One could easily give up the struggle! Nevertheless, New York City peace granny groups-- Grandmothers Against the War, the Granny Peace Brigade, and the Raging Grannies--held an historic event on Fifth Avenue in front of Rockefeller Center Wednesday, Jan. 13, commemorating SIX years of their weekly peace vigil there begun on Jan. 14, 2004. Approximately 30 people stood in the bitter cold on Fifth Avenue to mark the long dedication of the vigilers.
New York State Sen. Bill Perkins spoke of the importance of the grannies' weekly protest of the Iraq and Afghan wars, and remarked about the appropriateness of the occasion because of its conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday this coming Friday, Jan. 15. He suggested that the vigil attendees sing "We Shall Overcome," The group formed a circle and sang the stirring hymn out there on the sidewalks of New York, twice. Names of the dead in Afghanistan, both our American military and Afghan civilians, were solemnly read, each name accompanied bythe mournful sound of a ringing bell.
Every effort was made to induce the media to cover the occasion, but no one showed up except for a journalist from Afghanistan radio and press. Perhaps this was attributable to the Haiti disaster, but one would hope there were a few journalists left to cover other stories. The grannies were naturally disappointed at the press and media inattention but welcomed the chance, as they do every week, of showing passers-by, most of whom are tourists from around the globe, that at least some Americans have not succumbed to the apathy of the masses and are passionately struggling to end the terrible and immoral wars.
Among those marking the end of six years was a contingent of Veterans for Peace, who have stood with the grannies "On the Avenue" for almost the entire six-year watch. One of them, Chaplain Hugh Bruce, a Vietnam vet, spoke movingly at the vigil, noting that it we weren't pouring billions into these destructive and unjust wars we could ensure health care for everyone. Jenny Heinz, one of the original vigil stalwarts. also spoke to the group. "It's very sad to still be here at the beginning of the seventh year," Jenny said, "and to recognize that things are worse, not better--policies that we thought were limited to the Bush administration now seem to have become institutionalized."
Said 94-year-old Lillian Pollak, a regular at the vigils, "It is imperative that our presence be known to the public. Mostly, the American people are oblivious to the fact that our young soldiers are dying and being grievously wounded more and more as the Afghanistan occupation is escalated. Also, people need to be made aware that we have continuing casualties in Iraq. This is to say nothing of the many, many innocent civilians who've become victims to our unethical bombs and drones. We grannies have tried in vain to stop these wars,but have to face the fact that we may not be able to do so in our lifetimes. We feel a duty to keep on keeping on as long as we are able and hope the American peoplewill carry on our struggle after we are no longer here."
Barbara Walker,the Associate Director of Grandmothers Against the War, which initiated the vigil in 2004,and a co-founder of the Granny Peace Brigade, made a point of noting that the vigil has been held every single week all six years no matter what the elements throw at it--rain, sleet, heat or cold. The only time the grandmothers were unable to hold a vigil was recently before Christmas on tree--lighting day when the vigil site was blocked from access. "That's a pretty good record for us old ladies, some in their 90's," she said proudly. One would have to agree, observing several of the women standing for the entire hour hanging on to walkers and canes. Makes one marvel at the sterner stuff of these elder women of conscience, doesn't it? Let's hope they are not a dying breed.