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Posted on: March 9th, 2015 by BWNWAdmin No Comments

Waging Peace by David Hartsough

David Hartsough was only fifteen when the FBI began a file on him.   At that age, he had organized a demonstration of kids at the Nike Missile site. If it is so that racism and bigotry are passed along to children with their pabulum, Hartsough’s story shows that compassion and empathy can also be imprinted.  His mother was a teacher who spent her summer vacations picketing a germ warfare plant. His father worked for the Quakers as the American Friends Service Committee’s college secretary. Following his parents’ model, David decided very early that he needed to do something with his life to challenge and change the terrible injustices in society.

Through his Dad’s work, David met many of the spiritual giants of the civil rights movements. Ralph Abernathy invited the Hartsoughs to visit him in Montgomery where they also met the twenty-six year old Martin Luther King. While they were there, Abernathy drove them around so they could see for themselves the total segregation of neighborhoods, churches, swimming pools and buses.

Inspired by this experience, David entered Howard University. He embraced the opportunity to join several black students in sit-ins at establishments that refused service to black people. He was twenty years old, sitting at the counter of the People’s Drug Store in Arlington Virginia, when a man with a knife in his hand threatened to kill him. “You Nigger lover. Get out of this store in two seconds or I’m going to stab this through your heart.” David said to his assailant, “Friend, do what you believe is right and I will still try to love you,” the man turned and walked away.

In that powerful moment, David understood viscerally that “a few people with some courage and commitment to nonviolence don’t have to just sit and curse and feel powerless when terrible things are happening. We can challenge and transform injustice, violence and oppression to achieve a more just society. We can change the course of history!”

He has kept that faith, working for peace and justice for sixty years from the days of the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, to protesting American involvement in suppressing the people of Central America, facing death squads in the Philippines, working for reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, and opposing American wars in the Middle East.

His actions were always informed by his faith. David learned well the power of turning the other cheek if you also stood your ground. Two thousand years ago when a Roman soldier passed a Judean peasant, he could strike him with the back of his hand to knock him out of his way, a dismissive gesture.   But if the peasant stood his ground and turned his other cheek, the soldier would be forced to look him in the face in order to strike again. The soldier would be forced to see the humanity of the one he would subjugate. In this spirit of nonviolent resistance, David Hartsough has stood his ground and forced oppressors to look at what they were doing, to acknowledge the humanity of those they would dominate. He has stood his ground when it meant risking going to prison, physical pain, or even death. His courage inspires all who work for peace and justice.

Reviewed by Dorothy Sampson

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