Honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted

I have wished there were a memorial for those who resisted war. It was disconcerting to live in Indianapolis where there are blocks of war memorials downtown. The city streets are laid out from the Circle in the center of the city, where the Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands. Ironically, I have taken many photos over many years of anti-war and other demonstrations that have been held at the Circle.

Anti-war demonstration on the Circle, downtown Indianapolis

I’m grateful that a Quaker friend sent me this article in Bleeding Heartland.

By an act of Congress in 1954, the name of the holiday (Armistice Day) was changed to Veterans Day. Some, including the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and Rory Fanning of Veterans for Peace, have urged the U.S. to resume observation of November 11th as Armistice Day, a day to reflect on how we can achieve peace as it was originally observed.

It is in that spirit that we honor the original intent of Armistice Day this morning by honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted war, those who have advocated for peace.

Those who advocate for peace may do so in ways that challenge us. I would like to take the next few minutes to share with you stories of three advocates for peace, all associated with the University of Iowa over the past century, but each one following his own conviction in his own way.

Honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted by David McCartney, Bleeding Heartland, Nov 15, 2022


Steve Smith burns his draft card during “Soapbox Sound Off” in the Iowa Memorial Union on Oct. 20, 1965. Image from the 1966 Hawkeye yearbook, University Archives (RG 02.10), Department of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries.

Steve Smith, a slight 20-year old sophomore English major, took the speaker’s stand Wednesday afternoon and spoke quietly of what he believed. He then burned his draft card.

The audience of approximately 200 persons had known what was coming. Comments, encouragement and laughter greet Smith. An emotional debate on the virtue of U.S. policy in Viet Nam had preceded his appearance. But Smith was very much alone in his act of defiance. He said he was “sick to my stomach” at what he was doing.

“I feel,” Smith said, “that now is the time, because of my own sense of dignity, my own sense of morality, to burn my draft card.” He took the card from the pocket of his sweater and ignited it.

U of Iowa Student Burns Draft Card During ‘Sound Off’. Steve Smith, 20, Says His Action Moral Decision by Paul Butler, The Daily Iowan, Oct 21, 1965


By the following summer (1964), Steve grew restive. He became a political activist, speaking out against racial segregation and participating in local marches calling for an end to racial discrimination. In July 1964, while in Canton, Miss., to help register African-Americans to vote, he was detained by a sheriff’s deputy and beaten brutally while in custody (The Des Moines Register, July 18, 1964). He was 19 at the time.

Steve’s attention turned toward the escalating U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. During 1964 and early 1965, there were scattered but growing antiwar protests around the country, including instances of draft card burning. The cards, issued by the Selective Service System to draft-eligible men between the ages of 18 and 35, became a symbolic target of antiwar protestors. Alarmed by the trend, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed, a law in August 1965 criminalizing the destruction of draft cards: a maximum five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

For nearly two months, the law had its intended effect. But the silence ended on Oct. 15 when David J. Miller burned his draft card near an induction center in New York City. Five days later, on Oct. 20, Steve Smith became the first in the nation to do so on a college campus after the law’s enactment.

He did so during “Soapbox Sound Off,” a weekly open-mic session in the Iowa Memorial Union. Reaction from those in attendance was reportedly mixed: some cheered, others jeered. Smith was steadfast. “I do not feel that five years of my life are too much to give to say that this law is wrong,” he said at the forum. The next day’s newspapers reported that his father was unsympathetic and highly critical of his son’s action.

Two days later, FBI agents arrested Steve at an Iowa City apartment, where he was charged with violating the Rivers-Bray amendment to the Selective Service law. He left the UI after the fall 1965 semester and, while under arrest, married his first wife in Cedar Rapids the following February. For the charge of willful destruction of his Selective Service registration card, he was tried and convicted in U.S. District Court in 1966 and sentenced to three years’ probation. The Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction later that year.

Old Gold: Steve Smith, following his conscience. UI archivist seeks info about the student who burned his draft card in 1965 by David McCartney, Iowa Now, 7/30/2012


Today we honor the good work of people like Steve. We honor his patriotism, his willingness to question our government’s actions. We honor his desire for a more just and generous and peaceful society. And we honor his legacy of courage that bloomed on our campus 57 years ago.

The University has taken steps to acknowledge this act of civil disobedience, and it has done so by recently installing a plaque in the Iowa Memorial Union. The plaque was unveiled last month and it recounts Steve Smith’s antiwar protest and its historic significance, an event that prompted further debate about the war not only on campus, but across the state and across the nation. I invite you to visit and view the plaque, which is located on the lower level of the Iowa Memorial Union near the south entrance.

The debate over war is never-ending.

What can we do? How do we respond, when our government engages in these practices? What can we do, individually or collectively?

We might feel powerless, we might feel hopeless, but we can start with ourselves. And we can do so on our terms. At age 18, in 1974, I registered for the Selective Service as a conscientious objector. It was a symbolic act, as the draft had been suspended by that time; I nonetheless found it necessary to commit myself to doing so. Yet as a U.S. taxpayer I realize I am complicit in the activities recounted in the Brennan Center report. Increasing charitable donations, in lieu of taxes, is perhaps one way to address this.

There is no single answer. But a common thread is hope. Rebecca Solnit writes,

I believe in hope as an act of defiance, or rather as the foundation for an ongoing series of acts of defiance, those acts necessary to bring about some of what we hope for while we live by principle in the meantime. There is no alternative, except surrender. And surrender not only abandons the future, it abandons the soul.

Rebecca Solnit

This of course is easier said than done. But if we recognize that the decisions we make come from our truth, as Steve Smith had done in 1965 in the face of hostility, we may find peace with ourselves. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur said, All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

In closing, I would like to share this from Kristen Suagee-Beauduy:

Resistance is not a one lane highway. Maybe your lane is protesting, maybe your lane is organizing, maybe your lane is counseling, maybe your lane is art activism, maybe your lane is surviving the day. Do NOT feel guilty for not occupying every lane. We need all of them.

Kristen Suagee-Beauduy

Honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted by David McCartney, Bleeding Heartland, Nov 15, 2022


I am grateful to learn about Steve Smith’s story and that he was a student at the University of Iowa.

I began as a student at Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school in 1966, not far from the University of Iowa. While a student at Scattergood, in 1968 I attended the national conference on the draft and conscription, held at Earlham College. https://jeffkisling.com/2019/10/05/richmond-declaration-on-the-draft/

Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace has announced a national conference on the draft and conscription to be held at Earlham College (Richmond, Indiana), October 11th through 13th. It is primarily planned as a working conference, with about 180 representatives from Yearly Meetings, Friends schools and other Friends’ organizations and seventy to a hundred additional Friends appointed at large. A detailed program and other information may be obtained from FCCP, 1520 Race Street, Philadelphia, 19102.  

Friends Journal 8/15/1968

When I was a Senior, during one of the days of the Moratorium to end the war in Vietnam, Oct 15, 1969, the entire student body (about sixty) walked from the school into Iowa City, to the University of Iowa (about 12 miles). During another of the Moratorium days, Nov 15, 1969, we held a conference about the war and the draft at the school.

October 11, 1969  School Committee Day

From the Scattergood Friends School committee minutes:

A group of students attended Committee meeting and explained plans for their participation in the October 15 Moratorium. The Committee wholeheartedly endorses the plans. The following statement will be handed out in answer to any inquiries:

“These students and faculty of Scattergood School are undertaking the twelve mile walk from campus to Iowa City in observance of the October 15 Moratorium. In order not to detract from the purpose of the walk, we have decided to remain silent. You are welcome to join us in this expression of our sorrow and disapproval of the war and loss of life in Vietnam. Please follow the example of the group and accept any heckling or provocation in silence.”

