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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
The Peace Abbey's eccentric vegan Quaker founder, Lewis Randa, has received coverage for manually hauling a one-ton slab of granite commemorating civilian casualties of war through parts of the United States, Ireland and England. He wears his politics on his sleeve, or rather, on his head, to judge from this report carried by the Indian Communist Party's house organ two weeks after 9/11:
In the wake of recent racially motivated assaults against Arab- and Muslim-Americans, Lewis Randa - the Peace Abbey founder, a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War - wears a muslim skull cap "to know what it’s like to be viewed as a threat to society." "It’s a despicable thing for Bush to say we will punish those who host terrorists. We hosted Tim McVeigh. Did we bomb his home state?" he questioned.
Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker caught up with Randa at a peace demonstration at the abbey last October:
After the peace signs had been put away for the afternoon, Lewis Randa, the leader of the protest, talked about the frustrations of being a peacenik, post-Sept. 11.
With tears in his eyes, he said, "In 30 years of doing peace work, this is the loneliest it's ever been."
Randa was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, discharged from the Army after a 16-day fast. Though he had enlisted, he quickly became a pacifist.
But that was a different antiwar movement, in a different America. That was before the World Trade Center towers were attacked, before a section of the Pentagon was obliterated, and before the outrageous televised specter of Osama bin Laden declaring "holy" war against the United States.
Where protesters eventually carried the day in opposition to Vietnam, today's peace people are simply out of touch. After we stop the bombing, then what? Would that mean no more terrorist attacks? No more mailed anthrax?
To the peaceniks, this thinking could not be farther from the point. Randa suggested that perhaps the terrorist attacks should instead have been labeled terrorist "responses" - responses, he said, to unfeeling capitalist treatment of the Third World, as well as its blind support of Israel at the expense of Palestinian suffering.
He said Gandhi had opposed fighting Hitler, suggesting that it might have been better to allow the Nazis to take over Europe, then bombarding them with the message of love.
I pointed out that, in the overwhelming view of history, Gandhi and his fellow World War II pacifists couldn't have been more wrong. This is what I got in response: "Fifty-three million people died in that war. Is that your idea of a victory?"
That their founder is a doctrinaire leftist inspired to no small degree by anti-American animus would seem readily apparent. Yet the Peace Abbots' billing of themselves as conscientious seekers of peace and justice is so readily accepted at face value that local schoolchildren are dispatched to the Abbey for indoctrination. Can one imagine, say, the John Birch Society being given similar access to the public schools?