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Let’s be clear here: I have nothing except for respect and admiration for the writer Jay Janson. However, I do feel contentious about the viewpoint that we are all responsible for deplorable conditions, such as war, as exposed in King Held All Americans Including Himself Responsible for US Atrocity Wars NOT His Government .

Here’s my rebuttal to that, in my view, erroneous position:

I grew up in a Quaker pacifist family. I worked like a hell’s hound against racism, injustice and war since I was five years old by whatever ways that I could devise as my mind developed through the years.

When I was five years old, I saw severely maimed Hiroshima Maidens at Scarsdale, NY Quaker Meeting and staying with Quaker families, who hosted them and had arranged for free reconstructive surgery. And it is an utterly horrid sight for a five year old. Trust me about the view.

You want to see about what that experience is like? Here you go: What Version Of The Future Do We Want? – Countercurrents

Subsequently I always worked since that time to alleviate suffering, need and privation by others, including  when I donated nearly all of my Christmas toys and other items like paper and pencils, which I bought with chore allowance, to a lepers’ colony when I was a child. (I kept a few items like books and clothes that I was to grow into.)

Nobody is going to tell me that I am responsible for wars when I was in the first anti-Vietnam War march in NYC put together by Scarsdale, NY Meeting and FOR based on deliberations about Gandhi’s salt march. (We went full force down Broadway to the UN building in NYC. I was aching to be included and happy to be so.)

Yes, my mother brought me to the event. She had previously been well honed by Quaker luminaries, her husband and my father, a CO (conscientious objector); her friend Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, her friend Howard Fast and so many others, including extraordinary people with whom and for whom she worked at Riverside Church in NYC.

It was from the pulpit of the Riverside Church that Martin Luther King, Jr., first publicly voiced his opposition to the Vietnam War, that Nelson Mandela addressed U.S. church leaders after his release from prison, and that speakers as diverse as Cesar Chavez, Jesse Jackson, Desmond Tutu, Fidel Castro, and Reinhold Niebuhr lectured church and nation about issues of the day. The greatest of American preachers have served as senior minister, including Harry Emerson Fosdick, Robert J. McCracken, Ernest T. Campbell, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., and James A. Forbes, Jr., and at one time the New York Times printed reports of each Sunday’s sermon in its Monday morning edition.The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York

Who do we want to blame for the USA ongoing souped up, endless wars, along with racism travails and travesties? Should it be the Quaker war tax protesters like Randy Kehler, with whom I grew up as a child or other Quakers who I have met and who have carried out the same action? By all means, let’s blame them for the USA conditions:

Betsy Corner and Randy Kehler Battle the IRS Over Seizure of Home …

https://sniggle.net/TPL/index5.php?entry=05Mar11

The tax-resister owners, Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner, did pay their local and state taxes. Mr. Kehler and Ms. Corner continued to live in the house until they were arrested by Federal marshals last December. … During his week’s stay at Colrain house, Mr. Obluda, 64, typed a … [FYI: They gave the amount of money owed to war tax to peace causes. They didn’t renege on paying all of their taxes and did pay a portion of their federal tax, the non-war portion.]

Maybe we should blame a Quaker activist in her nineties and a blind Catholic nun in her eighties who were jailed with a friend of mine, a younger Catholic Worker, for their march at a major weapons’ manufacturing site. ( My friend led the nun to the march with the nun holding my friend’s arm due to her sight impediment.) Are they responsible for war???

 

Similarly, nobody is going to tell me that I am responsible for racism when this happened and I kept on going forward:

In support of the Selma March, I, a blond white living in Sarasota, FL at age 13 (1963), was collecting Green Stamps from strangers after school at a grocery store. Then I’d ride my bike home with them (around two miles) and paste them into booklets to send to my friend, Jackie M. (whose German father started Dannon, a struggling company in the 1960’s, and who’d endured WWII events as a German Jewish child).

She’d turn them over to her father and he had made arrangements to turn them over to a bus company for FREE N/C rides out of NYC to Selma, Alabama for protests. … Time was of the essence so I worked like the devil to get as many stamps as I could day after day. (Their existence was a free perk from the grocery market.) … Do you think that it could be fun to be a 13 year old collecting and pasting stamps for hours on end each day?

