Prudence Randall– Pru to all of us — was never my girlfriend. But we had strong connections anyway. For one thing, we were both trying to be writers, and specifically reporters. Journalism isn’t an easy field to break into now, and it wasn’t any easier in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971. So we commiserated a lot back then about arrogant editors, the great news stories that got away or fizzled, and about how broke we were most of the time.
In that year, the biggest news story of all was the Vietnam War. It was at its height then, killing hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Vietnamese every month. It also produced one blockbuster news story or photograph after another. Most were shocking: our troops burning villages; massacres of civilians; and our planes spraying millions of acres with a weedkiller called Agent Orange, so toxic it’s still maiming Vietnamese children born fifty years later.
One of the most famous news photos was on the front page of the New York Times: it showed a Vietnamese general named Nguyen Ngoc Loan, commander of the national police, shooting a Communist rebel in the head on the street in Saigon, the capital city, during a big street battle. The picture won a Pulitzer Prize. Continue reading Dog Days Reading: The Secret Life of Pizza→
As Quaker House of Fayetteville NC begins the search for a new Director (or Co-Directors), the situation there is in many ways different from my time as Director, from 2001 to 2012: then we faced a couple of big wars. Today’s many small wars are almost entirely invisible to the U. S. public. And the public so far seems grateful not to see them — which is to say, there’s no significant anti-war “movement” anymore.Hasn’t been for years.
But there’s still plenty of workfor Quaker House to do. Troops come back from secret combat as much subject to PTSD as they do from big open battles. And a steady succession of them still end up questioning this war business, and call Quaker House and the Hotline for information and help. Young people are still being swept up by recruiters from mostly poorer communities, to fill the ranks — and the VA hospital beds, and the coffins. Continue reading Quaker House: Still The Best Quaker Job There Is→
While I was Director at Quaker House of Fayetteville NC, we had two big wars to cope with, among other things. It kept me plenty busy. That’s what happens when you’re the only front-line Quaker peace project, and you’ve been at it close to fifty years.
It wore me out. But I say it’s the best, most real job in Quakerdom.
What will the next Director(s) there, who will take over late next summer, have to face?
And could that Director be YOU? (Or, excuse me, thee, Friend?)
Good questions, and big ones. But my crystal ball app got accidentally deleted from my phone, so this is only speculation. But consider:
— The current election pits a loose cannon ignoramus, against a supporter of the Iraq war, the Libya overthrow, and more, with ties to war-loving Neo-cons. Like them or hate them, I predict that one of them will win.
— And by next summer, the winner’s minions will be settling in at the Pentagon, the CIA, and the many other secret war agencies.
So I also predict (wait for it) . . . Quaker House will still be plenty busy.
When I started as Director of Quaker House in Fayetteville, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg, my main task was to get ready for a big war.
The U.S. was already fighting in Afghanistan, and the buildup for an invasion of Iraq was well underway. We could hear the war machine cranking up among the many units at Fort Bragg — some visible, like the 82nd Airborne, and many invisible, Special Forces units we weren’t supposed to know about — not to mention gathering hordes of “contractors”, a euphemism for mercenaries. Continue reading Who Wants The Best Quaker Job There Is?→
The Price of Prophecy: The Carolina Trial of Willie Frye
Willie Frye (1931-2013) began his pastoral career among North Carolina’s pastoral Quakers in the early 1950s. He came to this work from a background of strict fundamentalism. In most of this state and much of the rest of America, these were years of racial segregation, unquestioning support for American wars, and a goes-without-saying conviction that homosexuality was an unmentionable perversion and a crime.
But by 1960, sit-ins at Greensboro lunch counters set off an uprising to overturn the racial status quo that spread quickly from North Carolina across the region. Within a few more years, as U.S. troops poured into Vietnam, some Friends, including Willie, began to have doubts about that war and remembering something called the Peace Testimony.
While much of the U.S. population is involved in or watching Memorial Day events centered on those killed taking part in our wars, I hope Quakers will make room for a different approach to this observance.
Many parts of our former republic, including civil liberties, are already close to catatonic; and profoundly anti-democratic forces (the secret security state, the war machine, vote suppression) are already loose, some beyond our control (which is why we mostly prefer not to think about them).
But all this could get much, much worse, depending on how this political year turns out.
Cohen comes at the 2016 campaign from the BTDT (“Been There, Done That”) perspective, of those who have seen — and lived– this movie before.
It’s also a movie which is being remade today in more and more corners of their continent.