Moving Towards a Nuclear Free Future
On Wednesday, April 8, a contingent of walkers, runners and cyclists participating in the Footprints for Peace (FFP) event, "Moving Towards a Nuclear Free Future" passed through Lynchburg on their march from Knoxville, Tennessee to New York City for a rest day before continuing their next leg of the trek to Lovingston on Friday, April 10. They will arrive at the United Nations building in NYC on April 25th, to coincide with the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty Review. (For a schedule of the entire walk, and more information about FFP, visit the FFP website
With coordination from their most-gracious Lynchburg hostess, Anne Gibbons from the Lynchburg College Spiritual Life Center, the contingent of seventeen walkers, runners and cyclists were offered lodging for both nights through First Christian Church and various local churches and groups provided meals; on Thursday evening the Lynchburg Peace Education Center prepared their dinner.
Following their stay on Thursday night, I was fortunate to be able to accompany the group on their trek out of town, walking with them from First Christian Church down Rivermont Avenue, over the James River bridge, and continuing on to the McDonald's on Route 29 in Madison Heights. The morning was cool, gray and misty--good conditions considering we could have been under a hot sun, or driving sheets of rain!
The best part of this experience was meeting the walkers, about half of whom were from Australia; others hailed from Kentucky and Tennessee, and one, Utsumi, was a native of Japan who now lives in Tennessee. Many of the walkers had been participating in activist events for 20 or 30 years. Marcus, a long-time activist from "down under", would leave the group the next morning to fly to Quebec City where he would join other activists from Australia for the International Uranium Conference, and afterwards catch up with the group in Philadelphia to continue on to New York. Utsumi, a Nichiren Buddhist monk, used his walking as a form of moving meditation, wearing traditional robes and carrying a small drum, striking it in rhythm to the repetitive chant of "nam myoho renge kyo". I enjoyed talking with him during the break; during our discussion he pointed out the importance of developing consciousness and responsibility to apply to our policy-making and daily practice. The youngest walker was Shae, a gregarious four year-old who alternately walked while banging a duplicate of Utsumi's drum, riding on his scooter, or sleeping in the stroller pushed by his dad, Marcus.
Since I had arranged for my husband to pick me up at Lowe's in Madison Heights, I had to leave the group after my short commitment, feeling admiration for those who continued on--and will continue on--over the next two weeks, until their arrival in New York City. I asked one of the organizers if more and more walkers would join in the closer they got to their destination. He said yes, and noted that it helps encourage the spirits of all the participants. Seeing the dedication that everyone I met had demonstrated with their actions, it reminded me of a quote that I've heard applied to the work of organizing for social justice... about the importance of planting trees even though we might not be the ones to see them grow tall and sit in their shade.
FFP is a global community of friends who are dedicated to creating change through peaceful action, organizing events throughout the world that bring together in solidarity a moving community to deepen our understanding of spiritual, cultural, and environmental issues. Their aim is to educate, inspire, and empower individuals and communities in building a sustainable future. For a 17-minute interview with Jim Toren, an organizer of "Moving Towards a Nuclear Free Future", click the audio link below the FFP logo at top right.
Rev.Dr. Nakashima Brock Presents Talk on Moral Injury
Rev. Dr. Nakashima Brock, founding co-director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, recently presented talks on moral injury at First Christian Church and Lynchburg College. Author of Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War, she has worked extensively with soldiers returning from combat deployment who are suffering from PTSD and moral injury.
At First Christian, Dr. Nakashima Brock opened her talk by saying .5% of the U.S. population is currently serving in the military, a much lower figure than for example, during World War II, which means the average citizen has much less contact with returning vets and the experiences they go through. She went on to explain that our moral values are learned at a very young age-- as young as two years old according to some research--and provided an overview of the hormones produced by the brain, such as oxytocin and dopamine, that reduce stress and reinforce bonding. These type of hormones help to reinforce positive human behavior. Recent research also suggests that our human soul, or spirit, is connected with those of other humans, much like a drop of water in the ocean.
