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers to invite
Cindy Sheehan to address Minnesota-area peace advocates on January 30,
and then, two months later, to learn about and strongly endorse the
10th annual international Season for Nonviolence. The Season begins
on January 30, the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
(1948), and ends on April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of
Martin Luther King, Jr (1968).
The two ideas came from separate individuals, at separate times.
I can think of no better coincidence than Cindy speaking here on the
very day the Season for Nonviolence begins. In the ultimate (and
tragic) irony, Cindy’s son, Casey, was killed in Iraq on April
4, 2004, which is the last day of the Season, and the anniversary of
Martin Luther King Jrs death in Memphis..
Some basics, first:
Cindy Sheehans official website is Gold Star Families for Peace, http://www.gsfp.org.
The website which is the informal clearing house for the Season for
Nonviolence is http://www.agnt.org,
click on Season for Nonviolence.
We will publicize local events and offerings on the MAP calendar at www.mapm.org.
Gandhi and King and Nonviolence? Even with heroes the issue
of nonviolence is sometimes complex and one’s thinking evolves.
Who better to speak on the topic than MLK himself?
MLK spoke eloquently of the quandary in an early book of his which
I recently (and coincidentally) dusted off and reread.
I first came across the book, Strength to Love, in the living room
of an African-American man in Americus GA in about 1994. It was
a book of sermons given by King during his ministry to 1963. I
believe the book remains available today, and is well worth purchase.
My hosts edition of the book was the one printed immediately after
MLK’s assassination in 1968. The book was originally published
in June, 1963, when King was 34 years old, just a few months before
the famous “I have a dream speech” on the Mall in Washington,
August 28, 1963. www.holidays.net/mlk/speech.htm.
The last chapter of the book, entitled “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”,
is a departure from the other 16, in that it is Kings personal narrative
on his journey to embracing non-violence.
Following is Dr. King’s early writing on Gandhi and Nonviolence
From Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr © 1963 , Chapter
“Then [in the early 1950s] I was introduced to the life and
teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. As I read his works I became deeply
fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. The whole
Gandhian concept of satyagraha (satya is truth which equals
love and graha is force; satyagraha thus means truth-force
or love-force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper
into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of
love gradually diminished and I came to see for the first time that
the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method
of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed
people in their struggle for freedom. At that time, however,
I acquired only an intellectual understanding and appreciation of the
position, and I had no firm determination to organize it in a socially
When I went to Montgomery, Alabama, as a pastor in 1954, I had not
the slightest idea that I would later become involved in a crisis in
which nonviolent resistance would be applicable. After I had lived
in the community about a year, the bus boycott began. The Negro
people of Montgomery, exhausted by the humiliating experiences that
they had constantly faced on the buses, expressed in a massive act of
noncooperation their determination to be free. They came to see
that it was ultimately more honorable to walk the streets in dignity
than to ride the buses in humiliation. At the beginning of the
protest, the people called on me to serve as their spokesman. In
accepting this responsibility, my mind, consciously or unconsciously,
was driven back to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of
nonviolent resistance. This principle became the guiding light
of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation and
Gandhi furnished the method.
The experience in Montgomery did more to clarify my thinking in regard
to the question of nonviolence than all of the books that I had read. As
the days unfolded, I became more and more convinced of the power of
nonviolence. Nonviolence became more than a method to which I
gave intellectual assent; it became a commitment to a way of life. Many
issues I had not cleared up intellectually concerning nonviolence were
now resolved within the sphere of practical action.
My privilege of traveling to India had a great impact on me personally,
for it was invigorating to see firsthand the amazing results of a nonviolent
struggle to achieve independence. The aftermath of hatred and
bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere
in India, and a mutual friendship, based on complete equality, existed
between the Indian and British people within the Commonwealth.
I would not wish to give the impression that nonviolence will accomplish
miracles overnight. Men are not easily moved from their mental
ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings. When
the underprivileged demand freedom, the privileged at first react with
bitterness and resistance. Even when the demands are couched in
nonviolent terms, the initial response is substantially the same. I
am sure that many of our white brothers in Montgomery and throughout
the South are still bitter toward the Negro leaders, even though these
leaders have sought to follow a way of love and nonviolence. But
the nonviolent approach does something to the hearts and souls of those
committed to it. It gives them new self-respect. It calls
up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally,
it so stirs the conscience of the opponent that reconciliation becomes
More recently I have come to see the need for the method of nonviolence
in international relations. Although I was not yet convinced of
its efficacy in conflicts between nations, I felt that while war could
never be a positive good, it could serve as a negative good by preventing
the spread and growth of an evil force. War, horrible as it is, might
be preferable to surrender to a totalitarian system. But I now
believe that the potential destructiveness of modern weapons totally
rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good. If
we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an
alternative to war and destruction. In our day of space vehicles
and guided ballistic missiles, the choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence.