Scattergood Friends School students’ Peace Walk from the School to the University of Iowa on the Moratorium to end the war in Vietnam


I turned in my draft cards but was not prosecuted. Unfortunately, my schoolmate, Daniel Barrett was imprisoned for his draft resistance. Our stories can be found in those collected by (Quaker) Don Laughlin, Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription.


My friend and mentor, Don Laughlin (Quaker) collected stories of Quaker men facing war and conscription.


David F. McCartney, University Archives

david mccartney

McCartney is a dedicated archivist ensuring access to University of Iowa history and highlighting voices that are underrepresented in the archives. McCartney has developed relationships across campus, working with classes or faculty in every department. After publishing an award-winning article on the life of UI student Stephen Smith, a young man from a small Iowa town who found his voice through civil rights activism in the 1960s, McCartney organized the Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network to bring together related repositories and collections from across the state. He also established the Stephen Lynn Smith Memorial Scholarship for Social Justice. He has served as a consultant for many smaller archives and libraries in Iowa and volunteers with smaller nonprofit organizations. He has held many positions in the Midwest Archives Conference, including president, and makes invaluable contributions to the Big Ten Academic Alliance University Archivist Group and the Consortium of Iowa Archivists.

UI honors recipients of 2020 faculty, staff awards by JACK ROSSI, Iowa Now, 11/17/2020


https://dsps.lib.uiowa.edu/hicrn/

The Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network uncovers, preserves, and shares the stories of Iowans who participated in Civil Rights-related activity or the African American experience. HICRN  is made up of community members, archivists, historians, librarians, former Civil Rights workers, and others from across Iowa who seek and preserve photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, letters, personal memoirs, and oral history interviews. https://dsps.lib.uiowa.edu/hicrn/


Although not exactly a memorial for war resisters, my dad, Burt Kisling, and Chuck Day, both Quakers, worked to have this sculpture of three intertwined doves, the “Path to Peace”, installed in downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

“Path to Peace”, Des Moines, Iowa

Peacemaking: fill the spiritual void

Yesterday I wrote about the video of the interview of Friend Mary Mendenhall (included below). She told of the Quakers who left the United States because of their opposition to war and the military draft. That migration and the development of the Monteverde community in Costa Rica, where they settled, is an example of Quakers living in a manner consistent with their beliefs.

I also wrote about attending the Friends National Conference on War and Conscription in 1968. I had forgotten there was a similar declaration in 1948. One of the statements in that declaration is “We realize that the basic task in peacemaking is to fill the spiritual void in our civilization.” I’ve often prayed about what I call the Spiritual poverty that exists today and how Quakers could help fill that void.

The basic task in peacemaking is to fill the spiritual void in our civilization

Richmond Declaration Against the Draft, 1948

A statement in the 1968 declaration is “we acknowledge our complicity in these evils in ways sometimes silent and subtle, at times painfully apparent.” That declaration also includes a call for affirmation of action.

AFFIRMATION OF ACTION

We commit ourselves to validate our witness by visible changes in our lives, though they may involve personal jeopardy. We cannot rest until we achieve a truly corporate witness in the effort to oppose an end conscription. Let us hold each other in the Light which both reveals our weaknesses and strengthens us to overcome them.


I believe we were led to talk about Mary Mendenhall at Bear Creek meeting last Sunday. And that I was led to write about other stories related to Quakers and peacemaking yesterday. That I was led to remember the 1948 declaration against the draft.

I was especially struck by the Affirmation of Action part of the 1968 declaration. There is a similar admonition in a statement about racial justice of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). “Each person is urged to take a careful look at their life, to identify where one is benefiting from this, and work to correct that.  We urge Friends to speak out against the injustices and violence occurring today.

We urge Friends to speak out against the injustices and violence occurring today.

Declaration on the Draft and Conscription: Richmond 1968

Among the injustices and violence today are attacks, physical and otherwise, against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). And the all-out assault against Mother Earth.

All of this relates to my Des Moines Mutual Aid community, and to the Buffalo Rebellion I’m part of. There will be a rally against carbon capture and the pipelines needed to transport the carbon. An important part of the Buffalo Rebellion, including tomorrow’s rally, is the leadership of Indigenous peoples in the Midwest.

This is an opportunity for Friends to speak out against the injustices and violence occurring today.


https://www.facebook.com/events/580951207110378

Did you hear? The corporations vying to get rich from building carbon capture pipelines across Iowa will be meeting at a convention right here in Des Moines Nov 8-9!

People from Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, and all four corners of Iowa will be there to say “NO CO2 PIPELINES! NO MORE FALSE CLIMATE SOLUTIONS!”

Will you help us send a strong message that Iowans are united against CO2 pipelines? RSVP at https://actionnetwork.org/…/rally-against-false…/

Here is what the day will look like:

1pm rally at Cowles Commons
1:30pm March to Iowa Event Center
2:00pm Protest outside the carbon capture convention

Whether you’re Black, White, Indigenous, rural or urban, we are ALL feeling the impacts of climate change ramping up in Iowa and around the world.

Big corporations that have significantly polluted our land, air, and water are scrambling to find “solutions”—false ones— in attempt to cover up the environmental damage they inflict on our state. And they’re trying to use our tax-payer dollars to do it.

CO2 pipelines are being pitched as the golden ticket to end greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol, fertilizer, and coal plants.

The problem?

–Carbon capture projects have never actually reduced greenhouse emissions.
–They bolster industries that capitalize off dirty energy and destructive agricultural practices
–CO2 pipeline leaks are extremely dangerous and public entities are not equipped to respond.
–Pipeline developers are bankrolling Governor Kim Reynolds to use eminent domain to seize land in order to enrich private corporations.

We need you to rise up with us to stop these projects! RSVP at https://actionnetwork.org/…/rally-against-false…/


References

Richmond Declaration Against the Draft, 1948
Advices on Conscription and War: By the Religious Society of Friends in the United States, Richmond, Indiana, 1948

We realize that the basic task in peacemaking is to fill the spiritual void in our civilization by replacing the fear that now cripples all our efforts with a faith in the Eternal Power by which God unites and sustains those who pursue His Will; and we extend our fellowship to all those of other persuasions who share this faith.

In humility and repentance for past failures, we call upon all Friends to renew the springs and sources of our spiritual power in our meetings for worship; to examine our possessions, to see if there be any seed of war in them/ and to live heroically in that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars and strife.

By a called Meeting representing Friends in the United States, held at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, July 20-22, 1948.


Declaration on the Draft and Conscription: Richmond 1968

We call on Friends Everywhere to recognize the oppressive burden of militarism and conscription. We acknowledge our complicity in these evils in ways sometimes silent and subtle, at times painfully apparent. We are under obligation as children of God and members of the Religious Society of Friends to break the yoke of that complicity.

As Friends we have for many years been granted privileged status within the draft system. This has often blinded us to the evil of the draft itself, and the treatment of those not so privileged. We are grateful for all those who by resolutely resisting the draft have quickened our conscience. We are called into the community of all who suffer for their refusal to perform unconscionable acts.

We reaffirm the “Advices on Conscription and War” adopted at Richmond in 1948. We realize in 1968 that our testimony against conscription is strengthened by refusing to comply with the Selective Service law. We also recognize that the problem of paying war taxes has intensified; this compels us to find realistic ways to refuse to pay these taxes.

