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Peg Morton PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 June 2002 00:00
I am a "Quaker activist," age 71, living in Eugene, Oregon. I am active in Eugene Friends Meeting, am a graduate of Oberlin College, class of '53, and proud of the large number of Oberlinians who participate in SOA Watch actions. I am lucky to have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren. I was a rural outreach counselor, associated with a comprehensive health center in Southern Illinois, for a number of years during the ‘80's.

In earlier years, I was active in the civil rights movement, especially in housing and school integration efforts in the communities where I lived; and in a local women's shelter. Since the mid-eighties, my activist focus has been Latin American solidarity. For a year, as a teenager, just after WWII, I lived in Europe, and was deeply affected by the experience. I asked myself what would have been my response to the holocaust? In the mid-80's, I became aware of my own U.S. government's involvement in the "hidden holocaust" in Guatemala and other Latin American countries. Since that time I have traveled to Guatemala many times, to study Spanish, with delegations, to accompany returning refugees, civil rights leaders, and to be an international presence in refugee returned communities. I have also traveled to Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Chiapas. At home in Eugene, I have been active in our local solidarity organization, especially with educational outreach, and participate in the movement for farmworker justice. I participated in the WTO demonstrations in Seattle.

I am a long-term war tax resister, active in NWTRCC (National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee).

In recent years, I have been increasingly spiritually led to participate in faith-based actions to bring more fully my spiritual life into my activist life. This has included active involvement in an interfaith organization in Eugene, one that goes way beyond Christianity and welcomes many diverse faiths. It has brought me with joy to join the movement to close the SOA, a movement that is solidly faith-based and in the nonviolence tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In 2000, we organized a 2-week fast and public action in Eugene. That November I crossed the line at Fort Benning with an affinity group, to bury dolls symbolizing massacred children, while we wailed. I received a ban and bar letter. This last November 2001 I organized a group of four of us to cross the country by van, hosted by groups all along the way, making presentations, showing Guns and Greed, and ending up at Fort Benning. I carried a travel minute from North Pacific Yearly Meeting of Friends.

I am honored, if a bit surprised, to be one of the 43 to go to trial this summer recovering from back surgery, and having not planned to do civil disobedience, I did it inadvertently when responding to a newspaper invitation to visit the School.




Trial Statement, by Peg Morton (draft, June 5, 2002)

In November of 2000, I crossed the line into Fort Benning and received a 5-year ban and bar letter. Members of my affinity group draped ourselves in black and carried dolls, wrapped for burial, each one representing a child who was massacred in Guatemala in the early 1980's. We buried these dolls, wailing until the military police arrested us. I carried small rag dolls who represented the sibling and mother of a Maya Achi young man who I know personally. He was about 10 at the time of the 1982 Rio Negro massacre. His mother and all but one of his siblings were massacred. His father was killed earlier. He watched his baby brother be slaughtered. His community had protested the World Bank-funded Chixoy dam, that was to cover their and many other prosperous communities. The result was this and several other massacres. This was during the period of the dictatorship of General Lucas Garcia, who is a graduate of the SOA – now WHISC. There is overwhelming evidence of military authorship of almost all (around 90%) of the massacres, assassinations, and disappearances of 200,000 people in Guatemala over a 30 year span. Yet these military officers have never been brought to trial. The SOA (WHISC) has never taken responsibility for its part in these massacres, nor has it stood behind those who would bring the authors to trial. My Maya Achi friend is attempting to secure justice in this regard and receives almost daily death threats.

I had planned to risk arrest, and prison, in November of 2001, but changed my mind because of slow healing from back surgery. I visited my brother-in-law, who served in the Navy in WWII and later in the reserves. He is heartsick, and does not believe his beloved country could have been involved in such atrocities. He urged me to visit the "new" School. When I learned that the School had issued an invitation to attend public workshops there, I hopped in our van, totally forgetting my ban and bar letter from November of 2000. We were stopped just over the line (instead of of just before it), and I realized I had broken by my ban and bar letter. A Catholic Sister and I were arrested and processed, and given "permanent ban and bar letters." Our arrest warrants indicate that we "willfully" crossed the line. This was not the case.

If I am sentenced to serve in prison, I will do so with the realization that no one who was massacred planned that. I will feel honored to stand beside those who are courageously working to bring the authors to trial.

I am a war tax resister, and not willing to voluntarily pay a fine to a government so deep in military slaughter and build-up. I would be quite willing to donate the fine to a worthy , life-giving cause, such as Afghan relief. I am a Quaker, and would be unwilling to promise not to cross the line again. I am committed in the best way I know how, to follow the leadings of the Spirit.

But, I must demand, why is the focus of the court system, and the military base, on those of us who nonviolently seek to draw attention to such a despicable history, when so many authors and perpetrators of massacres, assassinations, disappearances and torture throughout Latin America, walk freely and with complete impunity?

I am reminded that, as individuals, when we commit acts that are harmful to others, we are invited to confess openly, and to seek forgiveness. Institutions throughout history have authored atrocious crimes. As human beings, we are flawed. I would urge the United States Department of Defense, and the School itself, to publicly denounce its past involvement in Latin American atrocities, and to seek forgiveness. Authors and perpetrators must be encouraged to do the same and they must be brought to trial. In addition, the survivors of massacres, assassinations, torture and disappearance, must receive generous restitution, so they are truly able to find their way out of poverty. The policies of the U.S. government must abolish all participation in the slaughter of innocent people. We should truly seek economic instruments that lead to the alleviation of poverty around the world.
 

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