One day, a white couple asked about the reason for my collecting. Then I got spit on IN THE FACE and sworn at. I drove my bike home crying and shaking. I also decided to NOT tell my parents since they might forbid me to return to the action as it could be dangerous to me.

I decided, too, that I will NOT be intimidated. I would not be cowed any more than would be my two Freedom Rider friends, Irwin Wadler and Andy Goodman of whom the latter was beaten, bludgeoned and and kicked to death while Freedom Riding a year later. So I was out there the next day scared to death while collecting more Green Stamps.

My family took care of Ben Chaney, younger brother of James. for two months in NY while his mother worked with FBI and media after the Freedom Ride murder. We tried to help him heal. Maybe my family and he are responsible for the wars that OUR GOVERNMENT CARRIES OUT.

Maybe my brother-in-law is, who had machine guns casually pointed at him by sneering laughing guards when he inspected Laotian refugee camps at the request of International Red cross in Geneva, Switzerland.

Maybe he and my sister are responsible for war when they helped many war refugees after the Vietnam War come to the USA and helped them in various ways assimilate into USA culture, tutored them in English, brought and bought them furniture and other goods. Maybe they are responsible as theydrove them to grocery stores, helped them negotiate around and paid for their groceries out of their own pockets even though they, themselves, would have each week less for themselves to spend for groceries.

Maybe pacifist Catholic Workers, who took voluntary vows of poverty and who deliberately make too little money to pay taxes are responsible for wars and racism despite that they have been imprisoned many times for war resistant activities, lay their lives on the line in war conflicts, run homeless shelters, start up soup kitchens and found food banks.

My friend Mary, during a protest at a Bethesda, MD bio and chem weapons plant facility, flung her body on top of a gay protester whom police were beating. He was down the protest line from her and she was hauled off to jail and lost her college funding as a result of this action. Maybe she is responsible for war?

You decide: Mary, Protector Of The Harmed – Countercurrents.

How about Kate, who went to anti-war rallies and helped a gay teen who was literally tossed out of her home by her religious fundamentalist parents. Is she responsible for the wrongs? … Kate’s discussed here: Kate E. And Lady Gaga, Defenders of the Maligned.

Should we blame Howard Zinn, a US citizen and who I knew a little, for them? One of his books follows. It is worth reading.

A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn

www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html

A People’s History Of The United States. by Howard Zinn. Presented by History Is A Weapon.

History Is A Weapon’s response · ‎Columbus, The Indians, and · ‎A People’s War?

Emphatically nope, I refuse to take on that identify of being responsible for the wars carried out by my country’s government. I and my ideological and actual kinfolk will not “own” that vision of ourselves when we sacrifice and do all that we can to stop wars, racism and other social ills. We absolutely will NOT own the atrocities when we are willing to even give up our own lives to stop injustice — period.

No way do we accept that sense of self when we do all that we can to oppose major wrongs. Certainly with such a stance, we are not responsible for wars, racism or other ills that befoul the world and the USA socially and in fact since my buddies and I are absolutely anathema to the whole depraved situation regardless of whatever others think about our supposed culpable roles in utterly horrendous affairs! No, the monstrosities can’t be pinned on us one iota even if we were born in the USA. We will not subsume our complicity when we undeniably do not do so and resist complicity.

When we have spent so much time, energy and effort in life fighting an undeniably corrupt system of affairs and  sometimes at great sacrifice to ourselves and others (including our personal loss of life), we can’t be blamed for the terrible happenings. Some of us started young in life like me and others — later. Who cares the timing of when we started our disjuncture from the mainstream thinking and societal behaviors?

All the same, we irrevocably can’t be blamed for the existence of utter ugliness still prevailing despite our full-force efforts in opposition and attempts at amelioration to correct wrongs. We can only do our best to thwart and redirect the overall system and nothing more. We can’t assure outcomes, but we try, anyway, as a matter of conscience since we see no other way forward for humankind.

The monsters keep killing here in the USA and abroad. That’s the way it goes and a large bunch of us keep on resisting and for some, they are even willing to lay their (our) lives on the line, as stated above.

Accordingly, I will repeat again then — we, who resist, are not responsible for wars, racism or other ills that befoul our world and I do not like our being accused of these severe wrongs. My many brothers, sisters and I are anathema.

