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What Moves Us to Work for Peace? A Reflection


The occasion of white culture’s observance of Canada’s 150th birthday invites me to pause and consider several questions. What would move a veteran of an elite U.S. paratroop unit to become Canadian and spend four years of the third act of his life writing “Canada: The Case for Staying Out of Other People’s Wars?”

What would send him across Canada at his own expense preaching the book’s message that Canada did not come of age at Vimy; that Canada can and must end her fealty to the U.S. and that the need to do that has never been more urgent?

What would move someone to a law career of representing oppressed farmworkers, throwaway kids, and men facing the prospect of ritual execution? How could someone who unashamedly enjoys creature comforts find himself living in a family’s tool shed in the middle of a Nicaraguan war zone?

Well, I am that guy, and this is my answer. It is the simple goodness of ordinary people going about managing their daily lives.

It is the family of Alexandra Picado, who showed me how to live in poverty with dignity in the midst of a U.S. proxy war.

It is the people of Ireland, the North and the Republic.

It is very much the families in the Middle East, who tenaciously struggle to live and feed their children in the midst of violence being perpetrated in my name.

It is even those who are misguided, like the ordinary soldier, devoid of hate, who falls victim to the recruiter’s lies.

And yes, it is my fellow Canadians. Easy going, paying more attention to the NHL draft than the reality of the bloated military budget that robs them of opportunity; still under the impression that Canada is a peacekeeper; and yet living their lives with malice toward none.

They are frustrating, but they have not yet lost that basic sense of community that is apparently a thing of the past in the U.S. I believe that if we can learn to speak and listen to them, we can tap into the inherent decency of ordinary Canadians and advance the cause of peace.

A chance conversation with Joan Baez in 1969 took me the final step to a commitment to nonviolence.

Another chance encounter gave me a life partner whose passion for social justice equals and sometimes even exceeds my own.

I am the descendant of a leader of the Choctaw Nation. First Nations spirituality suggests to me that the Creator could have been behind these and other happy accidents that have characterized my life path.

But however it was that I got to here, I know that I owe it to ordinary folks to keep on keepin’ on.

Don’t we all?


By: William S. (Bill) Geimer, Barrister & Solicitor (Ret.), Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington & Lee University, Sooke, British Columbia

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