Vets in Our Meetings

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Dear Editor:  I congratulate Zachary Moon for his fine article in the Western Friend (Jan/Feb 2013). It is well written and thought provoking.

I was struck first by his reference to “the veterans in our Meeting.” I am a veteran of two years service in World War II and that experience has given me a lot to think about during the intervening years. I had hardly heard of pacifism (I didn't become a Quaker until the age of 35 or so) and during those war years, I was almost thoroughly imbued with the statements of our government: the evils of the Germans and the Japanese, etc. I still think there was a lot of evil there, but we committed many evil acts, too: fire bombing which completely destroyed most Japanese cities before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ditto for the German cities. In addition, I saw some individual bad acts when I was in the army. Example, when I was being oriented as an infantry soldier on the battlefield in the Philippines, a colonel said, “If you find a wounded nip, shoot the son-of-a- bitch.” Of course, he said that because he had seen many of his own men blown up by wounded and suicidal Japanese soldiers.

About Zach’s article, I fully agree with his conclusion that “We must be willing to risk the discomfort of real relationship with people we disagree with.” I often had the same thought during our anti-war demonstrations here in Oakland against the Vietnam War, but never had the courage to actually interact with those people on the other side of the street. An intelligent conversation at that time would have been a lot better than the somewhat meaningless “Give peace a chance” which we liked to keep repeating.

Bob Jolly

Berkeley Friends Meeting