Bix: An Oral History…

The Pacific Northwest Antiwar and Radical History Project interviewed Bix in 2008 for a special section on anti-nuclear organizing in the Northwest.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bix, here is a brief historical sketch from Matt Dundas’ interview with him on November 12, 2008.

Bill “Bix” Bichsel was born and  raised in Tacoma, where he now lives.  A  Jesuit priest, Bichsel is a long-time member of Tacoma’s Catholic Worker  community, who commit themselves to social justice campaigns and working with  the poor.

As a teacher at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, Bichsel worked on  fair housing and anti-discrimination campaigns, and later took part in  anti-Vietnam War protests in Boston. Upon learning from environmental activists  about the nuclear weapons slated to be stored at Bangor Naval Base on Hood  Canal, Bichsel joined the pacifist civil disobedience at the base, work he  believes “made real” his commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience and the  spiritual power of protest and resurrection.

In 1975, nonviolent theologians  and activists Jim and Shelley Douglass helped form an intentional community  near Bangor Naval Base, which later purchased land next to the base and became  the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence. Bichsel became involved with the work  of Ground Zero, and took part in many of the acts of civil disobedience: fence  cuttings, intentional acts of trespass, and planning for the peace blockade of  the Trident nuclear submarine, the USS  Ohio. Ground Zero also helped spark a nationwide campaign of witness  protesting the movements of nuclear weapons from Texas to the Northwest on  “white trains.”

In mid-1980s, Bichsel became  involved in solidarity work in Central America, and then with protests at the  School of the Americas—an American combat training school for Latin American  soldiers—though he maintains his commit to anti-nuclear activism. As he says,  it is our responsibility to continually protest: there is, he believes, “a  power much greater than nuclear weapons.”

Click here to go to Bix’s oral history page at the Pacific Northwest Antiwar and Radical History Project where you can watch a number of videos of the interview with Bix, including one in which he describes his first act of civil disobedience, carrying a replica of the Trident nuclear submarine through a hole cut in the fence.

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