Left Justified: Kathy says, ‘Don’t back the attack on Iraq!

Left Justified: Kathy says, ‘Don’t back the attack on Iraq!

By Stanley Campbell

One of my heroes is coming to Rockford.

She’ll talk about her latest exploits, which include a recent trip to Iraq. Kathy Kelly is a Catholic Worker and school teacher from downtown Chicago. She has a master’s degree in theology, and she uses it in her geography.

Kathy has just come off a 40-day fast. She sat on the Capitol steps asking our government to drop the sanctions against Iraq. She is no lover of Saddam, but instead loves the children of that beleaguered despot-driven country. Kathy is a true peace activist. Many times she has put her body between warring factions, and a few times they have stopped fighting. While leading a motley crew through war-torn Yugoslavia, they were stopped by a raging battle between the two armies. The soldiers must have thought they were hallucinating because they stopped fighting.

In 1990, Kathy led another international delegation to Iraq just before the initial bombs rained down. They were halfway there when the first ones hit, causing most of the peaceniks to turn around—all but Kathy, who was adamant about getting to Baghdad. They were finally evacuated to Amman, Jordan, but Kathy stayed in the region coordinating medical relief convoys and study teams for the next six months.

Kathy Kelly taught in the Chicago school system since 1974, but her opposition to war led her to refuse to pay income taxes. She left her high-paying job and took temporary and part-time work so as to keep her income below the poverty line. Kathy works out of her home. Her organization, Voices in the Wilderness, has led many peace delegations to Iraq. Bishops and congressmen have seen the horrors of the war from the ground level, thanks to Kathy.

In speaking to The Rock River Times, Kathy Kelly explained how she became involved in the peace movement. “I have a very passionate commitment to nonviolence,” she stated, “and I have learned much through the Catholic Worker movement, particularly right now in going into the war zone; we are working very hard to plan the Iraq peace team.”

What sparked the beginning of her opposition to the use of her tax dollars to finance war? “I have paid no taxes to the U.S. government since 1980,” she said. “I was teaching in an inner-city area in Chicago, and I realized that I could not in good conscience any longer pay for nuclear war when some of my neighbors weren’t getting enough to eat or getting their basic needs met. It’s still the case right now—20 percent of American children go to bed hungry; 45 million people are without health insurance. There are 30,000 homeless people in New York City alone.”

Where does she feel our government has made its greatest mistake in pushing for the war on Iraq? “I think the fact that we don’t have an energy policy has made the U.S. feel that it is very dependent on the value of petro dollars for our banks, our defense industry and our financial institutions,” she asserted. “I think that if instead we were to teach ourselves to live more simply and share our resources with other people and not feel that we have an automatic right to take other people’s irreplaceable resources, we would be less dependent (on Arabian oil).”

Kathy is very articulate and will explain her opposition to the coming “attack on Iraq.” I half-jokingly tell people that I am “the only paid peace activist in Rockford.” I just wish I had Kathy Kelly’s fortitude and was able to do half of what she has done in her lifetime.

Kathy Kelly will speak this Monday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., three blocks north and east of Alpine and State.

Copy Editor Susan Johnson also contributed to this article. Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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