We recognize the evil nature of all forms of conscription, and its inconsistency with the teachings and examples of Christ. Military conscription in the United States today undergirds the aggressive foreign policies and oppressive domestic policies which rely on easy availability of military manpower. Conscription threatens the right and responsibility of every person to make decisions in matters of conscience. Friends opposing war should refuse any kind of military service; Friends opposing conscription should refuse to cooperate with the Selective Service System.

We call for the abolition of the Selective Service System and commit ourselves to work with renewed dedication to abolish it. We shall oppose attempts to perpetuate or extend conscription, however constructive the alleged purpose, by such a system as National Service. We do not support efforts at draft reform; the issue is not equal treatment under compulsion, but freedom from compulsion.

We recognize how difficult it is to work through these complex issues, and to bear the burden of decision and action. We hold in love and respect each member of our Society as he follows where conscience leads. We know there are spiritual resources available to those who would be faithful.

AFFIRMATION OF ACTION

We commit ourselves to validate our witness by visible changes in our lives, though they may involve personal jeopardy. We cannot rest until we achieve a truly corporate witness in the effort to oppose an end conscription. Let us hold each other in the Light which both reveals our weaknesses and strengthens us to overcome them.


Declaration on the Draft and Conscription: Richmond 1968. Friends National Conference on the Draft and Conscription, October 11-13, 1968


An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription

Dear Friends,

It has long been clear to most of us who are called Friends that war is contrary to the spirit of Christ and that we cannot participate in it. The refusal to participate in war begins with a refusal to bear arms. Some Friends choose to serve as noncombatants within the military. For most of us, however, refusal to participate in war also involves refusal to be part of the military itself, as an institution set up to wage war. Many, therefore, become conscientious objectors doing alternative service as civilians, or are deferred as students and workers in essential occupations.

Those of us who are joining in this epistle believe that cooperating with the draft, even as a recognized conscientious objector, makes one part of the power which forces our brothers into the military and into war. If we Friends believe that we are special beings and alone deserve to be exempted from war, we find that doing civilian service with conscription or keeping deferments as we pursue our professional careers are acceptable courses of action. But if we Friends really believe that war is wrong, that no man should become the executioner or victim of his brothers, then we will find it impossible to collaborate with the Selective Service System. We will risk being put in prison before we help turn men into murderers.

It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions. Let our lives show that we oppose not only our own participation in war, but any man’s participation in it. We can stop seeking deferments and exemptions, we can stop filling out Selective Service forms, we can refuse to obey induction and civilian work orders. We can refuse to register, or send back draft cards if we’ve already registered.

In our early history we Friends were known for our courage in living according to our convictions. At times during the 1600’s thousands of Quakers were in jails for refusing to pay any special respect to those in power, for worshiping in their own way, and for following the leadings of conscience. But we Friends need not fear we are alone today in our refusal to support mass murder. Up to three thousand Americans severed their relations with the draft at nation-wide draft card turn-ins during 1967 and 1968. There may still be other mass returns of cards, and we can always set our own dates.

We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam. But we can try to change our own lives. We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace. We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and brothers,

Don Laughlin
Roy Knight
Jeremy Mott
Ross Flanagan
Richard Boardman
James Brostol
George Lakey
Stephen Tatum
Herbert Nichols
Christopher Hodgkin
Jay Harker
Bob Eaton
Bill Medlin
Alan & Peter Blood.


Don Laughlin and Roy Knight, among those who signed that Epistle, were members of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Both were imprisoned for their refusal to participate in the military draft. As were a number of other Quakers. Don collected some of those stories, which can be found here:

Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription


Bill Deutsch interviews Mary Mendenhall

One story leads to another

I’ve recently been writing a number of articles related to the beginning, evolution, and current state of my foundational stories. We were challenged to do this at the annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) this summer. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/foundational-stories/

I wanted to do that, in part, because my experience has been that stories are among the most powerful tools we have to affect change. And stories of the past can remind us of how earlier generations worked on many of the same things we struggle with today. (Which is also a bit discouraging).

Yesterday at Bear Creek Friends Meeting, we were talking about the Mendenhall family and I said I would share the video I made of Bill Deutsch interviewing Mary Mendenhall about her life, including her time in the Monteverde Friends community in Costa Rica. Photography is one of my foundational stories. I took the photos in this video during my only international trip, which was to Costa Rica, for the 60th anniversary of the double wedding of my mom and dad (Burt and Alberta Kisling) and Lucky and Wolfe Guindon. Lucky was my mother’s childhood best friend. The wedding took place at Bear Creek Friends meeting in 1950, (where we were meeting yesterday). The Guindon’s moved to Costa Rica shortly afterward for reasons Mary explains during the interview.

Burt and Alberta Kisling and Lucky and Wolfe Quindon, wedding, Bear Creek Friends Meeting, 1950
Lucky, Birdie, Burt and Wolfe, Monteverde, Costa Rica, 2010

I love this tee shirt worn by my cousin Jeffrey. Costa Rica has not had an army since 1948.


Bill Deutsch interviews Mary Mendenhall


In 2012 Paullina Friends met at the Mapleside meetinghouse, and told stories related to the meeting.  Some of those videos are available at the links below. As you can see many of the stories relate to war and pacifism.

As I looked through my writings, I found this story by my uncle Bernard Standing, reporting on the annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), in Friends Journal, 1966

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Reported by BERNARD A. STANDING

IOWA Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative) held its sessions August 16-21 in the rural community of Mapleside near Paullina, Iowa. A family atmosphere prevailed, as evidenced by the parent-children groups arriving by car or seated in the meeting house, by the many young people at play on the volleyball court, and by the little children at the sand-pile and the swings. The mingling of Friends from urban communities with those from rural areas was a truly growing experience. Lincoln Meeting in eastern Nebraska has been added to this group within the past year. Visiting Friends were welcomed from Monteverde (Costa Rica), Concord (New Hampshire), and Media (Pennsylvania).

A dominant concern was the war in Vietnam. E. Raymond Wilson of the Friends Committee on National Legislation spoke on this topic to different age groups at several sessions. Various approaches to a peaceful settlement of the conflict were presented. The meeting gave its approval to the statement issued recently by Friends United Meeting, “An Appeal to End the War in Vietnam Now,” which calls for cessation of hostilities, negotiations, free elections, economic development of the land, and the help of all nations of the world to accomplish these results.

Boyd Trescott of the Friends World Committee for Consultation explained the function of that committee, placing special emphasis on the Friends World Conference to be held at Guilford College in North Carolina in 1967. Plans are being made to send seven delegates from Iowa Yearly Meeting.

Marian Baker, a young Friend from New Hampshire, told of the Young Friends’ plans for that conference and for subsequent visitation throughout the United States.

Other concerns were Indian welfare and race relations.

Projects of the North Central Region of the American Friends Service Committee were reported. The summer workshop in which several young people joined with the Musquakie Indians in preparing for the annual powwow at Tama, Iowa, was successful in fostering understanding and friendship between the two groups.

James Thomas, director of the Iowa Rights Commission, spoke one evening about the efforts of his group to achieve equal opportunities in housing and employment for minorities.

The annual report of Scattergood School at West Branch, Iowa, the Yearly Meeting’s major educational project, showed progress in the building program, including the construction of· a new science building. The purpose of the school is reflected in the lives of returning alumni.

At the last evening gathering, Cecil Hinshaw described possible vast changes in our material world in the near future. He challenged Friends to cope with these new situations by imaginative training of personnel in the fields of industry and education. Though change is inevitable, the eternal values of truth and love remain.

