Reflections on Activism 2

“It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.   Let our lives speak for our convictions.  We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam.  But we can try to change our own lives.  We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace.  We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.”    An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription.  [signed by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friends Roy Knight and Don Laughlin, and others].

“We Friends may say we care for our environment, but as long as Friends continue to use personal automobiles, we will fail to speak to mankind.”  Jeff Kisling, 10/8/2016

Something similar should be said about racial and economic justice.

To me, activism comes down to working to live our own lives as consistently with our beliefs as we possibly can.

The course of my life was powerfully affected by growing up in the Bear Creek community of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  When I was born in 1951, that community had just come through a period when nearly 20 Quaker men had been imprisoned for refusing to cooperate with the military draft.  The community came together to support the families of those men while they were imprisoned.  Scattergood Friends School had to deal with losing teachers.  The depth of that commitment and willingness to accept the consequences shaped the course of my life.

I previously wrote that my refusal to own a car hadn’t caused a single person, that I know of, to give up theirs.  But there were a number of things that did happen, besides the effects on my personal life.

Especially during those years when many were denying how severe the problems of greenhouse gas emissions were, almost universally the response, when I said we needed to stop burning fossil fuels, would be “well you drive a car, don’t you?”  Being able to say no, I do not, may not have changed any minds, but did refute their argument that it just wasn’t practical to live without a car.  This happened over and over again during the many times we would be out in public trying to raise awareness as part of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance.

I have also written a number of times about my first meeting with the KI (Kheprw Institute) community.  Besides their primary focus on mentoring Black youth, they have a very strong commitment to protecting our environment.  I hadn’t anticipated, but quickly realized, that initial meeting was basically an interview to see if they thought I was someone they would be comfortable accepting into their community.  When continued probing indicated their interest was not in what I might say, but what I had actually done, being able to talk about refusing to own a car was what evidently convinced them to let me join them.  As I’ve written many times, that, too, has been a life changing experience for me.

 

 

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