By S. Brown Pulliam
If you drive on The Great Road, or pass the Bedford Town Common on South Road, on some Thursday mornings between 7 and 8 AM, you will see a small but persistent group of Senior Citizens holding PEACE signs. This vigil, usually held on the first and third Thursdays of each month, harks back to similar vigils held during commuting rush hours in 1990-91 to protest U.S. involvement in the First Gulf War against Iraq. Some of those currently standing vigil on the Common were already senior citizens when doing the same thing back in 1990, including longtime Bedford residents Don and Barbara Marshall and Lois and Brown Pulliam. Don’t get the idea that the group is limited to just seniors, for occasionally a younger person will stop on the way to work and pick up a sign for 10 or 15 minutes.
The interaction between those standing vigil (vigilists?) and passing motorists is typically limited to hand waving and honking, and, rarely, negative or obscene gestures. Most of the signs are pretty tired looking, and haven’t been changed in years, though for a while a banner from a peace convention in Italy made a colorful display, and Bedford artist Marcia Bushnell has brought some of her paintings depicting the horrors of war to hold as stark reminders.
One could ask what might motivate the members of this lonely band to keep coming out month after month to see little, if any, increase in their number, and certainly no diminution of the lethal conflicts around the world? The motives are as diverse as their interests: some in an historic perspective find that since WWII most, if not all, wars fought by the U.S. have cost more in money and lives than could be justified by any observed benefits to our long term interests; some deplore the jingoistic tendency of some Americans to discount or ignore legitimate human needs and religious beliefs of other peoples if they impede the economic or geo-political power of U.S. business or governmental interests; some are sincere pacifists; some take the humanitarian stance that all lives matter, not just those of a chosen few; some view Israel as a rogue nation and see our support of that country as certain to spawn further violence in the Middle East; some recognize the impossibility of having the non-nuclear part of humanity accept the right of a few nations to control all nuclear weapons, leaving the only rational solution of no nukes for anyone; and some as taxpayers condemn the reckless waste of our country’s human and economic resources by the military-industrial complex.
All of the premises listed above have one thing in common: they don’t lend themselves to full discussion by hand held signs. So maybe they just hope that others will come to some recognition of what errors lead us into war, and are willing to bring their physical selves out on short occasions to bear witness to this hope and remind the public that the issue is never settled.
The principal organizers of the vigil are Don Marshall and Nancy Asbedian. Other regulars include Mike and Ruth Gural, Nancy Forrest, Leslie Lowry, and Betty Hefner.