A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Friday, December 9, 2011

Naval Base Rota, Then and Now

Some thirty two years ago I was in Rota, Spain, while serving aboard USS Tattnall. We were stopping for fuel having crossed the Atlantic, and we were heading into the Mediterranean, then onward to the Persian Gulf. We were all sure we were going into action against Iran ever since the taking of hostages at the American Embassy. I remember being eager for action.
Yesterday, while walking from Sanlucar to El Puerto de Santa Maria, I saw the ships in Rota, and I thought about the gracious Iranian hosts we'd had in Badajoz. I thought about this pilgrimage for peace, and I decided I would like to do something at Naval Base Rota in the name of peace.
This morning our current host, Manuel, led me to one of the base's gates, very near his home, and I put out my 'pilgrimage for peace' sign and my petitions. The Spanish guards at the gate had me move a little further away, but otherwise paid little attention to my presence. Before long a Spanish woman approached me, not because of my petitions, but to sell me a lottery ticket (I think). Instead, she left a few minutes later having signed the petitions; one addressed to the Yesha Council to urge them to stop building settlements in Palestine and to recognize the Palestinians as a people; the other petition addressed to Hamas to urge them to recognize the state of Israel and to stop resorting to violence.
After a long period of inactivity, a car with three women parked near the gate. One of them was clearly an American. I asked if she would like to sign a petition for peace.
"No," she said. "We're part of the military establishment."
"It's not a protest against the base, or the military," I said. "It's just a petition appealing to peace in the Middle East."
"No", she said. "We can't sign anything."
I spent another hour or so at the gate, where there was very little movement in and out of the base. The few who drove past met me either with mild curiosity or indifference. I then went back to the house we're staying in.
I obviously accomplished little or nothing for world peace, but I suppose I felt better for having spoken for peace in a place where I was once eager for war.

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