Friday on the Green: Morristown Peace Vigil to remember Arizona shooting victims

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Ed. note: Every Friday, in every kind of weather, a handful of people wave placards for peace on the Morristown Green. On Jan. 14, the Morristown Peace Vigil will dedicate its protest to the victims of last weekend’s shootings in Arizona. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded and six died in the tragedy. We asked Laurie Thomas of the Morristown Peace Vigil to describe her organization and Friday’s protest.

By Laurie Thomas

The Morristown Peace Vigil has been holding vigils on the Green in Morristown from 6 to 7 pm every Friday since the Friday after 9/11. Sometimes, we dedicate the vigil to particular events and invite various groups to participate. This Friday, we’re going to dedicate the vigil to the victims of the shootings in Tucson. The Coalition for Peace Action and its project CeaseFire New Jersey are supporting this Friday’s vigil as well.

candlightI can’t speak for the Peace Coalition, but I can tell you why I shiver out there every Friday (and sweat out there in the summers!).

I think that it’s wrong to use violence to solve political conflicts. The influential military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote in Vom Kriege (On War) that “War is not merely a political act, but also a political instrument, a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means.”

This idea has often been expressed as follows: War is simply diplomacy by other means.  Unfortunately, the means involved in war are simply unacceptable, and the consequences are horrific.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan had anything to do with the terrorist hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the Afghan government even offered to extradite Osama bin Laden, if the United States would only provide evidence of his involvement in the World Trade Center attacks. The Bush administration refused to provide any such evidence, choosing to invade the country instead.

We were told that Iraq had biological, chemical, and possibly nuclear weapons that posed a threat to world peace. We weren’t supposed to know that Saddam Hussein bought these weapons from the United States, and that there was no serious reason to believe that he still had a significant amount of them.

peace protest on green
The Morristown Peace Vigil, pictured here on the Morristown Green in 2008, will honor Arizona shooting victims on Jan. 14. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Americans have been told that the purpose of these invasions has been to fight “terror.” In reality, the conflict is over big prizes, such as Iraq’s oil reserves and control of a major pipeline route through Afghanistan. The people who took the United States to war could not secure those things by diplomacy, so they decided to seize them by force.

Now, the US is escalating the war by making predator drone attacks on Pakistan (which, unlike Iraq, really does have nuclear weapons). There has also been a lot of saber rattling at Iran, a country that has suffered grievously as a result of U.S. foreign policy but poses no credible threat to anyone.

Unfortunately, most people really don’t care what the United States government does, or whether what it does is right or wrong. They also don’t care much about what happens to servicemen and -women, or to veterans. However, they do care about their taxes, and about the services that their government could provide to them but doesn’t.

According to the National Priorities Project (www.costofwar.com), Morris County’s share of the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has amounted to over $4 billion. You can do the math and figure out how much that is per person. At the same time that these huge and unnecessary bills were being run up, the taxes of the wealthiest people were being cut. What madness!

The shootings in Tucson were a domestic “disturbance of the peace” and therefore the sort of thing we speak out about. These shootings raise several issues that people really need to think about. Why was a young man who was so obviously mentally ill not getting the help he needed? What does that say about our healthcare system?

We already have 45,000 Americans every year dying because they don’t have health insurance. Should the shooting victims in Tucson be considered more victims of our dysfunctional healthcare system? Why was a young man who was so obviously mentally ill able to get an assault weapon?

For a long time, my friends and I have been worried about the toxic effect that the “lock and load!” rhetoric coming from the right wing could be having on impressionable people. When people advocate political violence long enough, some “lone nut” is going to take them literally and hurt or kill someone.

Mark David Chapman’s Sunday School class used to sing “Imagine No John Lennon” because of Lennon’s irreligion, and Chapman eventually shot Lennon to death. Why are people allowing the violent rhetoric to go unchallenged? Why aren’t they boycotting the advertisers who are keeping that poison on the airways?

The vigil is to encourage people to stop and think about these issues. Afterward, I hope that they will take some sort of civilized action to solve these problems.

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