Ten years ago, when the Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice began their weekly Thursday vigil in Pittsfield’s Park Square, their protests of the impending war in Iraq were not necessarily popular. The American government, media and populace were caught up in a swaggering, post-9/11 jingoism that led to one of the most ill-considered and disastrous wars in U.S. history. The vigilers were ahead of the curve, and they continue to be.
The Iraq War has fizzled to a conclusion, but for the Berkshire Citizens there is no reason to abandon their cause or their vigil. The war in Afghanistan drags on, and with the neocons responsible for the Iraq debacle advising Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a war with Iran could be in the offing. Just as the lessons of Vietnam went unlearned, the recent lessons of Iraq will never be learned by those unwilling to be educated.
And as Marion Lathrop, who along with her husband and fellow vigil organizer Don were there at the beginning on Oct. 3, 2002, said in Friday’s Eagle, "Peace is not just the absence of war." Senseless violence plagues the nation, right down to its roots in communities like Pittsfield.
It would be nice to think that the day will come when the Lathrops, Gordon Dun ham, who has never missed a vigil, and the many others who show up with their signs for peace in wind, rain, snow and sun, will again have their Thursday evenings free. That may not happen, but the vigilers’ victory comes in their weekly reminder that advancing the cause of peace requires dedication and patience, and there is no giving up.