Valley People for Peace
Boston Globe, August 27, 2006
A veteran sings for peace
The songs ``I've Got a Feeling I've Been Here Before" and ``Where Is the Rage?" were written in Andover and produced in Acton. But they have attracted national attention, including support from folk singer Pete Seeger, and are being promoted through a network of like-minded Merrimack Valley activists hoping to spark a peace movement throughout the country.
These songs are in the pain-wracked voice that can only come from someone who has suffered the consequences of a war built on lie after lie," said Jon Schuchardt, a member of the North Shore chapter of the Veterans For Peace, a national organization that emerged from the antiwar protests of the 1960s and 1970s.
``When Pat sings, people listen," Schuchardt said, ``and music and singing the truth often touch people right in the heart."
That's where Scanlon likes to affect them. A recycling industry consultant by day, he picks up his banjo after work and assumes the role of singing activist.
He has sung about saving whales and stopping pollution. When New York's Twin Towers where attacked, he penned a cautionary tune called ``Big Old Dog" to let other terrorists know the anger they had awoken in this country and the danger they faced in doing so.
A year's service in military intelligence in Vietnam in the late 1960s turned him into a vocal opponent of that war, but Scanlon said he is no peacenik. He believed in the war in Afghanistan and acknowledged some initially mixed feelings about the invasion of Iraq.
But, much like the way his feelings changed toward the Vietnam war, Scanlon became disillusioned, then angry, over the war in Iraq. When no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq and President Bush started talking instead about spreading democracy as justification for the war, Scanlon picked up his banjo.
``We didn't go in there to facilitate democracy; we went in there to find weapons of mass destruction," Scanlon said.
``Now we're trapped in a civil war over there . . . and I was once part of a situation where we were trapped as GIs.
``This was a war of choice; it's being done for a political agenda, it's being done for oil; and every time one of our soldiers dies over there, my stomach turns."
Similar sentiments shared by like-minded Merrimack Valley residents has helped jump - start Scanlon's campaign against the war in Iraq. Two weeks after he wrote and produced the two songs, he had $2,600 in donations to produce CDs containing the songs, along with promises from groups like Schuchardt's to promote the music within their membership.
The Merrimack Valley People for Peace , of which Scanlon is a member, endorsed the project with an article in its newsletter and is discussing mailing the CDs to members. Schuchardt's group handed out 100 of the CDs at the national organization's annual conference this month in Seattle.
Seeger, with whom Scanlon has swapped postcards since the Vietnam days, endorsed the songs with a promise to forward the CD to Sing Out! magazine, a quarterly publication of folk songs by the non profit educational organization of the same name.
And the 50,000-strong Unitarian Universalist Community Service organization, an outreach group founded by the church following World War II, is considering throwing its support behind Scanlon's songs in an effort to open greater national debate on the subject.
``Pat has an approach that I think is pretty good one and it's encouraging to see, whether one agrees with him or not," said Wayne Smith, the civil liberties manager of the Unitarian Universalist group based in Cambridge, and a Vietnam veteran. ``I think it's important that we as people express ourselves more with respect to this war."
Scanlon said he and his supporters believe they have to rise up against the war because young people are not as involved as they were 30 years ago.
Smith said he thinks the lack of interest exists mainly because there is no draft this time around.
His group reaches out to many Bay State youths through various community-service programs, and Smith finds today's youth do not have the war on their minds. ``In many ways, kids today are apathetic about the war," he said. ``Young people don't feel threatened by this war, there is nothing that our leaders are asking them to do, and there's been no open debate. Young people are not being asked these questions, so is it any surprise they are being apathetic?"
Scanlon said he hopes to end the apathy and answer the question: Where's the outrage? And he apparently is not looking to get rich doing it. He has been making the rounds of radio stations, handing out his CD, and the tunes can be downloaded for free off his web site: www.patscanlon.com.
``This war is not
personal for people, and until it becomes personal, it's not going to
end," he said. ``I'm trying to bring the experience of the fallen
soldiers a little closer to home. I want to push those people who are
just interested in this war into people who are interested in becoming
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
But there is a world outside of her work and family that presents her a more pressing focus in her life.
Goldmans life mission is spreading peace.
"It is very important to me especially since what has happened in the past five years, since 9/11," she said this week.
A Woodland Road resident for the past seven years, Goldman, 59, is one of many like-minded residents who are members of Merrimack Valley People for Peace, one of the areas most recognized and active peace and justice organizations.
