Nydia and I had an interesting encounter last night on the No. 1 subway. We were returning from Staten Island where we attended the Staten Island Peace Action dinner honoring our own Barbara WalkerÂ It was around 9:45 p.m. A group of strapping young men sat across from us. One spotted Nydia’s pins — the Granny Peace Brigade pin and the “Afghan War End Now” one. in a polite way, they asked us why we wore those pins. There then ensued a spirited but completely civilized debate between them and us. Although they were wearing civilian clothes, they informed us they were in the Coast Guard and were in a special unit which would be sent to battle. One said he had already been on duty in Iraq. They espoused the military line — if we didn’t fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, the terrorists would attack us again. If they didn’t crush the Al Quaida, we wouldn’t be able to protest and wear our anti-war buttons. And, so on. Despite our best efforts, Nydia, in particular, who is a much better debater than I am, we of course were unable to convince them. They shook our hands as they got off the train before us.
This is the mind set we are up against. As an older man witnessing our argument said after the boys got off, “You’ll never persuade them. They haven’t the knowledge.” Inasmuch as they are going to probably go off to fight in the deadly wars, they most likely are better off believing that the cause is just. It’s kind of a conundrum — we want them to see the futility of the wars, but don’t want them to feel their service is worthless. If they could be persuaded to rebel and refuse to go, that would be one thing. But, of course, that wouldn’t happen.
Despite our sadness that the young men are so misinformed and are so convinced they are saving the country, undoubtedly to their eventual peril, we were impressed with their interest in hearing our views and their ability to disagree politely and respectfully.
As for the honors event, we had a most cheerful and happy evening. The S.I. Peace people are a remarkably warm bunch, and the evening was planned to perfection. They had a good musician-singer, a raffle and a silent auction, and food like you wouldn’t believe. There were approximately four long, long tables filled, and I mean, FILLED, with delicious goodies. Plus, the piece de resistance — tada: the awards presentations. Our Barbara looked lovely in an emerald green silk top, and made a strong speech urging counter-recruitment action in the schools. Nydia and I felt a big swarm of pride in her,
But as our subway encounter showed us, the road to our goal of bringing the troops home is a long and difficult one. We have to keep on keeping on!
for the Granny Peace Brigade