The new book, Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist by veteran peace activist David Hartsough, is part autobiography, part recent history, and part call to action. The book shows how a commitment to active nonviolence can plant the seeds and provide the impetus for significant social transformation.
In 2012 I was arrested with David and Jan Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, and Janie Kesselman at a demonstration at Beale Air Force Base, near my home in Northern California. We were the first of many to be arrested at anti-drone protests at Beale, home of the Global Hawk drone, a surveillance drone that helps identify targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones. Our arrests resulted in a trial that generated significant publicity. I believe that our case and others like it at bases around the country got people discussing and questioning the morality of killing people by remote control.
Throughout the trial, David urged our lawyers to focus on the Nuremburg Principles and International Law, although the judge refused to consider these factors as a defense. We were found “guilty” of trespassing onto base property. Before being sentenced we each gave a statement to the court. David’s complete sentencing statement, available here, is printed as an addendum in Waging Peace.
The judge could have sentenced us to six months in jail. After hearing our statements, she acknowledged that we were motivated by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs” and sentenced us to just ten hours of community service. We continue to demonstrate at Beale on an ongoing basis. As David says, “Sustained resistance brings transformation.”
David is Executive Director of Peaceworkers, based in San Francisco, and co-founder with Mel Duncan of the Nonviolent Peace Force. In Waging Peace, David shares some of his many adventures in active nonviolence, as well as his strong faith and the spiritual beliefs that motivate his action, as a Quaker and as a Christian. This book engages the reader every step of the way.
Waging Peace is a compelling autobiography that beings with the story of a life-threatening encounter David had at age twenty while sitting with a number of African American students at a “whites only” lunch counter in Arlington, Virginia. A man held a knife to his heart and threatened to kill him. Fortunately for David, he had already incorporated a deep inner commitment to nonviolence, and was able to respond in a way that diffused the anger of his would-be killer.
What brought David to this historic event, and how did he handle this threatening situation? He explains all this as he tells the story of his childhood and how he came to live out the principles of nonviolence at an early age. He describes how the seeds of peace were sown by his remarkable parents, how he came to understand what Jesus meant when he said to love your enemies, how he began early experiments with nonviolence, and how he came to dedicate himself to living a life consistent with his values. He was strongly influenced by friends and colleagues of his father, a Congregational minister who worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), especially Martin Luther King, Jr. David was organizing demonstrations against nuclear weapons by the age of fifteen.
In addition to being an autobiography, this book is a modern-day history of nonviolent social movements, written from the perspective of a committed activist. As an agent for nonviolent social change, David seems to have always been at the right place at the right time.
During the Cold War, David traveled to Russia and organized peace demonstrations there. As the United States and Soviet Union were threatening nuclear war over the divided city of Berlin, David lived in West Berlin just a few blocks from Checkpoint Charlie. He traveled back and forth to East Berlin, learning as much as he could and speaking out against both communist and capitalist propaganda. Ten years later the FBI issued a warrant for his arrest and questioned him about his activities there.
He and Jan, his beloved wife and partner in nonviolent action, stopped paying “war taxes” early on. David claimed conscientious objector status and was an outspoken critic during the Vietnam War. He was protesting with his friend Brian Willson on the day that Brian was run over and his legs were severed by a train carrying munitions to Central America. He writes about the trauma of that event, but also about how many people continued to block the trains. A short time later his elderly mother and father joined him and others on the tracks.
David and Jan traveled in Central American war zones during the 1980s, when U.S. financial support to corrupt regimes and death squads made such travel and life for people who lived there extremely dangerous. He worked in the United States with Cesar Chavez in the struggles for the rights of farm workers. In the 1990s, David was part of a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation for peace in Bosnia-Hertzegovnia. He has travelled extensively in his peacemaking work, including to Iran and Palestine. His peacemaking work continues, including through Peaceworkers and the Nonviolent Peaceforce.
For those who are aware of these various historical events, and for those who are not, this book brings them to life. It is written not only by an observer, but from the perspective of one who is committed to the good—to compassion, justice, and peace.
In addition to being an autobiography and a first-hand history of social movements, Waging Peace is an inspiring call to action. Every page expresses David’s hope for lasting social transformation based on his faith and his experience. By reading about David’s adventures as a skilled practitioner of active nonviolence in key historical events of our time, the reader gains hope and confidence that significant change is possible.
Waging Peace is a “how to” book for transforming our society and the world. It encourages us to start where we are, by learning and practicing nonviolence in all areas of our lives—in our personal relationships, in the workplace, and in social movements. It includes a wealth of suggestions and resources for would-be activists. This book not only gives practical direction but shows us the strong foundation built by others upon which we can stand, in solidarity with other people of faith and conscience around the world.
After describing some of the astonishing changes that nonviolent action has brought about in recent years in places around the world, David writes:
“What other spots on our earth are waiting for such stunning change? What corner is beckoning to your heart and spirit? Where is God leading you to invest your life on behalf of a world where all God’s children share the abundance and live as one family in peace and harmony with the earth?”
He closes the book with this statement of faith: “Deep in my heart, I do believe, that—together—We Shall Overcome!”
Order signed copies of Waging Peace from Peaceworkers or order from a local bookstore. It is also available on online outlets.
Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page. Read here for her specific blog postings about arrests at Beale and related court cases. Find out more at Earth Justice Ministries website and the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page. More about Beale protests at the Occupy Beale Air Force Base website and Occupy Beale Facebook page.