October I, 1966 FRIENDS JOURNAL


The date of that Friends Journal article was the year I first attended Scattergood Friends School. The Vietnam War was a large factor in the lives of the boys there, since we were required to register for the draft on our eighteenth birthday. Like many Iowa Quakers, I eventually decided to become a draft resister.  Cecil Hinshaw of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) who spoke at the 1966 Yearly Meeting sessions (see above), also spoke at a draft conference held at Scattergood that fall.


Cecil Hinshaw, President of William Penn College, and my father–counseled many of these young Quaker men to resist the draft. And many have thanked him over the years for helping them come to the decision, in writing letters of support. My brother, Robert, struggled with the decision, and at the age of 18, he wrote to his draft board and told them he would not register for the draft and would be willing to go to prison for his act of conscience. He never even got a response from his draft board. We all asked ourselves WHY?? My father finally came up with the response that to give the son of Cecil Hinshaw any publicity, would only further the cost of passive resistance and refusal to serve in the armed services. So Robert lived for many years with the fear that he might be arrested for speeding, or some other misdemeanor, and it would be discovered that he did not have a draft card and the waiting game would over. He must have lost his fear of being arrested for speeding–for he became quite a speed demon on the highways and I did not want to ride with him!! I was very proud of him.

Eleanor Hinshaw Mullendore
As often happens, one story leads to another. I appreciated this powerful letter when I was struggling with my decision about the draft.

An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription

Dear Friends,

It has long been clear to most of us who are called Friends that war is contrary to the spirit of Christ and that we cannot participate in it. The refusal to participate in war begins with a refusal to bear arms. Some Friends choose to serve as noncombatants within the military. For most of us, however, refusal to participate in war also involves refusal to be part of the military itself, as an institution set up to wage war. Many, therefore, become conscientious objectors doing alternative service as civilians, or are deferred as students and workers in essential occupations.

Those of us who are joining in this epistle believe that cooperating with the draft, even as a recognized conscientious objector, makes one part of the power which forces our brothers into the military and into war. If we Friends believe that we are special beings and alone deserve to be exempted from war, we find that doing civilian service with conscription or keeping deferments as we pursue our professional careers are acceptable courses of action. But if we Friends really believe that war is wrong, that no man should become the executioner or victim of his brothers, then we will find it impossible to collaborate with the Selective Service System. We will risk being put in prison before we help turn men into murderers.

It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions. Let our lives show that we oppose not only our own participation in war, but any man’s participation in it. We can stop seeking deferments and exemptions, we can stop filling out Selective Service forms, we can refuse to obey induction and civilian work orders. We can refuse to register, or send back draft cards if we’ve already registered.

In our early history we Friends were known for our courage in living according to our convictions. At times during the 1600’s thousands of Quakers were in jails for refusing to pay any special respect to those in power, for worshiping in their own way, and for following the leadings of conscience. But we Friends need not fear we are alone today in our refusal to support mass murder. Up to three thousand Americans severed their relations with the draft at nation-wide draft card turn-ins during 1967 and 1968. There may still be other mass returns of cards, and we can always set our own dates.

We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam. But we can try to change our own lives. We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace. We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and brothers,

Don Laughlin
Roy Knight
Jeremy Mott
Ross Flanagan
Richard Boardman
James Brostol
George Lakey
Stephen Tatum
Herbert Nichols
Christopher Hodgkin
Jay Harker
Bob Eaton
Bill Medlin
Alan & Peter Blood.


Don Laughlin and Roy Knight, among those who signed that Epistle, were members of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Both were imprisoned for their refusal to participate in the military draft. As were a number of other Quakers. Don collected some of those stories, which can be found here:
Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription

This also leads to the story about the draft conference I attended at Earlham College in 1968.

[Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace organized a Friends National Conference on the Draft and Conscription, held in Richmond, Indiana, Oct. 11-13, 1968. This declaration was used by many Friends who took the noncooperator position at their trials. It was reprinted in Quakers and the Draft, Charles Walker, editor: 1969.]

I was a student at Scattergood Friends School at the time, and a classmate and I were able to attend. Scattergood was one of 15 Quaker Secondary Schools represented.

Afghan refugees

I’m glad to have two friends from Afghanistan, Reza Mohammadi and Leo Ko. They both attended Scattergood Friends School and Farm near West Branch, Iowa. I attended Scattergood in the late 1960’s.

I was glad that Reza attended Simpson College here in Indianola so we could spend time together. While at Simpson Reza was involved in social justice work, including supporting Black Lives Matter.

Since graduation, Reza moved to Minneapolis.

A new resource center for Afghan refugees recently opened its doors in Minneapolis that will serve as a resettlement support space for Afghan refugees in the Twin Cities.

The Afghan Cultural Society and other area organizations, helped make the center possible.

Reza reached out via social media to connect with other Afghans living in Minnesota. That’s when he met Afghan Cultural Society co-founders Nasreen Sajady and Amina Baha.

Now Mohammadi works as the Afghan Cultural Society’s family coach, where he helps newly arrived Afghans chart a path toward achieving educational and career goals. 

A young man with dark hair wearing a white tunic
Rezadad Mohammadi, family coach at the Afghan Cultural Society, hopes the new support center in Minneapolis can be a healing space for Afghan refugees.Ben Hovland | MPR News

He said his biggest hope for the new center is that it provides a healing space for Afghans.

On Sept. 30, a suicide bomber killed more than 50 people in a Hazara neighborhood in Kabul. Mohammadi, who is a member of the Hazara ethnic minority, quickly sprang into action to organize a local candlelight vigil.

“It was really powerful,” he said. “Within three days’ notice, nearly 200 people showed up.”

Afghan refugee resource hub opens in Minneapolis by Sarah Thamer and Ben Hovland, MPRNews, October 21, 2022 5:25 AM


War is never the answer

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has dominated the news for six months now. There is news about two new developments.

  • The Russian draft to force men into the military
  • The use of weaponized drones

Russian conscription brings back memories of the draft in this country for the Vietnam War.

I came of age during the Vietnam War years. Organized a draft conference, walked with the entire student body of Scattergood Friends School (all sixty of us) fourteen miles into Iowa City during the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, became a draft resister. The entire country was in an uproar. Young men and their families lived in fear of induction based on a lottery system. Over 58,000 Americans were killed.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

I’ve often despaired at the absence of an antiwar movement since our plunge into a ‘war on terror’ that is an excuse to have military presence and conflict in any place politicians define a threat.

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

An anti-war demonstration against Israeli militarism

This photo was taken during a demonstration to bring attention to Israeli militarism. Christine Ashley, then head of Scattergood Friends School, offered to take the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Peace and Social Concerns Committee to Iowa City for this demonstration in 2014. This occurred at the time when we were holding our annual sessions at the school. The sign I’m holding is from an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) campaign to call attention of military spending and its consequences. That is a picture of a drone on the sign. You can see a War Is Not the Answer sign in the background, as well as a button on my camera strap, which I have been wearing for many years.


The peace and social concerns committee asks the clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) to mail the following letter to our Congressional delegations. 

Jeff Kisling and Sherry Hutchison, co-clerks 
[Note: the photo below is of Sherry Hutchison]

 The Israeli government, with U.S. aid, now has the most powerful military in the Middle East.  In 2008 Israel attacked Gaza, with 1400 civilian casualties.  In 2013 Israel attacked Lebanon, with 750 civilian casualties.  Currently Israel is engaging in a massive military siege of Palestine, with over 800 civilian deaths so far.  All three of these Israel assaults have involved devastating destruction of schools, hospitals, power plants, and other infrastructure. 

