As a Quaker and someone who believes War is Not the Answer, I have conflicting feelings about Memorial Day. I respect those who felt they should serve in the military, knowing they might have to put their lives at risk, and possibly be wounded or killed. Today is about remembering them. And I think it is also a day to think about those who have worked or are working for peace.
[Note: I am glad to have been reminded that Friends who are not white feel left out, are left out when the assumption is made that the word Quaker alone implies white Quakers. In these stories from the past Quaker does refer to white Quakers. The more general references to Quakers who have worked and continue to work for peace includes Quakers of all races and genders]
“War is Not the Answer” is a campaign of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) to encourage people to consider alternatives to armed conflict. I have worn the button on my camera strap for many years. Those who know me know I carry my camera (almost) everywhere.
FCNL collects photos people send them of the War is Not the Answer signs. On the Moratorium Against the War in Vietnam on October 15, 1969, the entire student body of Scattergood Friends School, where I was a Senior at the time, marched in silence from the School to the University of Iowa, a distance of about 12 miles, to participate in the anti war activities there. This was before the War is Not the Answer signs. In 2012 another peace march occurred from the School into Iowa City. FCNL published these combined photos.
This slideshow is of War is Not the Answer signs in many locations:
Around 1950 a group of Quakers left the United States because of the newly enacted peacetime conscription for war. They settled in Monteverde, Costa Rica. As it says on the shirt my cousin Jeffrey is wearing, Costa Rica has not had an army since 1948.
Meanwhile, a number of Quaker men in the United States refused to register as required for the Selective Service System, for peacetime conscription for the military. Nearly twenty men from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) refused to register, and many went to prison as a result.
One of those was my mentor and friend, Don Laughlin, now deceased. Late in his life he was working on a project to collect the stories of those men. I was helping him collate the stories that he called “Young Quaker Men Face War and Conscription.” His story and mine are included.
View “Young Quaker Men Face War and Conscription” here: https://1drv.ms/b/s!Avb9bFhezZpPiaMFA58DbzX6vnhaYw
A final thought about the military these days is the U.S. army is the largest producer of greenhouse gases. And our military actions for years have been to protect oil fields.
An objective for those who work for peace is to transition to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible. No one will be going to war for the sun and wind.