Peace is patriotic

Why should mom be the only one concerned with keeping the peace?

Kelsey Kudak

Workers are striking. Students and faculty are fasting and providing incentive for the strike’s end. Others are marching proud with signage. I see little green buttons on nearly all shirts and backpacks.

The strike here on campus is another daily war waged, and our recent collegiate protests are not unlike protests of other wars. Though I do not consider myself to be adequately educated on its political details, I understand the breadth of injury and pain torn into lives when war rips into a country.

What matters not is the location, but our common humanity. At the Emmys on Sunday night Sally Field was censored as she supported mothers of soldiers. Above the censor, however, her statement holds truth: “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.”

How many times as a child were you ominously sent to “time-out” when you hit your siblings? I know I was guilty of using my fingernails as weapons on the arms of my brothers, and I spent my fair share of time on the steps of our home. Mom is simply known for keeping the peace. But why should she be the only one?

Indeed peace is essential. Not only is its concept fundamental to our lives and immediate community, the broader scope of peace retains equal significance. This is why the dedication of a particular group of peace-wagers here in Minneapolis has become significant to me.

If ever you are lucky enough to cross the Marshall-Lake Street bridge and pass between Minneapolis and St. Paul on a Wednesday evening, you might know of whom I am writing. They carry flags and signage declaring, “Stop Mad Cowboy Disease,” “Peace is Patriotic,” “Mothers Against Military Madness,” “Impeachment: a formal document charging an official of misconduct in office,” “Veterans for peace,” “Wage Peace,” and a slew of others can be read from the sidewalks during rush hour. From these folks, you’ll receive a smile and a wave in exchange for a honk, no matter the season. Wednesday happens 52 times a year, and at the bridge is where you will find these individuals each of those 52 Wednesdays.

The bridge is no small tradition. It was first organized in the late ’90s to protest the United States bombing Yugoslavia.

Now, a decade later, the ritual has grown to a protest of our country’s presence in Iraq. In the frigid Minnesota winter, their idea seems to hold empathy with our troops. Soldiers do not have the option to stop in inclement weather, and the war doesn’t end when it snows.

Though from a hodgepodge of lives, the people on the “Peace Bridge,” as it has been named, have their devotion to peace in common. Activists, young and old, are comprised of college students, teachers, a group of Catholic sisters, the retired, former priests, and World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. Representatives from organizations like Impeach for Peace and Women Against Military Madness are among the walkers and bring new literature and news each week.

While some of these walkers may be feeble-footed senior citizens, they are boldly aware of the actions of our nation in war and understand their presence on the bridge reminds people of the daily war they do not see.

I have been lucky to occasionally encounter these people, both in my car and on the sidewalk. Invited by my sister-in-law for the first time on the Fourth of July, the bridge was alive with another kind of patriotism. I was met with amicable spirits as I introduced myself and my camera to cheerful faces; I was thanked for my presence that day.

With my finger to the shutter’s release, I experienced the hope the bridge people carry with them and the confidence they gain with each honking passer-by. It rained that afternoon, but the only dampness was my clothing.

What I write today is not necessarily about increasing the turnout on the bridge, but leans toward the example I’ve seen in fasting students and bifocaled friends. Though the people on the Peace Bridge would love you to join them and hold signs stating so, their cause might not be your own.

So translate for the Latin community in Minneapolis. Advocate as an ally. Ask yourself questions. Have heated conversations about court cases, fair wages, the lines between men and women. Individually seek out your causes and practice proactivity.

Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]