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The Transformer: Sabotage for peace

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From the book

Radical Peace: People Refusing War

A former student of mine works as a janitor. After graduating from college he worked as a market researcher and an advertising salesperson, but both jobs soured him on the corporate world. He hated being a junior suit, and the thought of becoming a senior suit was even worse.

He finds being a janitor a much better job. He's left alone, it's low pressure, and what he does improves the world rather than worsens it. The pay's lousy but that's standard these days. He loves music, so he loads up his MP3 and grooves to the sounds. Although the work is routine, it's brightened by occasional bits of human interest: used condoms in executive wastebaskets, marijuana butts in the emergency stairwell, a twenty-dollar bill under a desk. His shift is from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and afterwards he hits the late-night clubs, where he can enjoy the scene with the advantage of being sober. He works for a janitorial service company, and one of their clients is a defense contractor -- not secret weapons, just ordinary supplies.

The man is a pacifist. Originally he felt that rallies, petitions, marches, and picketing would help turn public opinion against the war, and when the majority of Americans opposed it, our political representatives would vote to stop it. That's what democracy means. The first part turned out to be true. Polls showed a clear majority of Americans wanted the war ended and our troops brought home. In 2006 they elected Democratic majorities in the House and Senate who said they would do this. But rather than bringing the soldiers home, "our" representatives voted more money for the war so more soldiers could be sent to Iraq, a surge of troops for another attempt to crush the resistance there. Several months later they voted additional billions for a US troop surge to Afghanistan.

In 2008 the people elected Barack Obama on a pledge to bring peace. But the war still continues with thousands dying, despite the will of the voters to end it.

He began to realize the politicians aren't representing us but what he calls the corpses, short for corporations. The majority of those want the war to continue. It's the corporate majority that rules, not the citizens. That's the democracy we have. When business leaders turn against the war, then it will end.

What would make them turn against it? When they stop making a profit from it, he concluded.

Finally feeling glad to be part of the corporate world, he decided to stage a surge for peace. He bought a 10-amp step-up transformer at an electronics flea market, the kind used to increase voltage from 110 to 220. Next time he was scheduled to work at the defense contractor and the weatherman predicted a thunder storm, he brought the transformer along in his dinner box. At the first flash of lightning, he took it to the data processing center. First he unplugged all the computers and auxiliaries from the surge protectors and zapped them with 220. Then he plugged them back in and zapped the surge protectors. A clear case of surge-protector failure: the damned things must've let the surge through before they shut down.

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William T. Hathaway is an award-winning novelist and an emeritus Fulbright professor of creative writing. His peace novel, Summer Snow, is the story of an American warrior falling in love with a Sufi Muslim and learning from her that higher (more...)

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