Rockford Peace Rally – October 26

Rockford Peace Rally – October 26

By Jim and Karen Boesen, Peace Activists from Sauk Valley Peace Coalition

Editor’s Note: The Boesens had been invited to talk about what it’s like to organize for peace in the Sauk Valley region. They were very well received.

Good afternoon!

My name is Jim Boesen, and next to me is my wife, Karen. I am a retired accountant, and my wife is a retired social studies teacher. We come from Sterling, Ill., are members of Sauk Valley Interfaith Peace/Action, and we are here today as representives of our group. Coincidentally, today is also national Make a Difference Day. Many people for peace think they cannot make a difference. The government is too big, the defense spending lobby too powerful, our voices too small. Let me tell you a story about making a difference. I heard this story about 30 years ago and it probably happened 60 years ago, but it still applies today.

An airplane loaded with vital equipment went down and sank in a swamp somewhere in Asia. The engineers said there was no way to get barges and cranes in there to lift it up and retrieve the cargo. They were ready to give up!

But … the natives had a way. They cut lengths of bamboo rods and, one by one, over and over, diving to the bottom, they placed the bamboo rods under the wings and fuselage of the plane. After many days of constant work, the plane was lifted up.The engineers couldn’t do something the natives had practiced for centuries. They knew that working one by one, day by day, they would make a difference.

So it is with the peace movement. Short of a disaster, there probably won’t be a mass conversion of public opinion. Rather, a steady flow of information and individual, but collective action by each of us will enlighten the public to the practice of peace.

After 9/11, Karen and I were concerned about the saber rattling in Washington and around the country. So, we began attending Sauk Valley Interfaith Peace/Action meetings. At first, it was just study. We talked some about action, but nothing developed. Our first local action came in early September, when someone in our group read in the local newspaper that Speaker Hastert would be in Rock Falls the next night. Since big votes on Iraq were coming up and when we heard the person who is second in line for the presidency would be speaking right in our own back yard, we sprang into action.

One of our group hurriedly made signs, and then 10 of us assembled in front of the Holiday Inn to walk up and down and show Rep. Hastert there were people in the Heartland who were not buying the “Bomb Iraq” solution. Carrying signs that simply said, “NO BOMBS IN IRAQ,” we made news and landed on the front page of two local newspapers with pictures and quotes.

We had placed our first symbolic bamboo rods for peace under Speaker Hastert, and it felt very good.

The Annual Mexican Fiesta Parade was the following Saturday in Sterling-Rock Falls. It is a big day in Sterling and very well attended, with more than 100 units entered in the parade.

We made a float, banners and signs, and we walked the parade route handing out book markers listing the name of our group and when and where we meet. Our marching numbers had expanded to 20, including one walk-on marcher from Dixon, who pushed his one-year-old son the entire two-mile parade route with a sign reading, “War is unhealthy for kids.”

That day, we were graciously received by the community and are certain that we put several symbolic bamboo rods for peace under the people of Sterling-Rock Falls.

The following Monday, five of us went to Davenport, Iowa, to show President Bush himself that we were not in favor of his Iraq policy. He was having a fund-raiser for Congressman Nussle. We stood across from the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds as the presidential entourage passed by us when both entering and exiting the event. We were especially pleased to see the faces of the White House Press Corps, who had a full view of our demonstration. There was no real organization of protesters, just people with sincere beliefs.

This is my challenge to all of us in the future. When the war in Iraq begins, don’t abandon the pursuit of peace. Don’t stop reminding those in power that we are watching. Be relentless in speaking out; engage those you know in a dialogue of peace; listen to their fears and educate them. Don’t give up. You are the true patriots.

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