Tragically, we the American taxpayers are paying for this human rights travesty. Israel receives 9.9 million U.S. dollars each day in military aid from us. This makes it our largest aid recipient in the world. While Americans are struggling to make ends meet and our government struggles to maintain our own infrastructure, we are subsidizing Israel to conduct activities in direct opposition to international law.  

We ask that no more military aid be given to the Israeli government. 

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2014


Sherry Hutchison

Drone terrorism

Recently Russia has begun to use weaponized drones against Ukraine. I remember how devastated I was when I learned of how people, how the children in Iraq and Afghanistan were terrorized by the sounds of drones circling overhead. Knowing an attack could be triggered at any moment, with untold numbers of civilian casualties. Death by remote control.

In a recent news story, a reporter from NBC News spoke about this, about how unnerving it was to hear the sounds of the drones overhead.


Drones: The Face of War Today, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) October 13, 2016


It was fascinating to learn how a drone strike helped trigger the formation of Des Moines Mutual Aid, which has been the focus of my work for the past two years.

One year ago today (January 2021) Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad. 

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.  

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming. As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.  

This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread. Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.  

In the past year DMMA has expanded its work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.  

We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.  

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid, DSM Black Liberation Movement, and The Great Plains Action Society.  

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).  

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.  

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.   

All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.  

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize. But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.  

Much gratitude to you all.  

In love and rage, 

Des Moines Mutual Aid 

Foundational Stories: Acts of Faith Part 1

Recently a Quaker friend challenged us to consider what our foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about my foundational stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.

Earlier I wrote Foundational Stories: Quaker Faith. I said we express our faith by telling stories about our faith-based decisions and actions.  To continue telling my foundational stories related to faith, I’m led to share some of my Spirit-led stories.

In the last post I wrote about my first spiritual challenge-how I came to be a draft resister at the time of the Vietnam War. I have become aware that many people today have almost no real conception of war, unless someone they love is in the armed forces. Something that happened fifty years ago is relegated to the history books.

Photography is one of the three pieces of my foundational stories. I’ve taken the photos I share in my blog posts, including these from the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

I have so many photos from Washington, DC, because of my years on the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s General Committee, which held annual meetings every November. Agreeing to be on the General Committee was another spirit-led decision. I was concerned about agreeing to do that because of the travel involved. I refused to have a car for environmental reasons (also spirit-led). So I took 22 hour train trips from Indianapolis to Washington for those meetings. Again I had many rich experiences and got to know Friends from all over the country. Today I attend the weekly Zoom worship sharing meeting, FCNL’s Witness Wednesday Silent Reflection. Your are welcome to join every Wednesday at 4:15 Central times.  fcnl.org/ww-stream

In the previous post about Quaker Faith I wrote about my struggles at that time that led me to be a draft resister. That was such a huge issue that there were many stories within the stories about the war.

Vietnam War

Yesterday I wrote in detail about some of my experiences related to the war in Vietnam. I was a student at Scattergood Friends School and really struggled with my leading to resist the draft.

My first experience in organizing occurred at this time, when I helped organize a draft conference at Scattergood. This was held on one of the national days of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.

During another of the National Moratorium days to end the war in Vietnam in 1969, Bob Berquist, our Scattergood government teacher, suggested we go to the nearby town of West Branch and talk with people there about the war. (Scattergood is located on a farm.) He drove three of us into town, stopped at a random house, and stayed in the car while we went up to the door. I still remember how scared I was. But it was a real education to find how unpopular the war was at every house we visited. People seemed to appreciate the chance to share their feelings. Although I was very uncomfortable with the idea, because of my strong spiritual feelings against war, I felt I should do this. And as with every other time I followed those leadings, I benefited in many ways. They were/are always growing experiences.

Earlham College

After Scattergood I attended Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana. I had gone to the college in 1968, while a student at Scattergood, for a conference of Quakers from across the nation who gathered to write what became the Declaration on the Draft and Conscription: Richmond 1968.


There was a small group of Quaker students, Young Friends, which were an important part of my spiritual life at Earlham. Although I left Earlham after one year, I returned at the time I was preparing to turn in my draft cards. We held the meeting for worship described here.

4:00 pm. Went to Meeting for worship. Jan Cole, Al Ingles, Dav Nagle, Marggie Schutz, Margaret and Lewis Taylor, Becky Gibson, Jim Bay, Ruby, and several others attended.

Al had read my letter to the draft board and my statement on the draft earlier, and asked if I would let him read it during Meeting. I told him that would be alright, so he did.

Al spoke of support and the future and how God spoke through me. I would hope that would be true but felt unworthy.

Margaret Taylor spoke of Iowa Friends who had always spoken against war and done what they felt right. She spoke of her support for me.

Becky Gibson spoke, very movingly, about finding who you are, and how important it is to do what is right.

Then Dav spoke, also very movingly. He is certainly an able minister—one of the people I love and respect very much. He seems always to be close to the center. He said severing ties with Selective Service is a major decision—but ALL decisions are major when they deal with principle and the Spirit. All, each of our decisions must be integral. “Severing ties with Selective Service is not an isolated act in this life of Jeff’s.”

After a good while I felt moved to speak. When confronted with a decision, we are told to do God‘s will. But God’s will is so difficult to discern among many influences—people, law, self (selfishness and pride). Realizing this, Thomas A’ Beckett said, “I am loathsome.” This was how I felt at times. But after he said that, he heard what he believed to be the voice of God saying “Nevertheless, I love.

Journal 1/30/1972


I felt very uncomfortable having a student deferment from the draft. And as can be seen from this letter to my parents, I continued to work through what I was going to do about the war.

You want me to be practical; not so idealistic. But what you might see as idealistic, I see not only as practical, but necessary in order to be true to my code of life. And if you forsake your principles and all that you believe in, what do you have left?

The most difficult part of this decision has been that I would hurt you. But how far should a man go trying to protect those that he loves, at the same time denying the principles that give his life meaning?

Letter to my parents from Earlham College

I previous wrote about the Friends Volunteer Service Mission (VSM) that was related to my Vietnam War decisions and actions. One of the significant consequences of my participation in VSM were the friendships I made with the kids in the neighborhood as I described in that post about VSM.

As I found over and over again as I worked in various community organizing situations, the most important thing is to build friendships. When I was about to leave VSM in Indianapolis and return to Iowa, the neighborhood kids made a meal of spaghetti, baked a chocolate cake, and gave me a record album of Jim Croce they knew I liked.

In Iowa I took classes at the community college, including photography (one area of my foundational stories), But I missed the kids in Indianapolis so much that I decided to return there. The family of several of those kids invited me to live with them while I looked for a job and a place to live. There wasn’t a significant difference in our ages, although at that age a difference of a year or two seemed big. I was about 21 and they were around 14 years old.

When I was first in Indianapolis, I received on-the-job training as a respiratory therapy technician. On my return to Indianapolis I got a job in the respiratory therapy department of Indiana University Medical Center.

At the Medical Center I worked with women on the labor and delivery ward. I was at times present for the miracle of birth.

Many of the women referred to the Medical Center had high risk pregnancies. Respiratory therapists from Riley Hospital for Children, which was part of the Medical Center, would come to help stabilize infants who had various conditions that needed to be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Riley.

It was definitely spirit-led that when I saw the skills those respiratory therapists had, I wanted to be trained to do that. I was able to transfer to the respiratory therapy department at the Childrens Hospital. After an introduction to respiratory care for general pediatric patients I was eventually trained to work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At one time I was the respiratory therapy supervisor for the NICU.

