This next Tuesday, July 17th, is an important day for he Peace Vigil. It marks the 26th such Vigil, six months of standing on the corner for an hour each Tuesday. I have been out and about, as they say up north, and am asking folks I know to try real hard to have a good turnout. Sounds like we might have quite a crowd on hand. That would be nice if we had a strong showing after the letter-to-the-editor I just wrote to the
Ashland Daily Press about our endeavor.
I'll include a copy of the letter in this post along with a few pictures of the people of the Ashland, WI area over the past six months. I have heard from the editor in an e-mail and she says she will try to publish it before Tuesday. I realize there is so much to say and that my tactics for peace are not the only way to handle it, but this is my way of fighting back.
As the Pentagon Papers showed about Vietnam, the truth will eventually catch up with this administration and hopefully jail time will follow. But for now, we stand for peace.
I want to thank the many people who come over and read about our efforts here in Ashland. Some day, maybe one of you will be traveling and will stop by and join us. You know that offer of a place to crash and a cup of coffee are still on the table.
Here's the letter:
This Tuesday, July 17th, marks the 26th week that we have been doing the Peace Vigil in Ashland. For six months we have gathered with our signs that ask for a peaceul world and stand at the corner of Chapple Avenue and Main Street for one hour from four to five PM.
I started this Vigil as an idea that I had to do something and make my own statement about my feelings for the war. The war had been going on for almost four years and I needed to make the statement that I’d prefer we weren’t at war in Iraq. I’d prefer that our country be at peace. The idea of a weekly one hour vigil came to me as I have seen this done in other cities and towns across America.
Each week, no matter what the weather, we have a number of people gather for the vigil. We have averaged around 14 people per week. There has been as many as 29 at one time and as few as 6. The weather has ranged from cold blustery snowy conditions to oppresive heat and humidity. We’ve endurred high winds, thunderstorms and everything in between.
We have no club, organization or meetings. It is no group tied to a National association. Rather, we are people who freely and willingly gather each Tuesday to ask that our country consider peace and an end to war. There are a few small posters around telling of the event, but little else. We do have a blogsite where each week is journalized and updates the number of people that come to the vigil and the weather conditions. It can be found at http://jspado.blogspot.com
Our message is simple. Peace. We do not dilute our message with other issues. No one is blaming anyone for the war, no one is asking for someone’s head to roll. No impeachment, abortion, immigration, social, moral or economic issues are presented, just a vigil for the war to end and our troops to come home quickly.
We’ve seen many people over the six months of being out there. We get many horn honks and people waving at us. Many flash the peace sign or thumbs up telling us they approve of our efforts. We have seen some thumbs down gestures and the middle finger salute as well.
One time, a man walked up to me from behind. He told me that the Koran, the holy book of the Muslim people, states that there are only two kinds of people in the world. These are Muslims and dead people. He went on to offer me a one-way ticket to Iraq and a casket. I wonder what would happen if he was a dark skinned Arab man saying that to a combat infantry Veteran on the streets in this Nation. Terrorism, perhaps?
Another time an active duty soldier stopped and flashed us his ID card. He told us he didn’t like what we were doing. He didn’t stick around long enough for any explanation. I’ve also seen some people drive by and shake their heads in disapproval of our efforts. But the vast majority support us with positive reinforcement.
My only thought is that the naysayers look at us and stereotype every single one of us as far left wing extremests protesting the war and standing against our government and our soldiers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As a combat Veteran that served in Vietnam, I know the true cost of war and want this war to end. I believe this to be the utmost support for the soldiers, to have them be brought home. Our signs say “Peace”, or “Honk for Peace”. They remind the public of how many of our troops have died in this war. One sign, written and painted by a seven year old says simply, “Peace Please, Thank You”
Those that don’t support us when we are on the corner, and those that show signs of hatred, intolerance and anger, might be missing the message. They aren’t reading the signs or engaging anyone in a serious dialogue about what we are doing. Surely all people want peace. Don’t they? Even if a person thinks the war needed to be fought and believe in it’s causes, don’t they want it to end?
I invite anyone who wants to join us. Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever. We simply ask that you keep the issue singular. Peace, an end to the war. An end to the death and destruction. To stand for peace is apolitical. We are not all Democrats or left wing liberals. We are young and old. We are Veterans, Mothers and their children and working people. We are Americans being free to express their views on the public streets of our city.
If you can’t join us, tell us why we should continue to keep killing without any attempt at diplomacy or calls for any kind of cease fire. Explain to me why war is better than peace and why it is wrong to stand up and carry a sign asking for peace. Tell me why it’s acceptable that a stranger can come up to an American citizen and threaten him with a casket and spout off the readings of the Koran and not be arrested.
Peace to all.