You can see the MVPP gather in Andovers Center on weekday afternoons and around noon on the weekends, under a rainbow color peace flags, holding up signs with the hope they can, at least, raise questions about the countrys involvement in conflicts throughout the world.
"We are gathering a lot more because we have a lot to say about our involvement around the world," she said.
She said not speaking out on the issues has led to the Invasion of Iraq and to what she sees is the slow erosion of the civil rights.
"The government likes to have us terrified," she said. "People have been scared by the threat of terrorism and our rights have been taken away," she said.
But it has been the actions of the Bush administration that, while in the name of protecting the country, has actually made it much less safe with repeated use of force.
"While overseas we are creating more terrorists than there were five years ago while creating so much anger and desperation," said Goldman.
"War is not the solution. If we would have spent one-tenth, one-thousands, or one-millionth then what we spent on bombs in the past five year and put them in un use building schools and helping people. What a difference the world would be."
At first, that attention Goldman and MVPP were receiving was not all that favorable. When protesting the Gulf War and, especially the Afghan invasion in 2001, the MVPP would run into more than their share of strident comments, the stray single finger or the cold brush off.
But that didnt present a problem to Goldman.
"You cant confront people who are unwilling to listen. I just give them a friendly wave," said Goldman.
But since the invasion of Iraq in 2002, a war that in Goldmans view was unnecessary, unjust and wrong, the vigils she participates in have grown. And with it has been a sea change in the publics reaction to the message. People want to hear more about opposing war, said Goldman.
Now people are more responsive to the signs calling for the troops to be pulled out and brought home. Passersby wave back, more drivers honk their horns when they drive by, and some come up to thank the members for their vigilance for peace.
"There has been
a definite change. Its that more people are coming to our thinking,"
She points to her
own family as an example. Once she brought her father to a meeting at
which he was invited to present a concert in Austria, a country he vowed
never to return to. But after speaking to people explain their own sorrow
and regrets for the actions of their parents and countrymen, Goldmans
father accepted the invitation.
has peace of mind
NEWBURYPORT - The
seeds of Niki Rosen's calling to the peace movement date back many wars
As she grew older, she connected with the '60s peace movement but watched from afar as a "hippie groupie." When Vietnam came, the pangs for peace work grew, but her focus was on raising five children, not on protesting war.
Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She remembers being shocked that day, but it was our country's reaction to the attacks that would change her life. Her children were grown. She was no longer married. It was her time to take a stand.
"I realized this was something I needed to do," she said.
A near-miss car accident, in which she fell asleep at the wheel and had a brush with an 18-wheeler, steeled her resolve. So, two weeks before the "shock and awe" attacks that would begin a war that continues today, she took to Market Square on a Sunday afternoon and rallied for peace.
She was alone, both in number and in her beliefs.
"Friends and family said it was really pointless. No one would pay attention," she said. "But if one in 100, one in 1,000 maybe rethink their stance, that was worth it."
The reactions she got that first day weren't pleasant. As drivers went by, they'd yell, "Get a job!" and "Get a life!" Two men laughed and yelled, "You're too late!" She doesn't remember one positive remark.
But Rosen, a small, 72-year-old, self-described "grey hair" who walks with help of a cane, did not waver. She feels very strongly that violence begets violence; until the world begins to think and act in nonviolent ways, there will be no peace.
She has found particular solace in the views of Frederick Franck, a Dutch-born artist and writer who created a sanctuary called Pacem in Terris - which translates to "Peace on Earth." Rosen once volunteered to weed the garden so she could spend time there. She has studied many philosophies, from Ghandi to Buddhism.
She notes that this Sept. 11 marks the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of Ghandi's nonviolent resistance movement.
Today, Rosen's personal nonviolent resistance movement is gaining its own followers. Now, when she goes out to Market Square, she has as many as 20 companions. She was even joined by her 11-year-old grandson on one occasion.
She says there are still naysayers, but now many people walk up to and thank her for being there. And Rosen is almost always there, every Sunday with her peace signs in tow, even when there's snow up to her knees. Only heavy rain keeps her away, because it runs the ink on her signs.
She'll keep going every week, she said, "as long as I can."
People tell her she'll die with her winter boots on, right there in Market Square.
"My life has changed many times," she said. "This is my life now - family and peace work."
People for Peace meets monthly, on the fourth Tuesday,
Merrimack Valley People for Peace (978) 685-1389
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