Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace
There are things I do and don’t do as a citizen of this country that make me ashamed. I don’t volunteer enough. I don’t yell loudly enough when our government by and for the people acts stupidly. I feel most ashamed by what I have not done to fight the United States’ prosecution of the Iraq War. I, along with most of the world, forgot about that war as soon as I was distracted by the election and the various financial crises.
Thank goodness, there are people in this community who have kept the flame of peace alive. Among them is the Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace group. They meet every Monday night at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse & Federal Building to pray, sing and hope for peace.
The sun was setting, sending gorgeous pink and golden arcs of light through the light blue evening sky. It was a little breezy, but nothing life threatening. I’ll bet there have been many nights over the last six years that were much more uncomfortable. As start time approached, people gathered near one of the boulders by the main sidewalk leading up to the building. Most people were empty handed, but a few had fliers and handouts, and John Hadder carried a flag with a peace sign.
The service began with a recitation of the nonviolence guidelines (I’m sorry about the long quote): “Peace Presence respectfully requests that you adhere to the following principles: 1. We will harbor no anger, but suffer the anger of those who disagree. 2. We will refuse to return the assaults of those outside our vigil. 3. We will refrain from insults and swearing. 4. We will protect those outside our vigil from insults or attack. 5. We are not risking arrest today. However, if arrested, we will not resist or go limp, and we will behave in an exemplary manner. 6. As members of a nonviolent demonstration, we will follow the directions of the designated coordinators. In the event of a serious disagreement, one should remove oneself from the vigil. 7. Our attitude as conveyed through words, symbols and actions will be one of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all people we encounter. 8. We will not damage property. 9. We will not bring or use any alcohol or drugs. 10. We will not run or use threatening motions. 11. We will carry no weapons.”
There were 12 people participating. They wore a variety of clothing—much more casual than you’d usually see at a spiritual service: jeans, leather jackets, sweats, knit caps. I’d run into most of them at one time or another. I was a bit surprised to see that I was one of the youngest people there—I’m 46. Whatever happened to the passion the world’s young people exhibited six years ago when we started this immoral war? I wonder if this isn’t another instance where the government taught an entire generation that their efforts were for naught, undermining citizen involvement in government once again. Of course, we’ll hear about it come Election 2010: What’s with the voter apathy?
The service went quickly, ending before 6 p.m. A few songs were sung, “When the Spirit Says ‘Do’” and “We Shall Overcome.” The night’s leader, Barb Scott, offered two readings, a poem and an essay about the effects of war and peace. Many vehicles honked to express their solidarity with the small group. I didn’t hear a single negative comment from the passers-by.
The service wrapped up with announcements, followed by everyone in the circle providing a positive affirmation of what the world will be like when war ends, things like, “life will be more fun when peace is here; there will be a Department of Peace in the federal government; we’ll live in a time when we need to invent new ways of finding a meaningful life; and our concept of time will be different.”