Permission was obtained to publish this photo, which was part of an article in the Indiana Business Journal

I hadn’t decided what I would study at college. The Medical Center had a degree program for Respiratory Therapy. Much as I loved my work, I hadn’t thought of applying to the Respiratory Therapy program. For one thing there were usually about two hundred applicants for each class of fifteen.

But on the day the applicants were being interviewed, the Clinical Instructor of the program came and pulled me off my patient assignments and took me to be interviewed. He was familiar with my work and wanted me to be in the class. I was selected to enter the program. These spirit-led steps resulted in me getting a degree in Respiratory Therapy and this became my career for my entire working life.

This is enough for today. I can tell it is going to take several more blog posts to tell more of my faith-based stories.


Post Script: I feel blessed to have been led to keep a Journal for a few years. I began that during the time I was struggling with the draft decision. This is a link to some of those Journal entries:

https://jeffkisling.com/?s=%22scattergood+journal%22

Foundational Stories: Quaker Faith

Recently a Quaker friend challenged us to consider what our foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing about my foundational stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.

This challenge comes at a time when I’m considering changes in those three things. Thus far my blog posts have been about how these stories began and have evolved.

I’m at the point of considering what those stories are now. A couple of days ago I wrote about the current state of how I care for Mother Earth.

Now I’ll try to express the current state of my Quaker faith, which will be the most difficult of the three parts of my foundational stories to write.

Part of what I was taught is we should not call attention to ourselves. But I have been led, as part of my faith, to share stories about my experiences and faith. The way we live our lives is how we express our faith. We share our faith by telling stories about these faith-based actions. The main reason photography is such a large part of my foundational stories is because photos can be a way to share my spiritual experiences.

I often think about what Noah Baker Merrill, a Quaker, wrote about this.

“We need to be careful when we talk about humility. The kind of humility this work brings isn’t the kind that would have us reject or repress our gifts. This kind of false humility leads us to oppress each other in the name of preventing pridefulness. This happens far too often.”

Noah Baker Merrill, “Prophets, Midwives, and Thieves: Reclaiming the Ministry of the Whole.”

Or as my friend Ronnie James, another storyteller says, “anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah”.


Religious faith is a matter of beliefs and, sometimes, spiritual experiences. I’ve heard not everyone has had, or at least not recognized, spiritual experience(s). I find it very interesting that those Friends (Quakers) who have said they had spiritual experience(s), have all said something like “and that’s all I’ll say about that”. That’s understandable because we don’t have the language to express this. Which makes it difficult to write about faith. Also, there is something about protecting something that is so intimate and profound in our lives.

My first spiritual experience was when I was about ten years old during meeting for worship at the Bear Creek meetinghouse. “And that’s all I’ll say about that”. Except to say I had no doubt about the presence of the Spirit in the world from that day on. I know I am blessed to have had that, and subsequent spiritual experiences.

Another Friend said his first spiritual experience came when he was about that age. This makes me realize we should pay attention to what young people experience. I love the native concept of children as sacred beings.

The concrete expression of our faith is seen in our actions in this world. This might mean we are led to act in ways contrary to the laws or conventions of the society we live in. Which is often not easy to do. Peer pressure can be a powerful force. There might be significant monetary costs and/or legal penalties. Quakers were once (still?) known as “peculiar people”. When there are conflicts between our spiritual beliefs and the laws of the government, people of faith try to obey the creator. Unfortunately, many times it is apparent that people who identify themselves as religious do not act according to the beliefs they profess. This lack of spiritual integrity results in many people rejecting organized religion.


The first time I was confronted with a situation where my beliefs were contrary to the laws of the land related to registration for the Selective Service System. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school, during the time of the Vietnam War (1960’s). A military draft was being used to conscript young men into the armed forces. Quakers do not believe in war nor in participating in the military. Those with religious objections to serving in the military could apply for Conscientious Objector (CO) status, which if granted, would allow them to do two years of alternative service, such as working in a hospital instead of military service.


My Quaker friend and mentor, Don Laughlin, collected these stories of Quakers who opposed war and conscription.


I turned eighteen years of age while a Senior at Scattergood (1969). Young men were required to register for the Selective Service System at that age. The choices were either to do so, or apply for Conscientious Objector status, or do neither and face imprisonment.

I really struggled with whether I should accept alternative service, or not cooperate with the Selective Service System. I studied and prayed a great deal. I was convinced that alternative service was going along with the system. The question was whether to take the safer path of conscientious objection, or risk prison by resisting the draft.

I recognized this decision would set the course for the rest of my life. Which is why this is part of my foundational stories. If I compromised about this, I would likely do so in similar circumstances for the rest of my life. I would always be aware that I had not acted according to my beliefs.

The following Epistle, and the examples of the men who refused to cooperate with the military, many of whom did serve time in prison, showed me there were those who acted according to their beliefs despite the consequences.

The following is an excerpt from a statement by a group of Quaker young men at that time, including Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Quakers Don Laughlin and Roy Knight.

Those of us who are joining in this epistle believe that cooperating with the draft, even as a recognized conscientious objector, makes one part of the power which forces our brothers into the military and into war.  If we Friends believe that we are special beings and alone deserve to be exempted from war, we find that doing civilian service with conscription or keeping deferments as we pursue our professional careers are acceptable courses of action.   But if we Friends really believe that war is wrong, that no man should become the executioner or victim of his brothers, then we will find it impossible to collaborate with the Selective Service System.  We will risk being put in prison before we help turn men into murderers.

It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions. Let our lives show that we oppose not only our own participation in war, but any man’s participation in it.
In our early history we Friends were known for our courage in living according to our convictions. At times during the 1600’s thousands of Quakers were in jails for refusing to pay any special respect to those in power, for worshiping in their own way, and for following the leadings of conscience.

We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam.  But we can try to change our own lives.  We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace.  We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and brothers,

An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription

This story would not be complete without including another important part of this decision, which was the tensions with my parents. They were against the war but wanted me to accept Conscientious Objector status. They were very upset when I said I couldn’t do that. I understood they didn’t want me to face prison and life as a felon, but they didn’t understand why I knew I must resist. I felt betrayed by their lack of support. Looking back from this time, it is easier to accept what they were doing out of love.

I mailed the following to the draft board today (2/6/1972), along with my registration certificate and classification (1-0) card: 

2/6/1972 

Dear members and clerk of the draft board:    

I have received an order to report for civilian work February 1, 1972. 

I want to thank you for your concerned questions at my personal appearance, when we were considering my position as a conscientious objector.  I have appreciated Mrs. Landon’s kindness and consideration, even when I returned my draft cards.  Thank you for giving me more time to consider this decision.  I hadn’t realized what a powerful affect that action would have on some people.  The extra time gave them, and me, a chance to come to grips with the decision and its consequences.  However, my beliefs have remained basically the same and the time has come to act accordingly.    

I am sure none of us really want war.  Many are convinced that was is a ‘necessary evil’—the only way to achieve peace.  I think I can understand that, and I do respect those who sincerely believe it—their sacrifice has been very great.    

But I do not believe war is the way to peace.  True peace is a personal, internal, spiritual matter.  When we come to know and love ourselves and our God, then and only then do we have peace.  From this point, peace and love will flow from us and should engulf those we live and work with.  This is the only way to find and promote peace. 

In this matter, war has no place.    

The enclosed attempts to illustrate my beliefs in relation to the Selective Service System.  I hope this will help you to understand why I feel I cannot cooperate with the Selective Service System.  I want it to be clearly understood that I am not doing alternative service.  It is not my choice.  There is nothing else I can do. 

