<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Sandronsky No War No More

BOOK REVIEW/Seth Sandronsky

No War No More

When schoolyard bullies hit David Hartsough, he turned the other cheek. How and why he did so compels one to keep reading his memoir, Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist (November 2014, PM Press).

In this page-turner, we follow an early encounter with bullying over decades to a path of nonviolent advocacy worldwide. For Hartsough, this journey of pacifism is bone-deep.

He continues to this day. No rest for a principled warrior of peace.

Hartsough delivers a nuanced account of the issues, places and people, a wide-ranging meditation on pacifism, racism and militarism. His is a unique view of dissent against wars, hot and cold.

This fact matters. He, as a citizen of the US, whose military reach spans the planet, occupies a vital spot to place his body in what Berkeley free-speech activist Marion Savio termed the machine’s gears to slow its lethal work.

Hartsough puts me in mind of Kathy Kelly, the antiwar activist from Chicago, imprisoned for protesting President Obama’s drone strikes that kill unarmed civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Like Hartsough, she writes of becoming a peacemaker in part by “catching courage” to resist war, in and out of arrest, jail and prison.

Hartsough learns from and with his Quaker mom and dad. He does not stop there. One of his friends and mentors is Brian S. Willson, Vietnam War veteran turned peace warrior.

Hartsough is with Willson when he nearly dies attempting to stop the US government’s arming of Central American death squads. The reader is there, grippingly.

Like author and activist Staughton Lynd, Hartsough accompanies ordinary people displaying extraordinary heroism, from African Americans battling Jim Crow segregation, to Guatemalan and Salvadoran peasants struggling against paramilitary forces, dubbed ‘democracy promotion,’ drenched in civilians’ blood. Do as I do, is the recurring theme throughout Waging Peace.

Hartsough recounts, tellingly, of being nearly knifed by a crazed white racist who sought to make an example of the author at a segregated lunch counter in the South. Like the anti-slavery abolitionists who went to the South a century earlier, he is a “race traitor” who joins the freedom struggles of black Americans.

I see such interracial efforts then alive now with working-class whites joining advocacy groups such as “Black Lives Matter,” protesting via “die-ins” ongoing police killings of unarmed African Americans. It is striking to see the continuing relevance and significance of nonviolent strategies and tactics from the civil rights movement today. All the more so as that movement’s historic rise and demise paved the way to mass black and Latin imprisonment of redundant workers whose caging represents for-profit opportunities to capitalist investors now.

Across continents and over decades, Hartsough places his body on the line to resist war, for a world where humans resolve their conflicts without resort to mayhem and murder. He spices his memoir-writing with accounts of going hungry, and the pleasures of eating a sustaining meal that hosts prepare.

In the former Yugoslavia, Hartsough sees the wreckage of WW II. “I wondered why, with all our collective human intelligence, we have not been able to find a better way to resolve conflicts than bombing homes and killing the people in countries whose governments we don’t like.”

On pacifism, however, from the Cuban Revolution to the US Civil War, violence did birth new societies from the shells of the old ones. For instance, I am skeptical that chattel slavery, a “peculiar institution” of economic relations between slaves and masters, “free” and enslaved labor, would have ended without armed conflict.

In any event, Hartsough and his fellow pacifists educate and motivate each other and society broadly to proceed peacefully in the face of violence, risking life and limb. Decades later, Hartsough stands against the growth of nuclear weapons, his parents by his side.

Hartsough, from the civil rights struggles of the 1950s to the anti-drone protests of the current moment, pursues militant nonviolent protest for a social order not yet existing.

His memoir fleshes out the layered meanings and methods of laboring for a social system that does not create and rely upon armed forces seizing the land, labor and resources of civilians worldwide. His is a vital voice for a society of, by and for the best qualities of humanity: war no more.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento-based journalist. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2015


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