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Sep 16th, 2005 - 16:54:53 


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Voices of Peace

End of Summer Reflections

"If your heart says to do it, do it. Just begin. If it means that you sit out there by yourself, that is okay." - Sister Megan Rice

By Peg Morton

Posted on Sep 7, 2005

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The Dove Panel of the Eugene Ribbon of Hope, photo by Sarah Gray

Hurricane Katrina

Today, September 1, 2005, I am sitting here living with love for Bill Quigley and dread that he might be dying, trapped in a large New Orleans hospital as a result of Hurricane Katrina. He joined his wife, Debby, who is an oncology nurse there, to volunteer. Interviewed on Amy Goodman's Democrcy Now, he reported no water, back-up electricity about to give out. The hospital was evacuating patients on stretchers, 2 by 2 off the roof onto helicopters. 100 evacuated, 1,100 more people stuck in the hospital. His last cryptic message, yesterday, was "Hot, sick, no water, help!" The electricity was gone, no air in the sealed hospital. (I found out later that the hospital was evacuated, and Bill Quigley and his wife are safe in Alabama.)

Bill, a professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, was my pro bono lawyer at our SOA Watch trial in 2004, before I went to prison. Since then, he has traveled back and forth to Haiti, especially to provide legal council and support for Father Jean Juste, an advocate for the poor in Haiti. He was present when Jean Juste was violently arrested and visited him in prison. A quiet, kind person, he just keeps using his skills and his heart to do what he can.

Being involved in the Spirit-led, Gandhian movememt to close the SOA has brought me into a community of people who keep going to prison, going to Iraq or Haiti, who keep taking risks. They do these acts with energy and imagination, and they have fun in between. It is an ever-expanding network. These people may die, or be imprisoned, but they are alive. What a blessing it is to be a small part of that vitality for change.

Vigil and Fast for World Healing

I have been invited to describe an action I initiated in May, which took its own course and continues to bloom.

A product of the World War II era, and mentored by an insightful mother and aunt, I grew into adulthood wondering what my response would be, should my own country become a Nazi Germany. I knew of Pastor Martin Niemoller, in solitary confinement for years for speaking out, and of the widespread underground movement of courageous, ordinary people who harbored and helped to transport Jews to safety, or in other ways resisted the government.

Year by year, since the 1980's a foreboding has grown within me. I have watched and tried to respond to the U.S. participation in the creation of poverty, in torture and massacres in Latin American countries and elsewhere. If my government encourages such activities there, why not here? And now it is happening step by step.

This spring Scott Ritter, who served on the team to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, announced publicly that he had information that President Bush had authorized the Pentagon to bomb Iran any time after June. Fortunately, that has not happened yet. But I was reminded of Nazi Germany's expansion, country by country.

I have participated in weekly public vigils for peace for many months. Now it felt like time to take a small step of deeper commitment. The idea was to engage in daily vigils for a month, beginning in mid-May, and to enter into a juice-broth fast for part of that period.

I spoke of my misgivings to a Catholic sister friends of mine, Megan Rice. She has served for two six-month stints in a federal prison for nonviolent actions to close the SOA. I asked her if this action would be effective. Perhaps there would be no media coverage. Perhaps I would be doing this action by myself. Her reply was, "If your heart says to do it, do it. Just begin. If it means that you sit out there by yourself, that is okay." I resonated to her wisdom.

I approached my Friends Meeting, seeking clearness and support. A small committee met and reflected with me. Yes, the idea felt right. They emphasized, they urged me, to dwell on a hopeful vision for the future. So many have felt frozen with discouragement. I approached a few friends and we gathered to plan our daily vigils and fast, a noon vigil at our Federal Building, a vigil and tabling at the Public Library in the late afternoon. About 20 people signed on for the rotating fast. I signed on for one week. Our thought was that if we experienced hunger, perhaps we will become just a little bit more aware of the hunger in the world. We thought about our fast metaphorically also. The whole world is hungry for peace. We planned participatory events to begin and end this month-long action, and were thrilled when around 75 people turned up at the first one.

The Ribbon of Hope Gathering near the Eugene Federal Building, Summer, 2005, photo by Sarah Gray

In the wee hours, often a spiritual time for me, I realized that the Ribbon Of Tangible Hope might fit right in and indeed it did. Conceived by Justine Merritt after the September 11 disaster, there are yard-wide fabric pieces tied together, each decorated by an individual or group and representing some tangible hope for a peaceful, diverse, just and sustainable future. The idea is that eventually this Ribbon will stretch from the World Trade Center to the United Nations and to a mosque.