Love, 
Jeff Kisling 


Letter to my draft board 

I write concerning my relationship with the Selective Service System.  There are many alternatives.  In fact, someone once said the only alternative not open to a young man facing the draft is that of being left alone.  I explored several of these.  I applied for and was granted conscientious objector status (1-0).  Then I had a student deferment, which made me very uneasy.  I am now doing work which should qualify as alternative service, but for reasons I will attempt to explain herein, I find this alternative to be unacceptable. 

I find it difficult to understand why one young man must explain his decision to do civilian work for a non-profit organization while another need make no explanation, indeed is encouraged to fight and perhaps kill other human beings.  But it is one’s duty to explain one’s actions in order that others might understand, and perhaps follow.  Noncooperation is less understood than conscientious objection, so I feel all the more compelled to try to present an explanation.  I must try to explain, to spare my family the burden of doing so, for they neither clearly understand nor agree with my decision.  (Note:  they fully supported alternative service, but didn’t want to see me imprisoned). 

This decision grew out of my experience as a member of the Society of Friends.  Meetings of the Society of Friends can be a source of strength and guidance as one begins and continues to search for meaning in life.  Quakers have always believed that there is that of God in every man, that each of us has the ability to communicate with that of God in us, and the responsibility to respond to that of God in everyone.  It is evident that Jesus had communion with God—evident in the actions of his life and in his teachings—culminating in “not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching—that God’s will can be discerned and should be obeyed even at the cost of doubt and persecution.  Quakers readily accept Jesus as an exceptional person and try to live up to the principles he gave us to live by.  But we are even more concerned that we obey that Inner Light to which He was so sensitive, so we and have personal contact with and guidance from God.  Thus, Quakers try to minimize distractions from “this (secular) world” in order to discern the will of God in their hearts and His presence in their midst.  They gather together in a simple room and settle down together, searching in silence—each contributing to the spirit of the meeting as a whole.  There are times when a member feels he has been ‘moved by the spirit’ to share with the group, in which case the meeting considers the message in further silence. 

There is a spirit which comes from the silence which gives direction to life.  The spirit is often difficult to discern because of our ties to ‘this world.’  We are afraid or too proud to give up our desire to ‘reason through’ decisions.  Thus we develop a system of beliefs and guidelines composed of traditional beliefs, our own reasoning, and as much guidance from the Inner Light as we are willing to seek and accept.  Thus our decisions, being not entirely grounded upon our faith, may not always be ‘right’.  But we can do no more, nor should we do less, than follow our conscience as occasions arise—always seeking to become more attuned to the spirit.    

Adolescence is that period when one begins to seriously consider ‘who he is’ and his purpose in the world.  It is a time when one has so many question and so few answers.  The extent to which a young person searches for, and finds answers to these questions is dependent upon guidance given by parents, peers, school and church; the degree to which this guidance corresponds to his own experience and needs; and his own self-discipline and desire to continue the search.  Too often the leadership and resources are not available; he is ‘turned off’ by inconsistencies or shallowness or insincerity on the part of those he looks to for guidance and example; or materialistic demands distract from the search. 

The draft requires fundamental moral decisions at this time in life.  This may not be bad in itself, but tremendous pressure is brought to bear to influence the decision—tradition, parental and peer pressure, the law, etc.  The Selective Service System tries to attract men to the armed forces by relying on these pressures and by not making alternatives widely known.  The pressures in this case are for action which is contrary to the experience and desires of most young men—frustrating, anguishing when one is searching for truth, honesty and integrity.  This type of experience stifles personal growth and leads to the loss of a spirit of idealism and faith in the goodness of men.  Can there be a graver crime than that of destroying the spirit and dreams of the young?  Only that of destroying life itself, and the Selective Service System is directly implicated in both.    

Most of us agree that conscription and war are unjust-evil.  The question is, how do we deal with evil?  ‘Resist not evil’—a phrase widely known but little understood and less obeyed.  ‘Do not set yourself against one who wrongs you’ (NEB) is a better way to put it, I think.  In setting ourselves against those who harm us, we look, to some extent, for some way to hurt, or at least hinder them.  We look for the worst in others and play upon their weaknesses rather than looking for the best and trying to fortify it.  Out task is to overcome evil by doing good.    

The time we spend ‘resisting evil’ could be better spent in trying to find out where we can do better ourselves.  You do not change others by opposing them—rather, by respecting and trying to understand and learn from them, you can both benefit and move nearer the truth.  A life of example—showing the possibilities and fruits of a life lived in love and concern for others, is the only way to overcome evil. 

I do not want my example to be alliance with evil.  Thus, I cannot serve with the Selective Service System.  However, I will not set myself against it.  I will break my ties with Selective Service, and concentrate on the difficult task of working for peace in whatever way I can.    

The conclusion to my draft story is that I was drafted at a time when men were not being drafted for the armed forces. A Supreme Court case declared this to be illegal, so my order to report for civilian service was invalidated and I wasn’t prosecuted.  I did finish my two years with Friends Volunteer Service Mission in Indianapolis. 


Letters to and from Bear Creek Monthly Meeting 

Homer Moffitt, Clerk 
Bear Creek Monthly Meeting 

Dear Friends, 

I am thankful for your kind letters and encouragement concerning my work in Indianapolis.  I am learning much about love, and as I respond to the love of others, and they to mine, we are all amazed at how it grows. 

I am enclosing a statement I have written concerning conscription, and my decision not to cooperate with the Selective Service System any more.  I sent a copy of that statement, along with my draft cards, to my draft board. 

Again, I tried very hard to follow the leading of the inner light.  If I alone were making the decision, this would probably not be my choice.  Thomas a’ Beckett, torn between his obligations to the Church and those to the State, was searching for guidance.  When he realized all the forces that influence him—selfish desires for power and personal gain, fear of punishment or displeasing people, etc., he said. “I am loathsome.”  But then he heard what he believed to be the voice of God saying, “Nevertheless, I love.” 

I, too, feel shamed when I realize the factors that often influence my decisions and actions.  On this matter, I have tried very hard to be sensitive to the will of God, and hope to do so in the times to come.  Still somewhat uncertain that my choice is right, I am comforted in knowing that He still loves. 

Love, 
Jeff Kisling 

In reply: 

Dear Jeff, 

We have found your statement explaining your relationship to the Selective Service System very moving.  Several of us are aware that your decision on this has been a difficult and lonely one.  We want to assure you of our love and support as you meet the events which result from your courageous stand. 

On behalf of the Peace Committee of Bear Creek Monthly Meeting 


Follow-up on North Korea

In response to a recent blog post, Rising Tensions with North Korea and Farm Diplomacy, Jon Krieg (American Friends Service Committee) who played a key role in this endeavor, wrote, “Isn’t it pretty cool how one thing that feels relatively small at the time can send bigger waves?”

I also heard from another key participant, Dan Jasper who wrote “You’ve done a lot to keep the history alive and I think you documented some important stuff on that post. It was a good trip when Linda and I came to Iowa and this retelling is very timely. We’re in the middle of our Korea peace advocacy week (an annual event where we set up meetings for grassroots folks to speak to their members of congress on Korea related bills). I also recently presented my sabbatical research on the connections between food, climate, and peace at AFSC. I’ve come to believe that it’s no accident that ag offers a place for communities and even adversaries to come together.

We could also set up a meeting with your congressional delegation as a sort of extension of the Korea peace advocacy week.”


Isn’t it pretty cool how one thing that feels relatively small at the time can send bigger waves?