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Brian Terrel says:

    Sally, I do respect your conscience and the fact that you do not believe that you are responsible for our nation’s wars. I do not question your innocence. I write to you, though, as someone who is not innocent and who is responsible and as one who cannot refuse the identity as you do. I will work my whole life against war and injustice and I will never shake that responsibility.
    For identification purposes, I left college at age 19 in 1975 for the Catholic Worker in New York. In my time there I got to know Dorothy Day, Phil and Dan Berrigan and other good resisters. I have been with the movement since, for the last 32 years living on a CW farm in Iowa, raising very little money but most of our food. I have never paid a cent of federal income tax. I have been arrested about 200 times, four times in the past five months (US mission to the UN protesting the war in Yemen, the White House calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo and twice at the National Nuclear Insecurity Site in Nevada) and have logged over two years in jails and prisons. I have traveled to war zones, Iraq and Afghanistan (five times) and have been jailed in and deported from Honduras, Israel and Bahrain. I am a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
    I tell you this because because it seems that I might be among those included in your question, “Maybe pacifist Catholic Workers, who took voluntary vows of poverty and who deliberately make too little money to pay taxes are responsible for wars and racism despite that they have been imprisoned many times for war resistant activities, lay their lives on the line in war conflicts, run homeless shelters, start up soup kitchens and found food banks.” My answer, different than yours and speaking for myself, is an emphatic “YES.”
    Understanding that others can honestly answer that differently, it would be an act of cowardice and evasion for me to hide behind my activism and not accept the grave responsibility for wars, racism or other ills that befoul our world that is mine. I cannot deny that the monstrosities we both abhor can be pinned on me. I do not have any alibi. I do not resist because I am innocent but because I am not. My protests bring me no absolution. When I stand in front of a place like the pentagon, the Strategic Nuclear Command or Creech Air Force Base as I did just last week, I cannot look those workers in the eye, especially not the young soldiers, without recognizing my own share in the web of responsibility for the evil that goes on there. I cannot point a finger at another. I cannot go to those places with the intent of establishing my innocence (as if that were possible) or to deflect or even minimize my responsibility- I go to those places to claim and own up to my shared responsibility with those who work in them.
    Dr King carried with him on marches and protests Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Book “The Prophets” and often quoted from it. “The prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible,” Rabbi Heschel wrote.
    Thank you for your years of resistance to the wars, racism and other evils that plague this planet. Please recognize, though, that not all who resist can claim to not be implicated in them as much as the next person.
    Brian Terrell

    • Sally Dugman says:

      I like your attitude. It melds into mine.

      I agree with Rabbi Heschel mostly in his statement: “The prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

      Here’s where I agree: We are all responsible to fix the wrongs and I’ve been working my tail off since I was five to do so in all ways that I can imagine and reasonably execute.

      I have resisted “the system” as much as I can, fight it in peaceful ways and stand in firm abnegation as strongly and as effectively as I can. I boycott lots of companies due to their wrongfulness, buy local produce, do not vote to participate in the corruption, etc.

      The part wherein I disagree with Rabbi Heschel is the part about few are guilty. The reason sort of relates to Niemöller’s statement:

      “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      “Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

      I have compassion for, but do somewhat blame the people who are indifferent or numbed to our wars, who do not rise up and go full force for changing our social, cultural, economic, financial and political systems; who only see life as a way to obtain more personal monetary gain, etc. Yet, I can’t change them any more than I can change my brainwashed neighbor who is a right-winger, loves Donald Trump and think our wars are about sacrificing to bring freedom and peace abroad. (1984: War is peace. Yeah, right!)

      My issue is that when I have spent every molecule of my being to resist, I didn’t cause the evils. I do not identify with them. I shun them and I fight them as best as I can. I take responsibility to fix and fix again, but I just can’t identify with them when I abhor so much as I do the wars and more, such as racism, social injustice, economic injustice, environmental injustice, etc.

      Maybe it is just a small quibbling point. I take responsibility to fix, but not much from a causing standpoint.

      I have no use for guilt, shame, mea culpa, self-flagellation. I have no use for thinking that I am the cause of the atrocities that sicken me and that I oppose with all of my might and that I didn’t commit and concerning which I can’t control.

      Here, let me explain it another way. My friend Jean (a Quaker in her 90’s) once said to me that her sin (if you want to put a religious twist on it) or wrong (if you don’t) is not the sin of commission. It is the wrong of omission. She simply can’t do enough to rectify the wrongs.