In August of 1985, the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a similar ribbon, "What you would not want to lose in a nuclear war," also conceived by Justine Merritt, stretched for ten miles around the Pentagon, across the river and up and down the mall, to the White House and the Capitol. Now it is time for a new Ribbon and endorsed by Church Women United, it is being crafted here and there around the country. Justine now lives in Eugene and she cheered us on. We now have over 50 beautiful pieces, decorated by children, families, youth, and grandparents. On Hiroshima Day, the 60th anniversary, we walked with them around the Federal Building, symbolically wrapping our government with visions of peace, justice and sustainability. On September 11 we will walk with our Ribbon from the Federal Building to our community Interfaith Service.

During this period of vigiling we discovered other groups seeking expressions of hope and peace. Beyond War has a national Wall project, tiny plastic bricks, signed and decorated by individuals, strung together. The Wall was taken to Hiroshima for the commemoration there. There is the Peace Flame Project, with several perpetual flames in cities around the world and an invitation to each of us to light a candle and pray for peace for one minute each day. Locally, there is the vision of a Nobel Peace Prize monument. And there are others. Recently around 700 people in Eugene and thousands around the country came out to candlelight vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan.


Was this action effective? The war still rages. The United States corporate, economic and military policies around the world appear unchanged. Poverty, violence and prisons continue to grow.

And yet, we vastly increased the public presence of the peace movement and involved a broader public. Especially outside the library and at the nearby bus terminal we were able to converse with many diffferent kinds of people. I was reminded there of the importance of listening. One man demanded: "But what about Sadaam Hussein?" And implied that Hussein was involved in 9/11. I responded with my understanding of the facts. His emotions escalated, and he ended with, "You hate your country." What if I had engaged in active listening with him? I am a retired, trained mental health counselor, and have also been through numerout nonviolence and similar trainings. Yet I fell back on old response patterns.

This action, which stretched from mid-May into August, was hard work, but it felt good. Standing together, we built community and an awareness of an ever-expanding network of informal communities around the world of people devoted to bringing policies of peace and compassion.

Proud to Hold the Banner of The Ribbon of Hope Gathering near the Eugene Federal Building, Summer, 2005, photo by Sarah Gray

I learned some lessons from my week-long fast. My heart has led me into fasts a number of times. Some short; one was for two weeks, Of course fasting is a time-honored spiritual discipline of many religious faiths. Specific fasts are frequently recommended for body cleansing and healing. And they are frequently used for political purposes. When I am spiritually led to fast, it usually is a combination of these reasons. I believe that the spiritual quality of the fast augments the political action. Other fasts that I have undertaken have been deeply spiritual for me. During this one I got bogged down by activities. At the beginning I took time for reflection and journaling and began to feel myself in a spiritually deeper place. But, tempted into activities tangential to this vigil and fast, I became exhausted. A cold blossomed, and I dragged throughout the rest of the moth. To be spiritually efffective, a fast must be focused. It must be honored and given space. It must somehow have its own life.

Now this action is over; one more action for peace. We can step back and become participants in actions facilitated by others. Meanwhile my belief has been reinforced that the wisdom of Megan Rice is crucial. If we feel a yearning to do something, if an action is living in our hearts, we need not worry about whether it will be effective. We need to follow our hearts.

And we have a beautiful Ribbon.

Copyright © 2005 by Peg Morton

Editor's Note: Photos added 9-13-05.

Read about Peg Morton's spiritual journey in the pages of West By

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: Counts & 'Shackles' and Bits & Pieces of My Life

This beloved Quaker grandmother is in prison for civil disobedience concerning School of the Americas protests and shares the joys and frustrations at Federal Prison Camp Dublin, California. Considered one of the better places in the federal system, sometimes there is excessive punishment and sometimes "I think we are being treated like naughty children – and in ways in which we would not want to treat our children. Resentment bubbles up inside me..." –¬Letters 13 and 14

May 29, 2004

Voices of Peace

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: Toni's Story

This Quaker grandmother went to federal prison with others to call public attention to the abuses of US power in Central America through the School of the Americas. A prisoner of conscience , she is also a witness to some of the current conditions in US prisons. In "Toni's Story" Peg lets Toni tell her story of life without trust or nurture and how it affected Toni the child, and Toni the woman: "We live in a section of a large room, seven us, four bunk beds, cabinets, several chairs, not much room to move around in the middle. Sometimes, especially as we wait for the 4:00 p.m.. or the 10:00 p.m. count, we laugh and joke. Sometimes bits of stories find their way into our midst, piecing themselves together, bit by bit."

