Public Comment

Celebrating Objectors and Resisters

By Bob Meola
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM

What if they gave a war and nobody came? What if they gave a war and nobody paid for it? What if civil resistance was used for the good of our community? 

Secular humanists and religious traditions around the world teach that killing is wrong. Jesus, Buddha, and Hillel all spouted very similar versions of The Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. What is hateful to thee, do not do unto others. That is the message we should all be teaching all children. 

I am glad to live in Berkeley, a city that last year passed a resolution and issued a proclamation that stated “that the Council of the City of Berkeley declares that May 15 of each year be publicly designated and recognized as the day on which Berkeley acknowledges, honors, and celebrates conscientious objectors (CO) and war resisters, civilian and military, past, present, and future.” 

COs and resisters have, due to conscience and principle, often sacrificed their time and freedom in prison or in exile or underground. Their resistance to militarism sets a noble example and outstanding model for our youth and our whole community. Many COs and resisters have contributed greatly to life in Berkeley. 

I am also glad that later last year, the Berkeley City Council passed another resolution which updated its Sanctuary City status for conscientious objectors. That resolution made Berkeley a Sanctuary City, not only for traditional COs, but also “extends Berkeley as a City of Sanctuary for those otherwise seeking to avoid participation in the occupation of Iraq or in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan or other targets of United States wars for moral ethical or religious reasons or out of respect for international laws, including the Nuremberg Principles, even if these military personnel have been classified as AWOL or as deserters.” It also “declares the City of Berkeley a City of Sanctuary for Draft Registration Resisters and in the event of a new draft, a City of Sanctuary for Draft Resisters.” Berkeley welcomes war resisters! 

For the second year in a row, Berkeley raised a peace flag on Berkeley CO and War Resisters Day and International Conscientious Objectors Day. This year the celebration featured speakers and music and a puppet show in Civic Center Park on Saturday. 

During the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If a thousand [people] were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them and enable the state to commit violence and shed blood.” 

We can all be conscientious objectors. War tax resistance is conscientious objection. When 70 percent of the population is against the war in Iraq and they are made to pay for it, we have taxation without representation. It seems that it is way past the time to throw the tea into the harbor. Throwing tea into the harbor is as American as apple pie. We need a nonviolent revolution as much as the founders needed a revolution in 1776. Our revolution can also be an evolution. Every day we can evolve into the next steps of constructive program and civil resistance and noncooperation with immoral, illegitimate, and unconstitutional authority which wages wars, removes rights, and spreads oppression at home and abroad through its empire. 

Using our imagination, being creative, and conspiring together for the good of the community, we can conscientiously object and act locally and constructively to stop corporations from mounting cell phone towers in our neighborhoods for profit in place of health. We can stop the state from poisoning us with spray it threatens us with while it claims it does so to protect us from the light brown apple moth. We must remember that pacifists are not passive. It will take active resistance to protect our loved ones, our neighborhoods, our environment, and our planet from governments and corporations. It will take active resistance to protect people from ICE raids. 

Thank you, citizens and residents of Berkeley for standing up so often for peace and justice in so many ways. Berkeley must remain a Sanctuary City for peace and justice. Peace and Justice have been under attack everywhere. Calm reflection, conscientious objection, and peaceful and cooperative mutual aid, resistance, and direct action are the assets we have. 


Bob Meola is a veteran of the anti-war movement since 1967 and has worked as a counselor for military veterans.