Continuing with an explanation of military training, she empahsized that soldiers are in effect adding another layer of social conditioning to override, to a certain extent, their early moral training. As a result, in the case of moral injury a deep dissonance is created in combat soldiers when their orders run counter to their deepest moral values, "an inner anguish from ruptured or destroyed moral foundations." Dr. Nakashima Brock provided many examples gleaned from talks with returning soldiers that illustrate the severe breakdowns that can result.
While many symptoms overlap, PTSD and moral injury have distinguishing characteristics: soldiers with PTSD most commonly present with behavior such as heightened startle response, fear reaction, flashbacks and memory loss; moral injury typically manifests through sorrow, grief, regret, and moral and faith questioning. Symptoms that can manifest in both conditions include anger, depression, anxiety, nightmares, and self-medication with alcohol or drugs.
To interact with those suffering from moral injury, Dr. Nakashima Brock emphasized these points: creating an environment of trust and acceptance, allowing repetitive telling of the traumatic trigger events to discharge their energy, support for the veterans through caring communities of friends, family, or faith, and creative work as an outlet to express strong emotions and gradually work toward healing.
Ev Heath Speaks at Opening Ceremony for Season of Non-Violence
At the Opening Ceremony for the Season for Non-Violence, held at Unity Church on January 30, LPEC's Ev Heath was one of the featured speakers. The Season for Non-Violence is held annually from January 30 through April 4 (the dates mark the assassination dates of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., respectively). In his address, Heath related a story about visiting his doctor, and told him that his healing care was a peace action. When the puzzled doctor asked "How is that?" Heath said any act that is helping others is a peace act. And referring to the theme for this year's SFN, "Inspiration, Education, and Action" he stated that peace is an ongoing effort of education and action, and emphasized that peace is not just the end, but the means to the end: "Peace is the way." Following his talk, Jolly Stickley, of Breath and Energy Restructure, led the audience in a group meditation, stating her firm belief that global peace will be a reality only when individuals have inner peace. At the conclusion of the evening's program, Unity's Rev. Marilyn Mattox distributed "64 Daily Practices to Live Nonviolence"--one for each day of the Season for Nonviolence--to encourage the audience to incorporate peaceful habits for the duration of the season, and beyond.
An Appeal to Repeal
The following Letter to the Editor, written by Lynchburg resident Pat Bower, was published in the News and Advance on Monday, April 14.
Repeal the ‘Use of Force’ act
Not many of us remember the details of the AUMF, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It was drawn up very quickly by President George W. Bush and Congressional leaders and was passed almost unanimously by both houses of Congress three days after Sept. 11, 2001. S.J. Res. 23 is only 60 words long and gives sweeping powers to the president, authorizing him to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” This resolution has had enormous consequences, many unintended, since that awful week.
The AUMF has been used to justify the invasions and extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus more than a dozen smaller military actions including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Mali. President Obama authorized five times as many drone strikes in his first four years as President Bush did in eight years. Drone attacks ignore national borders and make us uneasy because they are not subject to any effective oversight or public debate. The indefinite detentions of prisoners at Guantanamo for all these years also goes against our country’s previous reputation for fairness and due process for all. And the warrantless wiretaps that we now know about have shocked our allies as well as our own citizens. All these things became possible because of the AUMF.
But there is hope that this difficult period could be coming to an end. The U.S. is substantially leaving Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and there are bills in Congress to repeal the AUMF. Repeal efforts are gaining strength both for moral and financial reasons. There is a realization that the AUMF distorts the constitutional balance between the President and Congress and thus should not be permanent. As our communities suffer from ever worsening budget cuts, the public and many members of Congress are asking new questions about the size of our military budget, its allocations, and whether endless war is the best way to solve global problems.
