Volunteers Discuss their Work with AFSC in Kansas City

(Click here http://afsc.org/document/unabridged-interview-afsc-volunteers-kansas-city for the unabridged interview. Compiled in the Spring of 2010 by Jon Krieg of AFSC’s Central Regional Office.)

Jon Krieg: I’d like to begin by asking each of you to introduce yourselves and say why and how you’re involved with AFSC.

Sharon Lockhart: I’m a certified financial planner in real life, a feminist, a radio host on [community radio station] KKFI, host of the show “Every Woman,” a flaming activist probably, with too many hands in too many pots….

Ron Faust: My journey has had interesting detours along the way. I’ve been a Disciples of Christ minister, in the center of the faith and church scene. So many of the churches I served had a civil religion, so I had to gingerly walk around in terms of the peace movement. So when I retired, this was wonderful. I didn’t have people telling me how to do my job. So with AFSC, it’s very easy and amenable to where my thoughts are….

Marianne Rowse: I am part of the Penn Valley Meeting of Friends, which hosts AFSC here. I think it was in 2006 that the nominating committee of the Quaker Meeting asked me to be the Meeting’s representative to AFSC. We have a person who reports back and forth between AFSC, FCNL and the Meeting. So “I’m the Quaker” on the Area Program Committee. I’m on the fundraising and program committees, as well as the steering committee. I mostly schlep things and set up for events. We put the fun back into fundraising. We’re doing well.

Mike Murphy: I don’t know how long I’ve been involved with AFSC – maybe five years? At least as a member of the program committee. I got involved in the peace movement and with AFSC mainly as a result of the Iraq War. There were a lot of people gathering every Sunday for six months to try to stop the war before it started – hundreds of people. Sometimes thousands were out there. The de facto peace organization in town was the Iraq Task Force, which is a group made up of representatives of many groups, including AFSC, PeaceWorks and Catholic Worker. The Iraq Task Force came into being as a result of the Iraq sanctions, so it goes back a long time….

Jon Krieg: Why are you still involved and how do you think we can bring people back into the peace movement?

Mike Murphy: I’m not sure I have an answer for what keeps us engaged. Was it Mallory who said, when asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, “Because it’s there”? Why do we want to stand up against war? Because it’s there. I don’t see what the other choice is. And it’s not like I don’t understand that people have busy lives and that people have been really discouraged. I haven’t recovered from when that war started. Of course there are all the horrors about war, and why it’s bad. But also what it did to us [as peacemakers]. It really took the wind out of our sails at multiple levels….

Sharon Lockhart: I keep going because if I went away, I’d be too depressed. Just being with people who understand and are like-minded helps. To go away would be to admit defeat. I can’t do that. I’ve been called a patient person by some… And I like the people in the peace movement. These are people I feel like I have common values with. Most of my clients in my profession are like-minded. There’s a sense of community here.

Marianne Rowse: I have two beautiful children, ages 7 and 9, and I don’t want to see them grow up in a world where bombs are going off all over the place.

Jon Krieg: How do you talk to your kids about war?

Marianne Rowse: It’s hard. Trying to explain a war where the thing that spurred it off was a huge, huge scary act of aggression toward us [i.e. 9/11], and not to word it so that those people aren’t the bad guys – that’s really a trick. They get a lot of input from all over the place, other people’s bumper stickers, the TV and the news;  every morning on NPR someone’s been blown to smithereens.

I find it interesting that my children don’t even ask [questions about war] anymore. It’s just like, “This is just the way it is.” The Twin Towers went down 10 days before my son’s first birthday, and I said, “I have this little baby. Can we even have birthday parties anymore? Is it appropriate to have a party for my baby’s first birthday, or not?” We did have one. It’s just like, “Well, everything’s screwed up, but you have to keep moving forward and see what we can do about it.” I’m trying to model my actions in a way that I want them to follow.

Ron Faust: I think the peace movement had it right from the beginning. War is such a horrible, blatantly inhumane approach to life. It’s all negative. When it’s spawned out of deceit and lies, then there’s an injustice performed….

Now most people have a very mistaken view about what peace is. They look for it as a calm serenity and a way of escaping from reality almost. And I think people in the church do this constantly. But if you see peace as more resolving conflicts and working through and staying with things until they’re resolved and all parties can be in a win-win situation, then the task is much more, well, challenging, but also enduring, in terms of working through the problems people have and transforming systems.

I think as long as there’s one voice for peace, maybe a minority voice, but at least one, that gives you a chance, that gives you hope.

Jon Krieg: I appreciate that there’s always been a lot of creativity here in Kansas City. Ira’s working on a puppet script, you’re doing the radio dramatization of the mothers of Iraqis who’ve been killed. Is being creative part of what’s necessary in order to expand the peace movement?

Mike Murphy: Being creative does help, but if it’s the same half-a-dozen people sitting around the table, we’ll get pretty burned out. To me, that’s an opportunity to partner. Because there are a lot of creative people looking for outlets. And that’s another thing we’ve been looking at this year for our festival for justice and peace to be in the arts district. There’s a whole community of people much more creative than we are.

Marianne Rowse: And an awful lot of them are peaceniks, and they don’t have any contact with the peace movement, and so we need to talk to them. Because I belong to an arts organization in my neighborhood—my background is in theater. I come across people in the arts all the time, and when I talk about war or politics, they always are right there with me….

Jon Krieg: Ira’s been with AFSC a long time, and so if you’d like to reflect a bit about what it means to have Ira here.

Ron Faust: He’s been essential to the core leadership here. What I appreciate about Ira is he provides the details that fills out things and will allow things to work. In terms of projecting an event, he works tirelessly in the background. I am amazed….

Sharon Lockhart: Ira is so calm, peaceful and tranquil. He’s patient in these meetings and in building consensus. Sometimes, we’re so mean to him [laughter]. He’s got a great sense of humor. He really takes a lot, doesn’t he? And I’ve never seen him get angry.

Mike Murphy: We talked about creativity before, and he’s got a lot. It’s always like a big arts project in here…. Something I read—and it may have been at last year’s war anniversary when someone interviewed him—and it ended up on KKFI. The interviewer asked Ira whatever happened to the peace movement. Why aren’t there other people out there?

And Ira said something like, and I’m paraphrasing here, “People have a combination of great fear and greed. There’s constant want.” And then he said, “But really, even when it comes to folks that are greedy (and I’m not sure he used that word), they’re really only expressing compassion for their immediate family, their loved ones. It’s all about wanting the best for their family.”

And I was kind of taken aback by that. Because after his first statement, about people being greedy, my reaction was, “Yeah, why can’t they be more like me?” Ira’s just saying, it all comes out of fear and what they want best for their families. So we just need to learn how to extend our circle of compassion to make our families bigger. And I was just blown away by that.

To me, on a personal level, besides all he does for AFSC in Kansas City, Ira serves as a mentor and a good example.

Jon Krieg: Thanks, everyone, for your time and your efforts for peace and justice.