Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One new voice

I was at the Juneau Chapter of Veterans for Peace monthly breakfast meeting last Saturday. There were two new faces among the small group of regulars. Ed introduced the man sitting next to him as David, his brother-in-law from Southern California. I was more curious about the other newcomer sitting at the other the end of the table. He looked vaguely familiar. When I overhead him say he had been in Iraq, I realized from where I remembered him.

A year ago the Juneau People for Peace and Justice sponsored a town meeting about the Iraq war with Senator Lisa Murkowski. About 38 people got up and delivered a two minute statement to her, and all but one person had spoken with passionate opposition to it. His name was David Summers and he was the man across the table.

Summers spoke confidently that evening “No soldier, including myself, wants to be at war. I'm not here to be an advocate of war in any way, shape of form. However, I stand ready with my other fellow soldiers, I trust you to make good decisions, and I support the mission to continue the effort to free the peaceful people of Iraq.”

Summers left the Saturday morning meeting early, after having participated in the discussion. He spoke clearly without hesitation, carrying the same confidence I recalled from a year ago while referring to himself as a recent convert.

Of course, he is not alone as a soldier who has been to Iraq and opposes the war. Last August, Steve Lewis returned with a small contingent of the Alaska National Guard and told the crowd welcoming them that "I still believe that there's big questions that need to be answered about the war and what got us there." Beyond our small community over 2000 active duty soldiers have signed The Appeal for Redress urging their Congressional Representatives to end the U.S. military occupation. And membership in The Iraq Veterans Against the War is growing.

So is there much to get excited about because one new dissenting figure in Juneau just appeared? Will he be back and become an active voice of opposition to the war and occupation? If so, will more people pay attention and be encouraged to act?

It’s difficult to say why I was so moved by this rather small moment. Summers earned my respect last May even though I absolutely disagreed with his trust for our government and his view that the war was about freedom for the Iraqi people. He was alone within the Juneau antiwar crowd, the only one with courage to make a statement that supported the mission in Iraq. He certainly has my respect now.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than seeing proof that people’s view can change and that some have the courage to publicly acknowledge it. There is always more power to what we witness compared to the stories others tell us. What we see and hear firsthand becomes bonded to our truths. Maybe I'm feeling hope standing firmly behind its own conviction that truth is on our side.

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by Rich in Juneau