I am no doctrinaire pacifist, but I have tried to embrace a realistic
pacifism which finds the pacifist position as the less evil in the circumstances. I
do not claim to be free from the moral dilemmas that the Christian nonpacifist
confronts, but I am convinced that the church cannot be silent while
mankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. If the church
is true to her mission, she must call for an end to the arms race….”
From Strength to Love by Martin Luther King,
Jr © Harper and Row, 1963.
(For Dr. Kings view of the war of his time, Vietnam, see this address
from April 16, 1967: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html)
THREE POSTNOTES to today’s reader:
1. Dr. King, in the segment quoted above, talks about “an
oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
The Negroes in Birmingham in 1955, and African-Americans generally,
were those ‘oppressed’ to which he referred. I think
it would be an easy transition for King to talk about todays U.S. insanity
in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on and on and on, and apply his words squarely
to the U.S. military men and women sent to those killing fields, even
those who seem to willingly go ‘in the service of their country’,
not fully understanding the real reasons, or what might be ahead for
them. Doubtless there were slaves who did not wish freedom, because
of fears of the unknown…the same dynamic in general applies to
those in service.
2. There is discussion, and indeed there is sometimes perceptible
tension, within the Peace community (and others) about not only strategy
and tactics, but vocabulary as well. Is being Anti-War the same
as being Pro-Peace? Can “against” and “for” be
synonyms? Where does nonviolence end, or does it have no boundary – either
you’re not violent or you are? Can a non-violent approach
embrace feelings or expressions of anger? Is there a purity test
for an activist? A pacifist? Do we give grades from A to
F for performance? Do you always have to be Minnesota-nice? Does
any of this even matter?
Even within MAPs 68 organizations there is ample evidence of this
sometimes (and useful) tension.
A good succinct description of this tension comes from a January 16,
2007, speech by Bill Moyers to the National Conference on Media Reform
in Memphis http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/16/159222 when
he said, about Media reform, but in effect to all of us in any part
of the Peace and Justice movement, that “all too often, the greatest
obstacle to reform is the reform movement itself. Factions rise,
fences are erected, jealousies mount, and the cause all of us believe
in is lost in the shattered fragments of what once was a clear and compelling
Moyers words, in my opinion, could be said similarly to any activist
community and represent a problem about which we need constantly to
be aware and in conversation about..
3. Finally, among King’s words, above, he says “[a]t
the beginning of the [bus boycott] protest, the people called on me
to serve as their spokesman.”
In that single sentence resides, in my opinion, one of the major quandaries
of any movement, at any time in history, no less so our own.
We wait for somebody else to do the leading, to inspire, to sacrifice,
for us, or for the cause. Leading can be and often is a most ‘sticky
wicket’, and we know this. For Gandhi and for King, the
reward for leadership was death by assassination, martyrdom while advancing
a noble cause.
Cindy Sheehan is greeted, with very good reason, as a hero in today’s
peace movement. But we owe it to her, and to our society and to
ourselves, to more actively become co-leaders in this urgent task of
finding a better way than bombs, bullets, death and destruction…in
the cause of Peace and Justice.
Cindy Sheehan’s program January 30 is has been titled “1
Person can make a difference”.
That “1 person” is each one of us, in any of a multitude
The ball is in OUR court.
Dick Bernard, president
More on Jesus Hurtado
by Dick Bernard, 12-04-06
A few days ago I posted (below) comments about
a memorable meeting Nov 21 with a man, Jesus Hurtado, who had participated
in the 1989 Hunger Strike at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Dec 3, we had a small (6 people) but excellent meeting with the man,
Jesus Hurtado. It included one other of the other 1989 Hunger Strikers,
Jerry Rau, and we had a rich discussion.
We agreed to reconvene on January 17, 2007, at St. Joan of Arc.
Jesus provided the Hunger Strikers Summary of their 19 day Strike
at the St. Paul Cathedral. It is accessible here.
There are lessons to be learned from the 1989 Strike which apply directly
to today’s Peace Movement. There is a serious need to take a
new look at tactics and strategies to achieve attention toward Peace
in this century.
