Brunswick Vigil/Fast Report
13 September, 2004
From: Mary Beth Sullivan, Bruce Gagnon
We’d like to report on the 48 hour fast and vigil we did in front of the Naval Air Station here in Brunswick. Over the course of the weekend, about 45 or so friends (and strangers who read the op-ed we wrote for the local newspaper and came out to show support) joined us for anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours. It was really quite an amazing experience. We got lots of ENCOURAGING thumbs up from the thousands of people who drove by. And, of course, some obscenities were shouted at us. (We just smiled and waved.)
We were so fortunate that Howard Taylor from New Hampshire came to join us for the entire weekend, and Tom Whitney came to stay with us throughout both cold nights. The nights were the hardest because it was so damp. (We don’t know how homeless people do it! Our respect for their survival skills grew enormously over this weekend.) We always had 4 people during the night, so we were able to take turns sending two off to sleep in the back of Bruce’s truck or in a car for a few hours at a time, leaving two to vigil throughout the wee hours of the night.
Mary Beth’s personal mission to find the best bathroom in the area ended with Burger King winning hands down for cleanliness, roominess, and privacy. (Although Bookland scored some points for its environmentally friendly quick super flush that saves water!)
The best part of the weekend was the extended conversations we had with 6 different soldiers from the air base who came out to engage us. The connections were honest, respectful and deeply appreciated.
It was also great fun when Bob, who works at the Brunswick post office (and engages Bruce in political conversations in his daily trips to send mail), drove up on his motorcycle to see how we were doing.
Some friends of ours were concerned about our demonstrating in front of the Naval Air Station, believing it would build walls instead of much needed bridges. We hear those concerns. It is true that some had a visceral reaction to our presence. But in truth, that reaction is present from some people wherever and whenever we demonstrate in Brunswick or anywhere else. Our target audience, if you will, is the very many soldiers and citizens in this country who are questioning our Iraq war policy. For Bruce this is particulary important as he was stationed at a key airlift base for the war in Vietnam. It was the small protests at his base that created the internal debate that helped change him from a young Republican to a peace activist.
Although most driving by into the air base respectfully ignored us or gave us thumbs down, there were dozens of sailors who waved. In the course of one hour standing at the base exit, thirty GI’s took our flyer explaining why we were there. One story worth mentioning are the two female Navy officers that were driving into the base. They stopped and told Karen D'Andrea that they agreed with us and were NOT going to vote for Bush.
This weekend was a powerful experience for us. We were able to get through it because of the support of so very many people. Each person who came to stand with us brought fresh energy and confirmation of the effort. We need to especially thank Selma Sternlieb for bringing out a table, tablecloth, and some much appreciated food to break our fast on Sunday evening; to Stan Lofchie who showed up at important times throughout the weekend to provide material support to make the weekend easier to bear; to Karen D'Andrea for staying so long and into the wee hours to keep us laughing; to Karen Wainberg for her love, joy, and laughter; and Tom Whitney, who came both nights to stay with us so that we could sleep some while he stayed by the gate. And Howard, it is an honor to add you to our community of friends.
There are so very many others to thank. But in the end we must thank the hundreds and hundreds of people that drove by during the 48 hours waving and honking. They offered to bring us water or anything else we needed, one brought hot chocolate late at night, and they gave us encouragement to keep going to the end.
The Navy base in Brunswick plays a role in the war in Iraq. How could we ignore that? And in the end we learned that some of the Navy personnel agreed with us and were glad we were there. Can you imagine some the debate about the war that was going on inside the base as a result of our vigil and fast for peace?
Mary Beth Sullivan