Opinion: Violence is never the right answer

It has been a time of reflection for me. My heart goes out to families and friends who are grieving the loss of loved ones. I find myself drawn to gardens, to watch nature carry on.
At the rise of friends meeting in South Starksboro on Sunday, July 10, I had the chance to sing Sacred Harp, shape note music. We sang “Weeping Pilgrim,” written by J.P. Reese in 1859. Part of one verse says, “I weep and I mourn and I move slowly on.” I feel for those mourning the loss of loved ones, now in our world. We also sang “Ecstasy,” written by T.W. Carter in 1844. Part of one verse says, “He’ll give you grace to conquer. And Take you home to rest.” Ah, to feel full of grace and to also understand its power.
About a month ago, when a few of us stood on the corner of North St. and West St. in Bristol, bearing witness to the possibility of solving problems without the use of violence, a young man, perhaps in his twenties approached us. (The Five-Town Peace Coalition has met everyFriday at that corner at5 p.m.for a peace vigil since 2003.) He told us that he was a veteran. He thanked us. He asked, “Do you accept donations?” I believe, at some level in his soulful mind, he thought, if only we could achieve peaceful solutions in this world of ours. He wanted to help that process along. We thanked him. We told him that we do not accept donations. We wanted to make sure that he was getting the support he needed. We mentioned Jon Turner and Wild Roots Farm to him. I believe it took courage for him to approach us and to express gratitude. My heart goes out to any veteran who has experienced war. They must be left with a daily battle to transform their memories into ways of belonging to their current family and community.
Twenty-five-year-old Micah Johnson, who decided to open fire and kill the policemen in Dallas, Tx., was an Army veteran. He served in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to the friends and family of this young man. He was in pain. He had healing to do. Did he not allow himself to be embraced by loving, responsible community?
Several weeks ago, I read an obituary in theIndependentfor Bryan Ashley-Selleck, Sr. He was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. I was moved by the mention of making donations to honor him through outreach programs. Camp Resilience, PO Box 73844, Gilford, N.H. 03247. Here is part of a statement of purpose from their website: “Provide sustained, comprehensive programs to help wounded warriors recover their physical, mental, and emotional well being.” Another program mentioned was Project Healing Waters Fly-Fishing, PO Box 695, La Plata, Md. 20646. Here is part of a statement of purpose from their website: “Bring wounded vets fly-fishing to heal their mind and soul.” Another organization to consider is Veterans for Peace, 1404 N. Broadway, St. Louis, Mo. 63102. Here is part of a statement of purpose from their website: “We are dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war.” Right here in Vermont we have a Farmer Veteran Coalition. Jon Turner is the current chapter president. He lives and works right here in Bristol at his homestead and his farm, Wild Roots Farm. He can be reached at802-377-1214or by email:[email protected]. Here is part of a statement of purpose from their website: “We support and treat the whole veteran. We are aware of the high number of veterans that return with both visible and invisible wounds. Creating contact between our farmer veterans and a sense of community amongst them is an important part of our mission.” These organizations understand a process that is needed in our country. Any way that we can help the wounded heal will, in turn, help our communities thrive and will help our nation on this journey toward working things out.
On Wednesday, July 13, I listened to President Obama’s speech at the memorial of the five policemen killed in Dallas. What remains for me was President Obama’s message for us to search and find that open hearted place to help us mourn and heal. He kept going back to the expression, “That is the America I know.” He believes we have the capability to use our mourning to increase our ability to have compassion. If we can step in the shoes of the “other,” then we know we have reconciliation work to do. We have steps to take so that each person will have the chance to experience loving, responsible community, which knows how to solve problems, without violence.
There are others who believe in the power of love. In 1647, George Fox wrote in his journal, “An infinite ocean of light and love flowed over the ocean of darkness.” (George Fox was a founder of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers.) Perhaps we can use this vision and allow our light to shine in the midst of the suffering.
“Hundreds of Clevelanders and tourists descended on Hope Memorial Bridge in an attempt to set a peaceful tone for the Republican National Convention. The event, Circle the City with Love, asked demonstrators to hold hands for 30 minutes in complete silence.” (Jacob Gedetis,Rare News, July 17, 2016). Nelson Mandela had this to say in his book, “Long Walk to Freedom:” “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” (Page 622).
I have made a personal decision that I do not need to open carry a weapon of steel. I will carry my open heartedness. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Patricia Heather-Lea

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