Editor’s Note: The October 21st Federal trial of seven of the PLC 2013 resisters is a now a memory. I summarized the trial in a previous post. Mary Jane Parrine prepared a statement of her intentions to present to the court, and she provided a copy that I share with you here.
MJ Parrine’s statement on intentions, March 4 2013. Oct. 21 2013 Federal Court, Tacoma
I begin by saying that I am guilty. Guilty of not standing up sooner against nuclear weapons. I’ve come very late to the harvest. While hundreds of resisters have been working in this field since the 1970s and earlier, I was silent, comfortable with my moral disapproval, but not acting. I didn’t try to inform myself further about costs, environmental risks, or international law.
Last night I this hit home to me as Ray McGovern told us about a man who followed his conscience to the extreme. Ray knows from his own experience what this means. Maybe he would have used the story in his testimony, if Fr. Bix Bischel had been allowed to call him as a witness. The story was about a German man who was imprisoned for resisting the Nazis. He was told to confess, admit to a crime. He refused and was killed. Later the executioners found a note in his trousers’ pocket stating something that I realized is true for me. As part of a poem, he had written those words: Yes, I confess. I am guilty of being so late to do this.
Now a quick word about how my background affected my thinking on March 4: I’m retired since 2004, but continuing with another form of work that began when I was a family caregiver for many years. Now for the past 9 years as a healthcare advocate for elders and for 14 years in hospital chaplaincy, I know how hard it is to get proper treatment and care. I see face to face how vulnerable each of us is to the effects of stone wall limits set by the healthcare industry and meager government assistance. Any of us can be financially wiped out by illness. At any age we can be warehoused in custodial care, with only minimal therapy, from an accident or a war related traumatic brain injury. Our country’s inadequate healthcare is weakened further as safety net funding is sucked away to support the excesses of the military-corporate complex. Much of that excess goes toward nuclear weapons.
My training and work as a historian also influenced my thinking on March 4. In earlier years I focused on poverty, crime, and criminal justice, but lately I’ve looked at how non-violent resistance – citizen intervention—can be effective. Past gains are well known: securing women’s suffrage, ending slavery, and stopping segregation and Jim Crow laws. In recent years I’ve been inspired by the HIV-AIDS activists who have won disability designation and better care at Kaiser. It continues in other ways, other places. So many of these movements have been successful that they give me the courage to go on.
Just before March 4 2013 we had been on retreat for 3 days, in a community that comes together every year to strengthen resistance to nuclear weapons. We spent time in prayer, meetings and meditation, leading up to a final public event that Sunday night. Among the speakers this time was Captain Tom Rogers, a former submarine commander who now works with Ground Zero Center for NonViolent action. He and others at the retreat reinforced my conviction.
Now on the day itself: Many of us stood on the sidewalk with banners that faced the naval base and the entrance area. When some of us walked out onto the street I was struck by the power of this changed position where we held our banners and signs facing outward from the naval base, standing with all those in the base, praying that our message could influence a conversion away from a course that threatens us all. A line in the road did not make a difference to me at that point. What mattered is that the 14 of us who had just walked out, plus the six who had gone before, were together in this common spirit of peace. That spirit extended as well to those who work with the weapons we oppose.
You probably want to ask: Why not stand on the sidewalk to make a statement? Yes all witness is vital in its persistence and presence. It is worthy wherever and however it is done. At times, though, it has to leave the safety of the sidelines. I regret that our action may be misunderstood or be a source of resentment in some quarters. Our intent was not to break a law or to initiate criminal proceedings. We sought only to manifest the urgency of our message. For me, it was the best way at that time to express what I know to be the truth.
Something that stays in my mind about this need to speak the truth is an account from the early days of Christianity as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John had been arrested and are appearing before the Sanhedrin. They would be set free with a warning to stop speaking about this Jesus and his new teachings. Their reply was a statement that says it all: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (4:13-21)