Friday, February 22, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #96 - Part 2

Some peace and justice-related anniversaries

A few anniversaries in history this week that I wanted to mention, just because I felt like it.

The first is from World War II. After Nazi Germany conquered Norway, there was a plan to use Norway as a sort of laboratory for promoting Nazism in conquered lands.

In the autumn of 1941, Vidkun Quisling, the puppet prime minister who gave us a new term for "traitor," declared that teachers must educate their pupils in Nazism and must join a new Nazi-oriented Teachers' Association.

There were 14,000 teachers in Norway. On February 20, 1942, 12,000 of them - all on the same day, all in the same words - wrote to the Quisling government, refusing to join.

The government threatened to fire them all. When that didn't work, the schools are closed. Over 1000 teachers were arrested, 700 of those sent to forced labor camps in the Arctic.

None of it worked. Quisling's Teachers' Association never came into existence and by May, 1942, he was reduced to screaming at a group of teachers "You have destroyed everything for me!"

Next, a quick happy note: On February 21, 1975, 38 years ago, former Attorney General John Mitchell, his aide Robert Mardian, and former White House aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were sentenced to 2-1/2 to 8 years in prison for their roles in the Watergate cover-up. They were variously convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, fraud, and perjury. This from back in the days before we came to prefer to legalize White House criminality after the fact rather than challenge it.

It was February 22, 1974, when, in the first act what's known as direct action, of civil disobedience, against nuclear power in the US, an organic farmer named Sam Lovejoy took a few hand tools to the weather tower for a proposed nuclear power plant in Montague, Massachusetts - and left 349 feet of twisted wreckage behind. He then went and turned himself in to police. His action and subsequent trial galvanized the national anti-nuke movement and increased local opposition to the plant. At his trial, the charge against Lovejoy was dismissed on a technicality - which Lovejoy urged the judge not to use: He wanted a verdict.

Just under a year earlier, on February 27, 1973, came the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota by hundreds of Oglala Lakota Sioux and members of the American Indian Movement. The occupation lasted 71 days. Despite the violent nature both of the occupation and the government siege against it, the occupation did bring the outrages still inflicted on Native Americans to the attention of the broader public, often for the first time.

Finally, this is actually for next week, but I wanted to include it here: Next Wednesday, February 28, is the 55th anniversary of the founding, in 1958, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the United Kingdom. The CND still exists, still advocating for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the UK and negotiated nuclear disarmament by the rest of the world.

The group felt it needed a symbol, so it designed one.

It took the semaphore sign for N, for nuclear - like this -

and the semaphore sign for D, for disarmament - like this -

- and overlapped them in a circle, creating this:

I do have to say, however, that the symbol to the right is the one that I more identify with: The broken rifle is and has been literally for some scores of years the logo of the War Resisters League. The WRL, having been founded in 1923, will sometime later this year be celebrating its 90th anniversary. Which actually makes me feel quite old - because I helped to draft the statement the group released on its 50th anniversary.


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