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Peaceful Path

By Shepherd Bliss

MY COLLEGE SWEETHEART would argue that the Vietnam War was wrong. One day, during the mid-'60s, she invited me to hear Martin Luther Jr. I had recently finished basic training in the U.S. Army. I agreed to drive to Nebraska with her, mainly because I wanted an intimate overnight experience with my sweetie, not knowing much about King. I was born on a military base and had spent my life as a military dependent. Hearing King speak about racial justice, peace, and nonviolence dramatically changed my life.

King stimulated within me what is now called a "spiritual emergency." The warrior world of my father's lineage crashed, and I decided to attend seminary, following King's ministerial path.

These memories have lain dormant. But as I prepare to nonviolently defend my home, land, and health from the chemical assault of forced pesticide spraying against the glassy-winged sharpshooter, they reappear vividly.

I was studying at the University of Chicago Divinity School in l968 when news of King's assassination reached us. Our group, Seminarians Organized for Racial Justice, drove to the funeral in Atlanta and then to a march in Memphis, where King was killed. Our Illinois license plates marked us as outsiders, and we were literally stoned. Back in Chicago, I found myself in the streets with a group called Non-Violent Training and Action Center and soon in Mayor Daley's Cook County Jail. My parents were not happy when I resigned my Army commission.

So the nonviolence that I plan to practice to resist the forced spraying emerges from a personal history. I simply cannot cooperate with the violation of property and civil rights that the county plan authorizes. When I first heard that plans to combat a small insect that does no harm to humans but can threaten grapevines could include the forced spraying of my organic farm, I did not believe it. As the plans that would end my livelihood and threaten the health of others became clearer, I knew that I needed to move toward direct action.

We are now preparing for nonviolent direct action to prevent state and local governments from the intended chemical assault. Our No Spray Action Network is fully committed to the principles of nonviolence with respect to both people and property. I encourage Sonoma County residents to consider the consequences of forced mass pesticide spraying to human and animal health and to our clean water.

It is simply not worth it to protect the profits of the luxury wine industry.

For further information, contact the No Spray Action Network online at [email protected] or call 707/874-3119.

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From the January 11-17, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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