The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us

“The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”

― Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

I recently wrote the following.

As a teenager trying to figure out what I would do about registering for the draft (Selective Service System), I saw few Friends resisting. This was in contrast to the previous generation, where many Quaker men and their families choose to go to prison for draft resistance. Their example helped me decide to be a draft resister, too.

What are you bypassing spiritually?

I didn’t pay much attention to the phrase, in contrast to the previous generation at the time, but it has stayed with me since. The specific reference was to the stark contrast between the many Quakers of the previous generation who were imprisoned for refusing to participate in the new peacetime draft, compared to the Quakers of my generation. I am only aware of two other Quakers of my generation who were draft resisters.

One of the Quakers of the prior generation was my mentor and friend, Don Laughlin, now deceased. Late in his life he was working on a project to collect the stories of the Quaker men who refused to cooperate with the draft. I was helping him collate those stories, which include his story and mine. You can find “Young Quaker Men Face War and Conscription” here:!Avb9bFhezZpPiaMFA58DbzX6vnhaYw

I have wondered why most Quaker boys of my generation did not resist the draft. One reason is Quakers and others could apply to be classified as Conscientious Objectors, and would then do two years of civilian, instead of military, service. At the end of this is An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription, which discusses the differences between choosing to resist the draft versus becoming a Conscientious Objector. Don Laughlin and my cousin Roy Knight signed that letter.

In yesterday’s blog post, What are you bypassing spiritually?, I brought up three other topics related to what we as Quakers are doing today. Those other subjects are what are we doing about the evolving environmental chaos, racial justice, and right relationships with Indigenous peoples. I’ll wait for further discussion related to those subjects.

These discussions also have me thinking about what following generations will think about what my generation did, and what other things we should have done. What we should be doing now. I often think of the quotation of Terry Tempest Williams, “The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”

This brings to mind the 7th Generation Principle, which is particularly relevant regarding how we are, or are not working to protect and heal Mother Earth.

I especially like this idea that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples should forge relationships. This is what the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was intended to do, and succeed in doing. Information about that:

“In particular relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples should be forged with the Seventh Generation Principle in mind, so that future relationships will be positive for many generations to come.”

7th Generation Principle

The Seventh Generation takes its name from the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee, the founding document of the Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest living participatory democracy on Earth. It is based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy that:

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

This philosophy is not unique to just the Iroquois nation. Many Native American nations, tribes and other indigenous people around the world have and still live by this philosophy

Today, The Seventh Generation Principle usually applies to decisions about the energy we use, water and natural resources, and ensuring those decisions are sustainable for seven generations in the future.

We should apply the Seventh Generation Principle to relationships – so that every decision we make results in sustainable relationships that last at least seven generations into the future.

In particular relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples should be forged with the Seventh Generation Principle in mind, so that future relationships will be positive for many generations to come.

An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription

Dear Friends,

It has long been clear to most of us who are called Friends that war is contrary to the spirit of Christ and that we cannot participate in it. The refusal to participate in war begins with a refusal to bear arms. Some Friends choose to serve as noncombatants within the military. For most of us, however, refusal to participate in war also involves refusal to be part of the military itself, as an institution set up to wage war. Many, therefore, become conscientious objectors doing alternative service as civilians, or are deferred as students and workers in essential occupations.

Those of us who are joining in this epistle believe that cooperating with the draft, even as a recognized conscientious objector, makes one part of the power which forces our brothers into the military and into war. If we Friends believe that we are special beings and alone deserve to be exempted from war, we find that doing civilian service with conscription or keeping deferments as we pursue our professional careers are acceptable courses of action. But if we Friends really believe that war is wrong, that no man should become the executioner or victim of his brothers, then we will find it impossible to collaborate with the Selective Service System. We will risk being put in prison before we help turn men into murderers.

It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions. Let our lives show that we oppose not only our own participation in war, but any man’s participation in it. We can stop seeking deferments and exemptions, we can stop filling out Selective Service forms, we can refuse to obey induction and civilian work orders. We can refuse to register, or send back draft cards if we’ve already registered.

In our early history we Friends were known for our courage in living according to our convictions. At times during the 1600’s thousands of Quakers were in jails for refusing to pay any special respect to those in power, for worshiping in their own way, and for following the leadings of conscience. But we Friends need not fear we are alone today in our refusal to support mass murder. Up to three thousand Americans severed their relations with the draft at nation-wide draft card turn-ins during 1967 and 1968. There may still be other mass returns of cards, and we can always set our own dates.

We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam. But we can try to change our own lives. We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace. We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and brothers,
Don Laughlin
Roy Knight
Jeremy Mott
Ross Flanagan
Richard Boardman
James Brostol
George Lakey
Stephen Tatum
Herbert Nichols
Christopher Hodgkin
Jay Harker
Bob Eaton
Bill Medlin
Alan & Peter Blood.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, Black Lives, climate change, decolonize, Indigenous, peace, Quaker, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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