Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Paying the Price for Peace"

I want to encourage you to attend a tribute to Brian Willson in the new feature-length documentary being presented this Sunday at the Cape Ann Cinema. The showing will begin at 6:30 after a musical opening by Chick Marston at 6:00.

Brian Willson came here five years ago on a speaking tour for Blood on the Tracks, his autobiographical account of conversion to peace activism that he sub-titled A Psychohistorical Memoir. In the first chapter "All American" he relates his rural apple-pie upbringing and his blossoming as a scholar-athlete. The book follows his enlistment and assignment to on-the-ground intelligence assessments for the Air Force in Vietnam. His revulsion at the wanton and sometimes deliberate destruction of non-combatants in the war led to his being transferred out-of-country with an "attitude problem."
Brian Willson on the tracks, 1987
In 1987, while vigiling against the clandestine shipment of arms to the Contras in Nicaragua, Brian was run over by a munitions train outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station in  California. The train severed both his legs.
He referred to learning from his experiences with the Sandinista peasants in the Nicaraguan revolution that "dignity trumps longevity."

* * *
I come from a family of career military officers who could have applied these words to their own world.  My father and two of his brothers received the Purple Heart for battlefield wounds during World War II.

Cadet Roger Ray and LT John Ray, December 1941
Six months after this photograph was taken they lost their older brother Martin in the Pacific. The citation on his award of the Navy Cross for gallantry commended his "extraordinary heroism and extreme disregard of personal safety  as Engineer Officer of the U. S. S. Hammann during action against Japanese forces...." Roger was badly wounded in the invasion of Normandy and John in the Battle of the Bulge. Along with their Naval brother Alan they maintained a lifelong perspective of paying the price for peace.
I will have all these decent courageous men in mind when I watch the film this Sunday at the Cape Ann Cinema. Besides his sacrifice, I will be appreciating Brian's call to nonviolence and the tireless transformations to which he has devoted himself.

The producers of the film have engaged testaments of solidarity from many of the most noted peacemakers of our generation.

Chick Marston on left, 1967
Prior to the showing of the film Gloucester musician Chick Marston will provide entertainment with his compatriots in Down Home Swing, from 6:00 to 6:30. Chick paid a steep price of his own after refusing induction to the military during the Vietnam War.

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