A 40th anniversary Plowshares Eight reflection from John Schuchardt

John Schuchardt

My Letter of Love and Gratitude

by John Schuchardt

Dear Jack, dear Felice….

Your Chronicle of Hope has been a lifeline of Spirit for all the years since your first mimeographed edition, mailed at personal expense, to announce the Good News of September 9, 1980, “good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, freedom for the oppressed, Jubilee justice this day and every day into eternity.”

You have nourished and been our Book of Acts for our beloved community of conscience which has over and again brought light from “the brilliant light burning in the human heart” into the darkest of places.

Dear readers/friends of 40 years, you who have written with your lives the Nuclear Resister, our astonishing Chronicle of Hope, you who have enfleshed hope and incarnated the Word, I am sending you this, my letter of love and gratitude, to each of you.

Our 40 years in the wilderness is marked by the astonishing span of Phil Berrigan’s lighting a new fire of morality at Catonsville in 1968 and King of Prussia in 1980 and the sacrifice of Liz McAlister and the Kings Bay Plowshares being silenced and sentenced in 2020 for the simple truth: “The logic of Trident is Omnicide.”

Hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow, 13 years old in Hiroshima, was silenced during our 1983 trial of the Avco Plowshares, yet another Plowshares judge making mockery of the law. How miraculous then that her words would ring around the world in 2017 as she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN: “Nuclear weapons do not signify a nation’s elevation to greatness, but rather the descent to the deepest darkest depths of human depravity.”

“In the end everything depends upon our human relationships.” (Merton) When I think of the Plowshares Eight, when I read stories from the Chronicle of Hope, I think of friends made, of trust built, of the movements of the Holy Spirit, the divine feminine, just as gentle woman Sr. Anne taught us in 1980: “Wisdom moves more easily than motion itself…..she rises from the power of God, a pure effluence from the glory of the Almighty….everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God and image of his goodness…age after age she enters into holy souls and makes them God’s friends and prophets.” (Wisdom 7.24-30)

When I am asked to tell the story of the Plowshares Eight, I tell the story of the invisible, ineffable movement of the holy spirit, moving us, yes, but moving innumerable, indispensable others, known and unknown: Bob Smith and Beth Centz and Brandywine; the conversion of Lockheed engineer Bob Aldridge warning us of first strike policy; the conversion of Bill Whistler, witness to a Pacific test, career employee of G.E. who gave us a map of Plant #9; the Bauerlein family (Charlie voted for Reagan) feeding and giving us sanctuary during trial; Agnes survivor of Nazi occupation and U.S. bombing that slaughtered her beloved brother and sister in Holland, giving her self as human shield in Iraq, and, and….. Innumerable others, known and unknown, moved by the holy spirit.

Dear Jack, dear Felice, dear friends reading these words, illuminating hope with your lives, you are and have been the greatest blessing for my life, you have followed the Way, the Truth, the Life.

I am certain that for each of you what has been at the heart of your memories of these community building years has been the “patient listening, fidelity, self-control, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,” the soul forces, fruits of the Spirit, made real through life-sharing, selflessness, prayer, scripture study.

I was led to the peace movement though a spiritual quest, seeking repentance. I found individuals living lives guided by conscience. We all recognize that the name of our “crime” is responsibility, as Dan said at trial. “We have some responsibility. To not take it, to resign ourselves to our fate and march to global suicide without resistance is moral, spiritual death.” (Merton)

O yes, together we carry in the core of our very being dearest friends such as humble, humorous, scholar, musician, playwright Elmer Maas. We carry in our souls Carl Kabat and his long suffering 18 years as prisoner for Christ, filling uncounted courtrooms with his resonant voice, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice… rejoice… rejoice!”

“Consequences, truth and,” as Dan put it. The depravity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki created a world epidemic of fear, terror really, bomb shelters and McCarthyism, embodied in legislation granting absolute power to the Executive under a “state of emergency.” (Mass. Ch. 639, Acts of 1950). On March 15, 2020 the State of Emergency was declared: the Bomb fell on America.

In my anxious dreams I can hear Agnes in the Avco courtroom: “Isn’t anybody asking any questions?”

Yet it is still true: There is something in the human spirit that will survive and prevail. There is a tiny and brilliant light burning in the human heart that will not go out no matter how dark the world becomes.

(*pure coincidence that September 9 is Tolstoy’s birthday)

[John and his wife Carrie founded the House of Peace, Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1990 to provide sanctuary and medical care for victims of war, living in community with adults with special needs. A member of Veterans for Peace, John resigned his Marine Corps commission in 1965 when the first marines landed at Da Nang.]