Never Tiring

By Kathy Kelly, World BEYOND War Board President, December 19, 2022
Remarks from WBW’s first annual online benefit event

For the past few years many of us have been meeting in zoom calls.  Glimpsing homes and studies interests me, though I feel a bit snoopy. Well, behind me always is a framed photo of St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of El Salvador who underwent a conversion, aligned himself with the most impoverished, railed against war, and was assassinated.

Some of you know about a U.S. military base in Fort Benning, GA which trained Salvadoran soldiers to engage in disappearances, torture, assassination and death squad actions. Some decades ago, three friends, Roy Bourgeois, Larry Rosebough, and Linda Ventimiglia, dressed in military fatigues and entered the base. They climbed a tall southern pine tree, and then turned on a boom box which blasted Romero’s words across the base as though coming from the heavens: “In the name of God in the name of our suffering brothers and sisters in El Salvador, I beg you, I order you, – stop the repression! Stop the killing!

Roy, Larry and Linda were jailed. Archbishop Romero was assassinated, but those ringing words are still with us. Stop the repression! Stop the killing!

War is never the answer.

I’ve been reading collected writings of Phil Berrigan, a founder of the Plowshares movement, who evolved  from soldier to scholar to stalwart activist.  He began speaking out and acting in the civil rights movement, then in the anti-Vietnam war movement and then, for decades, opposing nuclear weapons. He was likened to a “jack-in-the-box” prophet. The U.S. doled out long prison sentences and he always popped back up again, telling friends:  “Meet me at the Pentagon!” In his last speech at the Pentagon, opposing the imminent U.S. war against Afghanistan, Phil pleaded with the assembled activists: “Don’t Get Tired!”

Two of Phil’s tireless friends are in a hospital tonight, in San Francisco. Jan and David Hartsough are with their family, surrounding David’s hospital bed where he is in critical condition. Jan asked all of David’s friends to hold him in the light.

David has guided World BEYOND War, never tiring of activism and always encouraging us to engage in nonviolent resistance. I propose a toast to David and Jan Hartsough. In my cup is Irish breakfast tea because I didn’t want to appear tired when offering this salute.

Yes, let us raise our glasses, raise our voices, and, quite importantly, raise funds.

We need funds to keep us going. There are bases to be closed, books to be written, study groups to be led, and military corporations to be rehabbed. The website is brilliant. New interns dazzle us. But we must be able to offer living wages to this fine, generous, wise staff, and wouldn’t it be great if our stunning executive director didn’t have to puzzle over how to raise money.

The coffers of major Merchants of Death bulge. And the people whose lives are forever altered receive not a pittance of help.

We don’t want corporate militarists to continue taking over our government, schools, work places, media and even our faith-based institutions. They are robber barons of the worst order. We need World BEYOND War to help build true security, worldwide, the security that comes from extending hands of friendship and respect.

The media recently focused on a Russian weapon peddler, Mr. Bout, and called him a Merchant of Death. But we’re surrounded by and infiltrated by Merchants of Death worldwide in the form of weapon manufacturers.

We must raise funds to help us raise our voices, decrying war and helping voice the cries of war’s most vulnerable victims.

Tonight, I’m thinking especially about children in war zones, children frightened by explosions, night raids, gun fire; children living under economic siege wars, many of them too hungry to cry.

Salman Rushdie said “those who are displaced by war are the shining shards that reflect the truth.” World BEYOND War tries, mightily, to illuminate the truths about war, listening to those most harmed in wars, and paying attention to the bases, the resisters, and the educators.

War is never the answer. Can we abolish war?  I believe we can and we must.

Thank you for helping World BEYOND War enact carefully thought out plans as we reach out to and learn from growing groups of activists in every country on earth.

May we salute and be guided by the saints of our time. May we gain insights into one another’s lives and build tireless solidarity. And may David Hartsough be held in the light.  Lead kindly light. Lead to a World BEYOND War.

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