James Gould
Op-Ed in Barnstable Enterprise 16 Nov. 2012.
The Quaker congregation known as Barnstable Friends meeting gathered Sunday for a silent meeting and vigil against war.
The occasion was Veterans Day Sunday, November 11, at the Cotuit Veterans Memorial in the Cotuit Park. They were joined by others who oppose war to express their sorrow at the deaths of so many soldiers, and the collateral damage of tens of millions of civilians who have died in our endless wars.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and this 94th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, the ‘War to End All Wars” is the occasion to dedicate ourselves to nonviolent ways of resolving conflict.
A nurse from Santuit called attention to the long list of Cotuit veterans, many of them from families she knew, and movingly remarked how war had torn families and caused such needless suffering.
As for me, a schoolboy 80 years ago on November 11, at 11 in the morning, we would take a minute to mourn all the soldiers who had been killed in that “War to End All Wars”. As a veteran of the next big war, I still mourn all the tens of millions of victims of uncounted wars since then. Will they never end?

Veterans Day should never be a celebration of military strength and imperial prowess, but of shame for having killed so many.

War is the greatest folly of humankind. No one ever won a war. The most just wars ended the lives of young soldiers, and took collateral damage of innocent children, women, and other civilians. War is the enemy of democracy, of prosperity, and ecological sustainability.

There are effective alternatives to war, as women like Jane Addams, Bertha von Suttner, Sarojini Naidu and Eleanor Roosevelt have shown us. Mediation, conciliation, arbitration, peacekeeping, collective security, boycott, sanctions, nonviolent resistance, all work, though with risk, but at less cost than war.

Do we have the courage to give up the greatest scourge to civilization? “Lay down your arms!” said von Suttner.”

An elderly Quaker woman who came all the way from Wellfleet insisted that we each needed to urge our congressman to reduce the spending on wars. Quakers appeared ready to send the following to our representative and senators:

It is with tears that we mourn the deaths of soldiers, freedom-fighters—babies, mothers and fathers, children, victims of endless wars,
It is with sadness that we welcome home our war-shocked veterans who take their own lives when they find a future without hope.
We live in a world of wars without end.
The longest war in the history of our nation, in a mountainous land that has never been subdued,
A seven years war of torture and destruction in the cradle of civilization,
Now a desert war of “humanitarian intervention” to save lives by killing,
And a half-war by unmanned drones that kill whole families of tribal peoples.
With all life, we suffer the pains of our precious Earth from wounds by careless missles, tanks and bombs.
We decry the wasteful destruction of finite resources that are desperately needed at home,
to house the homeless, to cure the sick, and to tutor our children in ways of peace.
We vision a world which embraces peaceful means of resolving conflict with equality and justice, where before the idea of violence is entertained, grievances are addressed with concrete steps, where conciliation, mediation, arbitration, fact-finding, adjudication, are codified international law and practices of international organizations like the United Nations.
The Society of Friends, born in the chaos of the English Civil War, has offered its testimony of peace and nonviolence.
William Penn, former warrior and statesman taught us how to meet violence:
“ We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by Love and Information. And yet we could hurt no Man that we believe loves us. Let us then try what Love will do: For if Men did once see we Love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: And he that forgives first, wins the Lawrel. If I am even with my Enemy, the Debt is paid; but if I forgive it, I oblige him for ever. “ Fruits of Solitude 1693, pp. 542 – 547.
Penn put this truth to test, achieving peace with the Leni Lenape, Susquehannocks and the Delaware Indians, instituting what was known in Indian terminology as a “chain of friendship.”
Let us then try what a chain of friendship, try what Love will do.

Barnstable Enterprise 16 Nov. 2012


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