      This is the way that I roughly felt when I was five years old and saw the Hiroshima Maidens in NYC for reconstructive surgery. I simply can’t do enough sometimes and all that I can do is bear witness. … For me to change the whole system as one small individual is impossible and I’m not going to beat up myself over this incapability.

      I share about the traumatic Hiroshima Maiden experience here in relation to Oscar Romaro. (It would have been an honor for me to have been able to serve as his human body shield.) What Version Of The Future Do We Want?

      So, my mother, a Quaker pacifist, worked with Dorothy Day in the 1940’s. Some of my local Catholic Workers (Worcester, MA) knew her, too.

      My mother also worked at Riverside Church and carried out an incredible number of peace efforts, along with my CO father. I was always actively learning from them and so many others year after year after year. So I am pretty well honed by now, although I do admit that I have the sin of omission. So I just have to work harder, I know.

      Why don’t your wife and you come up and give a talk at the Worcester, MA Catholic Worker house and at Worcester’s Quaker Meeting? It could be wonderful all the way around.

      Leo Tolstoy asked “How should we live our lives? Please listen to Emanuel Colon give a full and meaningful response to this question. It is very powerful and moving!

      He starts speaking at 39 seconds and he explains his views until 3.35.
      https://youtu.be/k-GEF_OgM8A
      Supporters gather in Worcester for March for Our Lives protest for gun reform.

      • Brian Terrel says:

        Thank you, Sally. We have friends in common- I visited the old Mustard Seed in the 1970s and hear from Mike Boover from time to time and Scott and Claire are old friends. I would happily entertain an invitation to speak in Worcester some time. Betsy rarely travels, but these days I am home on the farm about half the time.

        Perhaps it is my Catholic upbringing, but I am not as resistant as you are to mea culpas! Nor do I think that my sins or wrongs are mostly of omission. Some years ago I went on a binge reading of Thomas Merton and took special interest in his writings before he entered the Trappists in 1941.

        He wrote this in his journal in May, 1940:
        “I don’t pretend like other people, to understand the war, I do know this much: that the knowledge of what is going on only makes it seem desperately important to be voluntarily poor, to get rid of all possessions this instant. I am scared sometimes, to own anything, even a name, let alone coin, or shares in the oil, the munitions, the airplane factories. I am scared to take a proprietary interest in anything, for fear that my love of what I own may be killing somebody somewhere.”
        For all my efforts, I am still a part of this economy and cannot deny that I benefit of my privileged status as white, North American man. The car I drive, the food that I eat (not all of it from our garden!” the roads I travel, planes I travel in too often, electricity that is at my command, all implicate me in the deaths of people around the planet. I feel that I am responsible, not just to fix the evils around us but also because of my part in creating them. I find that this is inescapable.

        In February 1941, Merton wrote:
        “If I pray for peace, that prayer is only justified if it means one thing: not that the war may end, the fighting stop, and murdering and injustice continue some other way. To pray merely for the war to stop, and some fake armistice to be signed is not to pray for peace. If I pray for peace, abstractly speaking it makes sense if I pray for a ‘just peace,’ although I do not know what, in political terms, would constitute a just peace now. But when I pray for peace, I pray for the following miracle. That God move all men to pray for the following miracle. That God move all men to pray and do penance and recognize each one his own great guilt, because we are all guilty of this war, in a way.”

        In his novel, My Argument with the Gestapo, 1941, he wrote more about the concept of individuals and nations and guilt in an imaginary dialogue:
        Merton: I don’t know the meaning of the word guilty, except in the sense that I also am guilty of the war, partly. I cannot use the word guilty in a sentence like “Germany is guilty,” because I don’t understand the level of meanings on which the word works, in that application. I understand it differently.

        B: How can you be guilty of a war? Nations are guilty of wars

        M: Nations don’t exist. They can’t be held responsible for anything. Nations are made up of people, and people are responsible for the things they do. I am a person: I can be guilty of wrong, I can do harm and have done.