At another meeting on Nuclear Non-Proliferation on Saturday, Dec 2,
Steve Leeper of the World Conference of Mayors for Peace revealed a
very stark difference in citizen response to the nuclear issue between
the present day and a few years ago. He noted a recent march in New
York City which the organizers proudly estimated at 40,000 participants,
in contrast to a march on the same issue in 1982 which was estimated
at 1,000,000 participants.
Mr. Leeper also noted that the traditional large NGO support for movements
such as Mayors for Peace initiative seems to be eroding as these groups
are having more difficulty sustaining themselves, much less helping
others. This, plus the financial needs for a professional campaign
to call wider attention to the current nuclear proliferation crisis
makes is necessary for more direct citizen action and financial participation. (His
group has 1500 mayors as members, representing hundreds of millions
of people worldwide.) Their website is www.2020visioncampaign.com. The
seeming immensity of Mayors for Peace does not translate into an adequately
funded advocacy organization, since each mayor joins for minimal dues. Citizen
funding and activism becomes more and more essential to do any kind
of adequate outreach programming. Your help in making more mayors
aware of this group is solicited.
Without my active knowledge, I was probably a tiny part of that anti-nuclear
movement in 1982. My 1982 Thanksgiving/Christmas Reflection to family
and friends noted that I had been at the Vietnam Memorial the weekend
it was dedicated (mid-October), and then noted this as well: “I’m
thankful also to have heard Dr. Helen Caldicott speak on “The
Madness of Nuclear War” on November 6,. Thankful too for being
able to see a film on the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even more
thankful to be able to find and talk with persons who survived the
horror of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, including some sailors who
were on the USS Arizona – my Uncle Franks tomb – that fateful
day. Thankful to be able to tell you about my feelings. Hoping that
our tomorrows will be filled with peace.”
That reflection went to family and friend 24 years ago; Jesus Hurtado
and his colleagues witnessed to the world about El Salvador 17 years
ago. That was a generation ago.
Ours is a new generation, and we need to measure our efforts and their
effectiveness against those of the past. We can’t be complacent
or satisfied with what we are doing. World conditions are far worse
now than then, and the time is passing quickly.
Our grandchildren need our witness for peace.
by Dick Bernard, 11-29-06
evening before Thanksgiving 2006 the phone rang at my home, and a man
introduced himself to me, and said he’d like to share with me
a proposal about bringing the troops home from Iraq.
sounded sincere, and I agreed to meet with him the next morning at
Resource Center of the Americas.
Hurtado was his name, and when I got to the Resource Center, I met
him: a neatly dressed articulate gentleman with a very noticeable Spanish
gave me his proposal (short form accessible here; and longer
form here). I read it later, and it is a proposal not
unlike millions of other proposals we have variously formulated in
our heads: ideas about disengaging from an awful and unproductive conflict.
the proposal was not the topic of our table talk that Tuesday morning,
and not the main reason for highlighting this intense man who had once
been in the Bolivian Army. .
had along with him a large album, full of newspaper clippings of a
20 day hunger strike at the Cathedral of St. Paul which began Thanksgiving
Day, 1989. Jesus was one of eight people who went on their strike
to protest the killings of Jesuit Priests in El Salvador, and to draw
attention to atrocities there. As evidenced by the album and
our conversation, the strike drew a large amount of attention then,
though I have been unable to access information about it on the web. Those
on strike, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press of Dec 10, 1989,
were Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Valerie Steffenson, Rodolfo Pivaral (Guatamalan),
Jorge Montacinos, Rene Hurtado and Jorge Manjivar (all El Salvador),
Jerry Rau, and Jesus Hurtado, a Bolivian.
the conclusion of our conversation, and after reading his proposal,
I felt that at the very least, Jesus deserved an opportunity to share
his story, and his ideas about ending the Iraq War. Take a few
moments to read his proposal, either short or long form, and stop over
at Minneapolis’ St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Upper Room of
the Parish Center, 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 3 to hear him tell his
story and share his ideas. Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent,
and this conversation will be a good beginning to the season.
his writing, Jesus describes himself as follows: “I am
a Bolivian national by birth, and a U.S.A. citizen. I work as
an electro-mechanic technician. Married. A father of a
daughter and a son. In 1989, I was part of a 20-day hunger strike
group at the St. Paul Cathedral, St. Paul Minnesota, with Father Roy
Bourgeois and others to protest the conflict in El Salvador.”)
Jesus Hurtado Iraq
War Proposal - Short Version - printable .pdf file (150Kb)
Jesus Hurtado Iraq War
Proposal - Long Version -
printable .pdf file (258Kb)