The Good, the Sad and the Ugly
Philadelphia -- A number of things converged to make my New Years special this year. Three of them were good, one was not so good -- in fact, it had the sense of a nasty omen for the future.
First I had a great dinner with friends, including several veterans, at a Vietnamese restaurant in Upper Darby owned by a good friend whose father was an officer in the Vietnamese ARVN army in Nha Trang. He jokes he was “born in a bunker.” He’s the epitome of the hard-working Asian, with one daughter who is a highly respected physician, another in college. When talking to Edward I always wonder what his life would have been like if the United States had had the sense to take another course than the one they did at the close of World War Two and, later, following the French defeat. We’ll never know these what-ifs.
Today, I attended a memorial for Agnes Bauerlein, a Dutch-born peace-movement giant here in Philadelphia who recently died. She and her deceased husband, Charlie, a member of our Veterans For Peace chapter in Philly, parented 11 children. I always felt I was one of Agnes’ extended family, in a way one of her and Charlie’s “kids” as well. Agnes troubled her husband Charlie, a successful engineer with his own company, and many in her family, by devoting her life to civil disobedience. She poured blood over plans for bombs and used a hammer to dent parts for atomic bombs at an AVCO nuclear weapons plant she and others got into with fake IDs. What most impressed me was Agnes’s determination in 1991 to travel to Baghdad, where she was during the bombing that went on during the First Gulf War. Some said she was foolish and a little mad. For me, she was a courageous person who nurtured nearly a dozen kids and decided she wasn’t going to shut up and go along quietly when she saw US militarism at work. She saw the bodies of her brother and sister killed by bombs in World War Two, so unlike most of us, she well knew what she was protesting.