Jon Krieg, American Friends Service Committee

This AFSC website will help you send a letter about tensions in North Korea to your US Congressional representatives.

https://www.afsc.org/action/support-peace-and-humanitarian-cooperation-north-korea

The U.S. must act now to build peace and humanitarian cooperation with North Korea. 

June 25, 2022 marks the 72nd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. Though there was a ceasefire in 1953, the United States and North Korea have yet to sign a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. This open wound is a root cause of the conflict and hostilities still present on the Korean Peninsula today.  

This “forever war” risks further military conflict, fuels arms races, exacerbates global humanitarian crises, and keeps families separated. And it’s time for it to end. 

Join us in calling for peace and humanitarian cooperation today! 


This is the letter that is created from that link. And the response from Senator Chuck Grassley.


As someone concerned about the well-being of the people on the Korean Peninsula and as a supporter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), I ask you to please co-sponsor H.R. 1504 – the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act. The bill expedites the provision of nongovernmental humanitarian assistance, including life-saving medical care, to the people of North Korea. In the weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea, it is critical that you support these measures, which will help private aid organizations respond when the borders reopen.

Please also co-sponsor S. 2688, the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act, which would require the State Department to work toward reuniting Korean-American families separated by the Korean War.

Help us respond to critical humanitarian needs and reunite Korean Americans with their families in North Korea.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jeff Kisling


June 16, 2022

Dear Mr. Kisling:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your support for the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act (S.690) and the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act (S.2688). As your senator, it is important to me that I hear from you.

I appreciate hearing your support for the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act which was introduced by Senator Edward Markey. This legislation, if enacted, would require the Treasury Department to expand existing humanitarian licenses for North Korea to include larger humanitarian projects as opposed to medical supplies and food.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Treasury Department and the Department of State have expanded licensees for the provision of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in sanctioned countries. That said, I do not believe that the wholesale removal of sanctions on North Korea would alter the regime’s behavior or ensure adequate distribution of relief within the country. Rather, it would provide Kim Jong-Un with resources to continue persecuting the North Korean people and antagonizing the United States and the rules-based international order. 

I also appreciate hearing your support for the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act. This bill was introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono and if enacted, would require the State Department to report to Congress on its consultations with South Korea about potential opportunities to reunite Korean Americans with family in North Korea. 

Both of these bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Should either of these pieces of legislation come before the full Senate, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please keep in touch.

   Sincerely,

  Chuck Grassley
  United States Senator

My great thanks to my fellow activist photographer, Jon Krieg, of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for these photos of the visit of Linda Lewis and Dan Jasper, of AFSC, to Iowa to tell us about their work in North Korea, March 2018. (Another activist videographer, Rodger Routh joined us. His video of this visit can be found below). You can see Linda and Dan visited us at Bear Creek Meeting. Russ Leckband presented them with a gift of his pottery. Linda and Dan also spoke at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting. Also attending was my friend Reza Mohammadi. Ed Fallon interviewed them on his radio program. And I’m glad they were able to visit Scattergood Friends School and Farm where they spoke with Mark Quee and Thomas Weber.

Photos by Jon Krieg, AFSC

No Way Out but War

I came of age during the Vietnam War years. Organized a draft conference, walked with the entire student body of Scattergood Friends School (all sixty of us) fourteen miles into Iowa City during the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, became a draft resister. The entire country was in an uproar. Young men and their families lived in fear of induction based on a lottery system. Over 58,000 Americans were killed.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

I’ve often despaired at the absence of an antiwar movement since our plunge into a ‘war on terror’ that is an excuse to have military presence and conflict in any place politicians define a threat. To terrorize children by the sounds of drones circulating overhead. With untold civilian casualties from drone strikes. Death by remote control.

What should I have done? What should I be doing now?

Shortly after the Vietnam years, I moved to Indianapolis (1970). The filthy air, the clouds of smoke pouring out of every tailpipe, traumatized me. Especially as I imagined how the air in the beautiful National Parks I had visited might become polluted.

We went on vacation to California around this time. The first day in Los Angeles we could hardly breathe. We coughed and our eyes were irritated. We were told we would get used to it.

It was this war against Mother Earth I devoted my efforts to, including refusing to own a car, which I called a weapon of mass destruction. And against the wars of White supremacy on black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).

But the armed wars of this country continued, expanded internationally. And turned inward, bringing the tactics, equipment, and attitudes of war to our cities.

The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

Chris Hedges goes on to explain

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

Where was the organized anti-war movement?

I wasn’t there. As I said, I was led to the ‘fight’ to protect Mother Earth, protect the water. The damage we’ve done to our environment has led to the collapse we are experiencing now. As I wrote just yesterday, collapse is already here. Significantly worsening environmental chaos is everywhere and will only worsen, rapidly.

What does this mean regarding militarization now? As Chris Hedges writes above, there is no political resistance to continued military spending, leaving little for domestic needs. “The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

The US military is the largest polluter in the world because of the combustion of fossil fuels by the machines of war and the energy needed by steel production.

Depletion of fossil fuel supplies will eventually render those machines useless. But they will be a priority for dwindling supplies. I guess time will tell how long armored tanks and planes will have fuel in the timeline for our collapsing society.

So many military installations are on ocean shores and will be flooded by rising waters.

As oil supplies are depleted, the US armed forces will continue to take over fossil fuel sources anywhere in the world.

At the time when it is absolutely essential to stop burning fossil fuels, the military will continue doing the opposite. Might this be the way we finally rise up against the tools of war?

As our economy continues to collapse, the armed forces and militarized police will increasingly be used to quash civil unrest.

I was led to the fight to protect Mother Earth, protect the water. Much as I wish I had been able to do more to stop militarization, I know I have tried to hear what the Spirit was leading me to do. And then do it.


Martin Luther King Jr was a radical

“Hero” isn’t a word I hear much these days, but Martin Luther King, Jr, is one to me. Other heroes are the men and their families who also resisted cooperation with the systems of war. That includes a number of those in my Quaker community. And includes Muhammad Ali. People whose lives reflected their faith and beliefs. Because even as a child it was clear so many people did not do so. This was and continues to be spiritually traumatic.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy.  Cornel West

Martin Luther King’s beliefs and actions related to racism are well known.

He was late to publicly come out against the Vietnam War and was harshly criticized by most in his own community for doing so. The argument was that would weaken his work against racism. But he could clearly see the ties between racism, capitalism, and militarism.

A historic speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered even 55 years later as one of the most courageous speeches ever made. This speech stated those truths which no other leading political leader or even leading activist was willing to state in such a clear and sharp way.  The reference here is of course to the speech delivered by Dr. King at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on April 4 1967—a speech remembered also as the ‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’ speech.

The great importance of this speech is due to several factors. Firstly, he drew a very clear linkage between why a civil rights activist like him has to be a peace activist at the same time. He stated very clearly that the high hopes he had from the poverty program started getting shattered from the time of increased spending on Vietnam war. So he realized that in order to really help the poor it is important also to prevent wars and to have peace. Secondly, he expressed deep regret that it is mainly the children of the poor (black as well as white young men from poor households) who were being sent to fight a very unjust and oppressive war, while they should have been contributing to reducing distress of their own settlements. Thirdly, he exposed the great injustices and bitter realities about US military intervention with such clarity and conviction that it was bound to have a strong nationwide and in fact worldwide impact.

April 4 – Remembering Martin Luther King on his Death Anniversary by Bharat Dogra, Counter Currents, April 4,2022


The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one.
Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people.

If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.
Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy.  Cornel West

New heroes for me are the young people I’ve been blessed to work with and learn from, particularly in Mutual Aid communities. Working against “capitalist wealth inequality and poverty.”

King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom.”