Notes from the journey #2

Editor’s Note: This is an introduction (by Joe Power-Drutis) to what we hope will be a series of reflections by our dear Bix following on Bix’s and Joe’s trip to Oslo and many other European destinations in December 2012. 

Technically speaking he lives at one of the Tacoma Catholic Worker
houses, Jean’s House of Prayer. In actuality, he lives in a 10’ x 12’
room, on the first floor of this rather incredible home. When entering
his space one is struck by an immaculately made up, single bed in the
center of the room (no doubt early Jesuit training). After that, the
décor takes a steep dive. Boxes, books, papers, photographs, and
random articles of clothing are strewn haphazardly in interesting
patterns on the bed, desk, and book shelves. Only those who come to
know the room’s occupant are likely to recognize this as “command
central” where so many of us bring our dreams and share our struggles.

A few days ago, I was about to leave this room after receiving
marching orders. Looking up from his desk, Bix squinted through well
worn glasses and said, “You know, I believe we can get rid of these
nuclear weapons.” If he had made that statement 45 years ago I would
have jumped up saying, “All right, I’m all over that, let’s get to
it!” He was bigger than life and exuded utter confidence in all he
undertook. Who didn’t get behind a person of such assurance? At nearly
85 his physical abilities, and mine, lead me to consider somewhat less
lofty goals. I wanted to say, “There is medication that can help with
such ideations;” or, “How about right after lunch.” However; I decided
sarcasm would not be well received; anyway, the look in his eyes
showed he absolutely believed in the validity of his statement.

This morning in that twilight world, somewhere between dreams and
wakefulness, the thought came to me, “if you had faith the size of a
mustard seed.” Perhaps we have to become very small before we can
transform the impossible into the possible. Look for yourselves, Matt
13:31 & 17:20, Mark 4:31 and Luke 13:19; is there something there?
When speaking of abolishing nuclear weapons, Bix did not use the term
“hope;” he said he “believes” that getting rid of nuclear weapons is
possible!

A number of people have asked when I would complete the story of our
recent trip to Sweden, Norway, and the UK. I generally replied, “Very
soon,” instead of the more honest answer, “I have no idea how to bring
completion to this story!” Finally, I told Bix that this doesn’t seem
to be a story of exactly who we met or what was said. Although these
things important, something more holistic is at play here and I am not
the one with the knowledge or spirit to express it. Bix said he would
take this on and I let go.

His writing about our journey to Europe and conversations with peace
activists there is almost finished. Over the next few weeks I will
post these writings in bite-sized pieces as he wishes. In the
meantime, here are some words from Bix’s heart:

“We return from our trip bolstered by the motivating truth that most
people of the world do not want to kill each other. The vast majority
of people of the world want their children to be able to live life to
its fullest potential. No matter what the obstacles to human
interaction, the human connection of all people runs as a conduit of
energy in a subterranean layer of our earth.”

“It was heartening to see that the ecumenical voice of the Church of
Scotland, Baptists, Catholics, and Quakers has been a strong moving
force in opposing the Trident Nuclear Submarine system. Today, 75% of
the people of Scotland oppose this system of mass destruction. I was
inspired to bring this spirit of resistance back to our Pacific
Northwest. We have to realize that we are all part of a global
community. The dream we share in common – the need for a world without
nuclear weapons – can continue to grow and flow back and forth across
the water that separates us.”

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.

We Choose Life!!!

Dear Friends,

Over the weekend of March 4th the Pacific Life Community (PLC) held its annual retreat in Menlo Park, California. Frida Berrigan delivered the keynote address. In the spirit of resistance the PLC Community held a vigil and nonviolent action at the Lockheed Martin plant in Sunnyvale. Among those arrested for trespassing were Disarm Now Plowshares members Susan Crane and Steve Kelly.  Lynne Greenwald and Anne Montgomery were there vigiling and witnessing to the action.

Larry Purcell of the PLC wrote an opinion piece that he submitted to the San Jose Mercury News.  It’s an indictment of Lockheed-Martin, builder of the Trident D-5 missile, and really poses a deeper underlying question: “Where is our treasure?”.  The newspaper declined to print the piece; told Larry that it was “too much anti Lockheed rather than anti nuke and it would entail a lot of fact checking and demand a response piece from Lockheed.”  Fact checking???  Here’s a fact that is irrefutable.  If we ever start launching those Lockheed-built D-5 missiles bristling with nuclear warheads the radiation concerns currently on people’s minds – and which are serious – as a result of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan will pale in comparison. Continue reading

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