After more than a decade of costly wars, it is logical that military spending should be going down substantially, not just modestly as currently proposed. Even after the “drastic” upcoming cuts you may have heard about, military spending is projected to be comparable to that at the height of the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
The military budget — now larger than the total of the next 10 biggest defense spenders in the world — accounted for 40 cents of every tax dollar we spent in 2013. Only 2 cents went to diplomacy, development and war prevention. If we cannot reevaluate our national security and defense spending priorities now, when will it ever happen?
Our congressional representatives really do want and need to hear from us on this issue. Contact your representative, Rep. Bob Goodlatte or Rep. Robert Hurt, and ask them to co-sponsor House Bill 2324 (HR2324-Schiff) that would allow the AUMF to expire at the end of 2014.
Editor’s note: Bower is the retired Registrar of Voters for the City of Lynchburg and is currently chairwoman of the Electoral Board.
Roanoke Plowshares Hosts
Library Airs "The Loving Story", Pt. 4 of Film Series
On March 20, a balmy first day of spring, more than fifty community members gathered at the Lynchburg Public Library Meeting Room to see the documentary film, "The Loving Story," screened as part of the series, Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle. The series is sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lynchburg Community Council (which also hosts the annual MLK, Jr. Breakfast each winter), one of 500 groups in the U.S. presenting the series of five films documenting important stories from the struggle for civil rights.
The film tells the story of Richard (a white man) and Mildred Loving (part African-American and part Native American), who married June 2 in 1958 in Washington, D.C. but afterwards were arrested for breaking the law against interracial marriage (or miscegenation) when the local sheriff burst into their Virginia home at 2 a.m. What followed was a trial and sentence to leave the state if they chose to stay married, a fugitive lifestyle and 9-year exile from their home state, an appeal for help to Robert Kennedy and the ACLU, and finally a trial that led to a unanimous Supreme Court decision in their favor.
Those viewing the film were interested to learn details of the Supreme Court case, and in the audience discussion that followed there was a consensus in testimony to the obvious strength, loyalty, and devotion of this husband and wife in their "loving story." (When asked by the lawyers who argued their case what he would like the Supreme Court to know, Richard Loving simply said: "Just tell them I love my wife.") In the years after the decision in their case, 16 of 24 states repealed their miscegenation laws; however it was not until 2000 that the law was struck from the books in the last state, Alabama. In the words of the gospel song that closed the film, justice is "a slow train...but it's movin' on."
(The fifth, and final film in the series will be "Freedom Riders", to air Tuesday, April 8, at 6 p.m.)
Exploring Competition and Cooperation
On Sunday, March 16, facilitator Kim Kristensen led a peace-building workshop, “Competition and Cooperation” at the Yoga Center in Roanoke. Sharing information, games, and discussion, Kristensen guided participants through an afternoon of activities designed to make them think about the dynamics of cooperation and competition and how and why we unconsciously compete, or cooperate, with others and ourselves.
The afternoon followed an interesting format—games were introduced with intentionally ambiguous instructions, so to a certain degree participants responded according to individual interpretation and the inclination of their individual personalities. The discussions that followed the games brought out some very interesting viewpoints as players explored some of their conscious strategies as well as subconscious assumptions, based on personal history, family dynamics, gender expectations, etc. It was illuminating for participants to see their inclinations toward cooperation or competition based on such factors.
From the design of the early games, played in teams, most players adopted a more competitive approach as the workshop began. Yet by the end of the afternoon the activities moved to other simple exercises that focused more on developing empathy and compassion for others, offering participants a dual view of human tendencies, and a bounty of interesting information and insights as the “take away” from the event—and also some new tools for sharing with their family or groups!
In addition to working as a manager for the Dept. of Transportation, Kim Kristensen teaches Leadership and Managing Conflict, Applied Psychology, Human Relations, Critical Thinking, Sociology, and Management at several colleges and universities. He is a certified mediator with a Master’s degree in Social Sciences and a Bachelors degree in Management and Human Resources.