May 20, 2004

Voices of Peace

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: Work, Babies and Conditions

Last fall, Peg Morton joined twenty-six other peace activists in "crossing the line" at the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. She and others made a choice of civil disobedience to call public attention and accountability to the shameful history of the school for dictators and its role in the affairs of Central America. Now serving a three-month sentence in federal prison, this Quaker grandmother writes of her observations of the life and people with whom she finds herself sharing prison life. Find out about the wages, singing and pesticide applications at Federal Prison Camp, Dublin, California. 

May 7, 2004

Voices of Peace

Peg Morton's Letters from Prison: We Are Many, We Are One

Last fall, Peg Morton joined twenty-six other peace activists in "crossing the line" at the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. She and others made a choice of civil disobedience to call public attention and accountability to the shameful history of the school for dictators and its role in the affairs of Central America. Now beginning to serve a three-monthe sentence in federal prison, this Quaker grandmother writes of her observations of the life and people with whom she finds herself sharing prison life.

Apr 26, 2004

Voices of Peace

A Cross and A Fence

Peace and social justice activist, mother and grandmother, Quaker writer Peg Morton has made many difficult stands for her witness. Now she faces federal charges and a potential prison term for her work to bring public attention to the need to close down the School of the Americas (now re-named Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). "I have been to Guatemala many times, have heard the stories of survivors and slept in their dirt-floored huts. But, as the procession continued and I gazed at the oncoming rows of people, my weeping became weeping of hope. I realized, deep inside, the strength and love in this mass of people, only a few of the millions around the world who are working, praying, marching for peace."

Dec 3, 2003

Voices for the World

Voices of Peace

Crossing The Line at Fort Benning: A Discernment Process

For many November means preparing for Thanksgiving. For others it means getting ready to return to Fort Benning. Ms. Morton shares her spiritual journey on the path for peace and social justice. She is at a crossroad of conscience concerning what kind of action to end a crime against humanity. "I was originally inspired to join the SOA Watch movement in 1999, upon meeting Sister Megan Rice on a delegation to Guatemala. She came from serving a 6-month sentence in prison for crossing the line, and has since then served another 6 months. She and other friends who have gone to prison continue to inspire me. I hold a firm belief that prisoners of conscience do inspire and feed the energies of the broad movement for peace and justice, for compassion. I am in my 70's, my children grown and in a position to take this risk and to serve time in prison."

Nov 8, 2003

Voices of Peace

We Sang, "O May We Never Rest Content till All Are Truly One"

An informative and inspiring testimony from peace and social justice activist Morton: She answered the call for help from Support Oregon Services Alliance (SOSA), a statewide coalition formed to save Oregon’s human services budget. She and others publicly fasted and more. Here she shares her experiences about the creative use of imaginative nonviolent actions, the real people and the place of action. "A fairly large number of Republicans joined the Democrats to pass a budget that would restore a significant amount of services...We were informed by some legislators that our presence outside the walls of the State Capitol was helpful in keeping them there, struggling for better results."

Sep 30, 2003

Voices of Peace

Statement of Faith on the Eve of Fast

For this past week a retired social worker has been fasting and praying and singing on the Capitol steps of Oregon for help for the thousands of people hurt by severe cuts to the state social services. One stone dropped into a pool has many ripples. So is Peg Morton affecting the state's budget stalemate. Soon the session will be over. Time is running out for thousands. Join Peg in Salem for the final days of her historic fast: "I believe that there is a solution, there must be a solution, to the woes of the Oregon state budget. Oregon is, in fact, a state with many resources and much wealth. Taxes must be raised, in ways that do not harm people of lower and middle incomes. Inappropriate tax loopholes must be closed. Long term tax reform towards a return to a progressive tax structure, including corporations, must happen."

Jul 26, 2003

Voices of Peace

Peg Morton Begins a Fast on Steps of Oregon's Capital

Peace and social justice activist Peg Morton begins her fast in Salem to focus public and lawmakers attention on Oregon state human services funding crisis. "The retired social services worker from Eugene, plans to eat only fruit and drink only water and vegetable broth, while living and sleeping on the Capitol steps." a link to OPB

Jul 21, 2003

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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