I don’t believe much in coincidences, as a rule, so when our 3 proffered places to stay in Maine came from complete strangers, and turned out to be a church and the beautiful, simple homes of peace activists trying to live together in harmony not just with other people but with every living thing on this planet, I felt it worth noting.
Our first welcome came from Judy and Scott outside Ogunquit. Judy runs an international network of social service volunteers called Volunteers For Peace, and gave me a pen with a pullout illustration of how many federal tax dollars are spent on defense vs home issues like health and education. (It is unbelievable and frankly, sickening.) Our second was from Rev. Ben at St. Luke’s in Portland, and our third roost was at an “intentional community” called the Addams-Mellman house, where we met MaryBeth, Karen, Bruce, Peg and Eli, who bought the house together with the express intention of living together as a community, supporting peace and sustainability (and each other), and working to make a better, safer, fairer world for all its people.
Admittedly, YERT has been focusing so hard on local American communities that global issues have fallen somewhat off our radar on this trip. Our first night at the house, Karen charged us with the daunting task of gluing the rift between the environmental movement and the peace movement. I thought about it, then said that we were trying to be single-minded in our push for awareness. At which point, Peg, 97 years young, asked us plainly if YERT avoids politics in our campaign for the environment because “it’s easy.”
oof, said my heart.
I explained that we are trying to find a common ground – protecting the one thing that belongs to and directly affects all of us, no matter our party or political leanings – and that we hope that sparking dialogue might facilitate open-mindedness in other facets… I felt semi-satisfied with my answer but the girls had planted a seed and by my next morning’s walk to the local coffee shop in Bath, i was considering that the price of War is not just societal and cultural devastation but environmental destruction as well.
If nearly all of our nation’s capital is going towards war and “defense,” we certainly won’t be allocating money to fund new research in renewable energy. We still aren’t feeding all our hungry or providing health care to those not fortunate enough to afford private medical insurance. And how can people be expected to care for the planet when they are really worried about how to pay rent, where the next meal is coming from, how to pay rampant and ridiculous hospital bills, and, on top of all that, how to protect ourselves from obliteration by “outside forces?”
MaryBeth and I remembered how Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the Whitehouse and then Ronald Reagan tore them down. We found ourselves amazed by the thought of how different things could have been if the country had followed Jimmy Carter’s lead! Maybe there would be solar panels on half of the houses in America by now. Maybe we wouldn’t be a nation addicted to oil by now. Maybe we wouldn’t be occupying so many other countries bc of our interests in their oil?
Then I found this ridiculous website titled “global warming facts.” The site is called heartland global warming, and contains a link to “the newly launched Science and Public Policy Institute,” which is even more frustrating, as it has a tab called “worse than warming,” which basically takes us to a page of possible Al Quaida projected attacks on the USA. What??? really? Global warming naysayers are pointing people to fear of hostile takeover to take the issue of climate change off the radar. Why, I want to know. MaryBeth would say that the war machine feeds on fear, and that if we want to really be free, America needs to become of aware of its insatiable appetite and say “no more.”
I think that we cannot truly preserve our planet and learn to live sustainably while we are constantly making wars to “fight for freedom.” YERT will still be focused on how America is learning to live sustainably but all three of us will be hoping for and praying for peace on this planet. Without it, the environment doesn’t make all that much difference.
I’ll close with a quote from the Nuremberg trials, from 1945. I’ve gotten this one before but one of my friends just forwarded it to me again, so in the spirit of serendipity, here it is. Sad how relevant it remains:
“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.”
— Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials