From taking sides to showing kindness
Peter Boyce (21 April) wrote, of demonstrations such as the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, that: ‘To me these represent the politics of hate, confrontation and violence’.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I have just taken part in a reading where six women recalled their experiences from Greenham. It was still inspiring. The press release sent out in the early days of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp included the following: ‘We intend to maintain this camp peacefully and act at all times in a nonviolent way to diffuse confrontation.’
It has been said that the Camp contributed to the agreement between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.
When the cruise missiles were gone, many of the women continued with their peace and disarmament campaigning. That has lasted to this day. One of the women, for example, working with a group called Women Cross DMZ, in May 2015 organised a peace walk across the demilitarised zone with thousands of women from both North and South Korea and thirty women peacemakers from many nations. They have also just signed a letter to Donald Trump and senior members of his team calling for the signing of a peace treaty (never carried out after the end of the Korean war) between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and turning away from military confrontation to diplomacy.
I would add that in these demonstrations and campaigning for peace we are not ‘neutral’; we are against violence, war, militarism and social injustice.
There are always two sides to a problem’s solution. For example, some believe that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the second world war to an abrupt end. Many more soldiers and civilians would have perished had that war, involving a nation that considered surrender shameful, continued.
The actions taken by individuals in the past, described as ‘evil’, had a broader context and causes. Even with Hitler, galloping inflation and egregious anti-Semitism were factors that should be carefully examined and analysed.
As for demonstrations, referred to by David Boulton (28 April), of course they are confrontational. If we all felt the same way, then why demonstrate? Others think differently, so they attack them publicly with banners, slogans and noise – at worst this is rabble rousing.
David quoted archbishop Desmond Tutu: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’
No, no! If you are neutral you can see the good in everyone without exception. That’s what my conscientious objector Quaker cousin, a regular visitor during the second world war to the German prisoner of war camp at Clacton, used to tell me; though with some you need to look pretty hard. However, a closed mind is inevitably unjust.
It seems to me to be a matter of personal conscience. I have the need to champion the unpopular, vilified side, not to judge but to try to inform those who judge. A reasoned argument aimed at ‘balance’ is not taking sides; ‘down with…’ is.
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