Honor Mother’s Day by Walking for Peace

mom peace activists
Janet Parker, third from left, poses for a photo with others taking part in the April 16 peace walk. Photo by Judy Miner.

By Janet Parker, The Cap Times, May 9, 2022

For Mother’s Day I am speaking up and walking for peace for all of our children. War is never the answer.

Most U.S. news coverage equates support for Ukrainians with sending more weapons. This is a tragic mistake. The United States should support an immediate ceasefire and negotiations for peace.

World Beyond War is an international group whose goal is to abolish war. Sound unrealistic? Two hundred years ago, many people argued that abolishing slavery was unrealistic.

Yurii Sheliazhenko is on the board of World Beyond War. He is a Kyiv-based Ukrainian peace activist. In April, Sheliazhenko explained, “What we need is not escalation of conflict with more weapons, more sanctions, more hatred toward Russia and China, but of course, instead of that, we need comprehensive peace talks.”

Since April 9, in Madison we have held weekly Peace Walks for Ukraine and the world. Peace walks are a form of nonviolent action with a long history. Groups walk to call for peace and disarmament. One peace walk in 1994 began in Auschwitz, Poland, and eight months later ended in Nagasaki, Japan.

Here in Wisconsin in 2009, the group Iraq Veterans Against the War and others led a peace walk from Camp Williams to Fort McCoy. We called for an end to the Iraq War, which was then in its sixth year. At least 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in that war, but their deaths got little attention in our media.

Our peace walks have been short — around Monona Bay, from Lake Monona to Lake Mendota. Outside Madison, we’ll peace walk at Yellowstone Lake on May 21. We walk on sidewalks and bike paths — good for wheelchairs, scooters, strollers, small bikes, etc. The places and times of our weekly walks are posted here. For invitations in your in-box, drop us a line at peacewalkmadison@gmail.com.

We walk to raise up the voices of peace activists taking brave public stands in Ukraine and Russia. We carry a blue and white flag, created by Russian protesters this year to show they oppose the war.

We support Vova Klever and Volodymyr Danuliv, Ukrainian men who left their country illegally because they are conscientious objectors to military service. Klever said, “Violence is not my weapon.” Danuliv said, “I can’t shoot Russian people.”

We support Russian peace activist Oleg Orlov, who said, “I understand the high likelihood of a criminal case against me and my colleagues. But we have to do something … even if it is just to go out with a picket and speak honestly about what is happening.”

Last week Ukrainian artist Slava Borecki created a sand sculpture in the UK, which he called a “plea for peace.” Borecki said, “Both sides will lose no matter what due to the deaths and devastation caused by this war.”

Watching the horrors of war in Ukraine, we feel outrage, fear and anguish. More and more people are killed and millions have been made refugees. Famine looms. A poll this week shows that eight in 10 people in the U.S. are concerned about a nuclear war. Yet our government is sending more weapons. Murder is the only crime that is considered acceptable when it is done at a large enough scale.

Some day in the future, the war on Ukraine will end with negotiations. Why not negotiate now, before more people die?

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other weapons companies have a strong incentive to postpone the end of the war. Journalist Matt Taibbi broke a crucial story last week in his Substack newsletter: We watch commercials for weapons dealers on the news without realizing it. For example, Leon Panetta is interviewed, identified as a former secretary of defense. He calls for sending more Stinger and Javelin missiles to Ukraine. He doesn’t disclose that Raytheon, which produces those missiles, is his lobbying firm’s client. He’s paid to push missiles to the public.

We carry a sign at our peace walks that says, “The weapons makers are the only winners.”

During our walks, sometimes we talk. Sometimes we walk silently. Sometimes we sing a song called “When I Rise.” We learned it from monks in the community of the beloved Vietnamese Buddhist peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh.

We welcome you to walk with us for peace.

Janet Parker is a peace activist and a mom in Madison.

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