Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Walking Unarmed in an Armed World

Jesse-Blue Forrest has been staying at my meeting’s guest house this week.  He is a Quaker Cherokee medicine man, with Buddhist training.  When he is at home in Charlottesville, N.C., he worships with the Charlottesville Friends Meeting.  He hasn’t been home since early June, however, and he doesn’t expect to be home again for at least 2 years.  Jesse-Blue is walking across the country, from Virginia to California, and back, to raise awareness of and support for a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the military draft as a form of involuntary servitude.

Jesse has first-hand experience with the involuntary servitude of the military draft.  He was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1966, when he was 18.  He told his draft board that he wouldn’t kill, but he didn’t know the correct procedure for qualifying as a conscientious objector (and he had not, at that time, even heard of Quakers).  As a result, he ended up in several military prisons.  Eventually, he was beaten so badly in prison that he ended up in a coma and spent several months in a hospital recuperating.  A nurse gave him an opportunity to escape, which he took.  After several years underground in the U.S., Jesse went to Canada and lived there for 26 years before he was able to clear his name here in the U.S. and return.
Currently, Jesse is following a leading from God to walk across the country on behalf of The People’s Campaign to Abolish the Draft.  Yes, we still have a draft in this country.  Those of us with teenage sons know this, because our boys are required by law to register for it when they turn 18.  The draft isn’t active at the moment, but it’s a proverbial sleeping giant.  The latest legislation proposed to re-activate the draft, in 2010, would have allowed the government to call up both men and women between the ages of 18 and 42.

Take a look at Jesse’s progress so far on www.facebook.com/AbolishTheDraft.  He has been delayed a few days here with us, because people keep asking him to come talk to various folks.  I suspect, if our community is any indication, that it will take him longer than the 2 years he is planning on, to make it across the country and back.  There is a website currently under construction at www.AbolishTheDraft.org.  It isn’t ready as I write this, but Jesse has high hopes that it will be up and running within the next day or two.
If you feel led to donate to the cause, you can do so on the Facebook page.  He also has a P.O. Box for old-fashioned paper donations.  Jesse-Blue is very happy and eager to talk about how we can pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the draft.  He also likes to talk about finding ways to ensure that all military personnel are guaranteed the civil rights they had as civilians.  And if you express interest, he will tell you about Native Americans, and even throw in a dollop of Thic Nhat Hanh.  He’ll talk to senators and high school students, and he’ll talk to you and your group too, if you are on his route.  And he is always grateful for hospitality.