The weather was cold, the cider was hot, and the spirits were festive today as peace activists in Madison, Wisconsin, celebrated a landmark: Every Monday at noon for the past 30 years they’ve been picketing for peace outside the downtown post office.
The Cal Ripken Jr. of peace activists, Mary Beth Schlagheck, one of the founders of Vigil for Peace, said: “On this corner, as we stand in resistance to multiple injustices, we are many parts of a magnificent whole which makes me proud to be a sister of my compatriots.”
She pointed out that “the US. nuclear arsenal dwarfs all others,” and she asked why Americans are continually “paying for, building, maintaining, and threatening the use of our nuclear arsenal.”
Judy Miner of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice said the weekly peace vigil instantly made her feel at home when she moved to Madison a decade ago.
“The incredible people I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with on this corner each week have inspired me with their constant dedication to justice, peace, and nuclear disarmament,” she said. “They come together with a creativity of signs, a friendly and determined smile, and a meaningful flyer to give to passers-by on this busy Madison street corner.”
Those signs and smiles were evident at the anniversary vigil, and so, too, was the flyer, which was entitled “The Cost of War.” It said, “The total cost of war for the United States since 2001: $1,268,755,000.” It added that “America has engaged in 33 wars/ military engagements all the way from Libya, 1981, to Libya, 2011.” And it demanded that we “bring our war $$ home.”
The flyer did the math on the group’s vigils. “It appears we have withstood the test of time,” it said. “Thirteen hundred and three weeks and some 30 years later, the Vigil for Peace continues.”
The group is not discouraged. “No, we do not have peace,” the flyer said. But “to lose hope for the future is to give in, and to give in is to give up. That’s not what the Vigil for Peace is about.”
I saw many familiar faces in the small crowd, including my former neighbor and stalwart activist Helen Findley, along with my friend the environmentalist and retired elementary school teacher Rose Sime. Both are members of the Raging Grannies, who performed at the celebration.
And everyone sang “Happy Birthday, Dear Peace” at 1:00, as the event came to a close.
Congratulations to everyone involved in Vigil for Peace for your amazing commitment to the cause.
You’re an inspiration!
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Occupy Activists Push Ahead."
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