        Thinking about this reminds me of a poem by Leonard Cohen, What I am Doing Here:
        I do not know if the world has lied
        I have lied
        I do not know if the world has conspired against love
        I have conspired against love
        The atmosphere of torture is no comfort
        I have tortured
        Even without the mushroom cloud
        still I would have hated
        Listen
        I would have done the same things
        even if there were no death
        I will not be held like a drunkard
        under the cold tap of facts
        I refuse the universal alibi

        I spoke to the issue of responsibility at a symposium at the law school at the University of Nevada Las Vegas a couple of years ago in response to some former drone operators, now whistle blowers- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x11KLI3fdtE

        • Sally Dugman says:

          Brian — Claire, Scott and I just talked on the phone. Claire is providing your email address to me as I have some information (emails) to share with you, as well as information concerning Michael Boover and some other Catholic Workers not suitable for a public post due to disclosure and privacy issues.

          On another note, I decided to take a poll (as much for my own edification as that of others) since we are all trying to grow and learn. It went like this:

          I’m curious about people’s individual views on this topic. I know that any answers that I receive from you all have no statistical validity and no statistical reliability since there is no random sample of thirty or more people. So there is a skew/bias causing no probability — p. > or < — value to be derived. … If you participate in answering, I will send you the (to be nameless) results from the "poll."

          If you decide to do so, please tell me which alphabet letter or letters personally apply to you.

          A., Because I was born in "X" country, I am responsible for everything that my government and society undertakes (both good and bad) simply as part of my birthright. This includes orientations beyond my control, such as racism, wars, poverty, carbon loading, biodiversity loss, ecocide, etc., etc.

          B., Everything in life is interconnected across the globe. So I am not only responsible for happenings in my country — I am a causative entity for all wrongs and rights everywhere due to heavy interactions everywhere.

          C., I didn't cause certain wrongs. I resisted them for a long time. Yet many of my efforts were for nil (such as trying to stop the Vietnam War since more wars simply followed, anyway, since our government, industrial-military complex and others don't give a darn about whatever the public thinks). All the same, I try to pick up the pieces after the storm as best as I can even though I didn't make the storm.

          D. I am indifferent as it is all pretty much beyond me, my clout and my capabilities.

          Now I can march around with a placard under a heavy raining storm all that I want while chanting "no more storms" or alternately "no more war." I can write emails to the storm or to government leaders (which fall on deaf ears). Yet, I can pick up afterwords — i.e., pick up downed tree limbs from the pounding winds and rain or help some people hurt by policies.

          Yet I can't do much more and it is futile for me to waste my time trying to change that which I can't, although if I could do so and didn't try, then I definitely would be culpable (i.e., if my contacting Trump about Yemen would actually do any good and I didn't do so). … Why even Bernie Sanders, trying every means that he can to influence outcomes, can stop the horrors. … If he is giving the effort his all to end them — is he responsible for this unconscionable hell?
          Bernie Sanders' Yemen Bill Fails – YouTube

          ▶ 6:56
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2naI9TFyXF0
          Mar 21, 2018 – Uploaded by TYT Politics
          TYT Politics' Emma Vigeland (https://Twitter.com/EmmaVigeland) gives an update on the bill proposed …

          My personal attitude is that if I create something, create part of something or benefit from it, then I am responsible. For example, I am responsible for my carbon footprint, although I am pretty low on the totem pole for the activity (i.e., I haven't driven my Prius even ONE mile in 2018) and aim to keep my lowness that way. But am I responsible for the jet-setters in the USA not following suit? … Come on — give me a break! … Maybe it would be as good as contacting Trump about Yemen or yelling at a storm for me to stand at Boston Logan Airport with a sign saying: "Stop flying. You are carbon loading too much!" … I may be my brother's (and sister's) keeper, but I sure as heck can't get them to behave and, in my opinion, it is not on my shoulders that they don't. No mea culpa there!

          All the same, I have a leaning into B.

          Now, what do I do about Merton's (and my similar) views? I get off of the grid. While I can't force others to change, I surely can.

          Aside from barely driving my old car, I can buy local everything from farms or on the internet from reputable (supposedly) companies.

          My energy supplies come from the north for home heating and electricity. Phew — what a relief!

          I only purchase whatever I need for necessary replacement value of necessities in my life.

          And so it goes.

          Merton;s views reminded me that my mother, long ago, told me that Dorothy Day once gave away a diamond ring on her finger to a poor woman who coveted it. … I am currently involved in divesting of many of my belongings. Claire and I talked about it and she gave me some ideas about ways forward.

          Peace and joy!