Hal Bauer (left) and Hank Stone [Photo: David Kramer, Sunday, 12/30/18
In August 2015, The long vigil for peace on the corner of East and Goodman, we wrote about the self-described “peaceniks” who have held a vigil for peace every Sunday on the corner of East and Goodman, begun in 2003 during the run up to the Iraq War.
Recently, President Trump announced a complete withdrawal of American troops from Syria and a major withdrawal from Afghanistan. My personal — and negative — feelings about Trump’s attitude towards war were crystallized during the 2015 Republican primaries when Trump told CNN and Fox News, “I am the most militaristic person you will ever meet”. That jingoistic statement alone confirmed my fears that for Trump war is not hell. That Trump wants ever increased “defense” spending, even to the point where nuclear weaponry could be acceptable, only confirmed my unease.
At the same time, I wondered what the vigilers had to say about Trump’s proposed withdrawal of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan. For most of those fifteen years, a prominent sign has called, “Bring Our Troops Home.”As always on Sundays between noon and one, the corner of East and Goodman is an occasion for civic discourse as passing drivers honk approval and the vigilers offer informed conversation about war and peace. My primary question was, isn’t it good that Trump wants to bring the troops home? The answers were nuanced just as they exemplified the mission of the vigil.
As explained by Hank Stone, troop withdrawals encompass two issues. Yes, the group is happy when American soldiers come home. It’s fundamental to why the vigil is there.
But, as fundamentally, the vigil reminds us, as Hank says, of “the dynamics of the war system” undergirding both troop deployments and withdrawals. Trump is hardly opposed to the war system, if anything he is a bit player.
Hank says Trump could not — even if he did which he does not — dismantle the system. That dismantling must come from the people in which a few people on the corner of East and Goodman stand as reminders and potential bulwarks for that dismantling.
In the case of Syria, as Hank says, for the war system sometimes it is convenient to have a war and sometimes it is convenient to have a hiatus — when arms can be sold without killing people. Hal Bauer added that Trumps’ supposed withdrawal is just political posturing. Hal bemoans — or acknowledges — that Trump does “not even pretend to be a peacemaker.” Hall worries a withdrawal may lead to more bloodletting, especially for the Kurds caught in the geopolitical power game.
This Sunday the vigil included two newcomers, Colin and Rudy who recently moved to the Neighborhood of the Arts from Brockport and Spencerport.Rudy also welcomes the return home of American troops. As he pointedly says, it’s always good when the United States’ imperial reach recedes. At the same time, Rudy argues we must interrogate the reasons behind the withdrawals. For all we know, the deal is that the Saudis will fill the power vacuum.
Rudy was born after the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and, when growing up, has seen nothing but misguided United States’ interventions into the Middle East. As such, he takes Trumps’ actions with a heavy grain of salt. Rudy sees no wholesale commitment to peace, but, as Hank might say, the machinations of the military-industrial complex (as Eisenhower did say.)
Colin — who may run for the County Legislature — emphasized the financial burden of US militarism. As Colin says, we spend so much money blowing people up that could actually go to helping people — something with which the passing honking cars and the adamant vigilers would agree.
Come by any Sunday between noon and one to start new conversations.SEE ALSO A pilgrimage of peace from Palmyra to Pittsford