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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008

The Path to Peace

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Peace advocate, poet and former educator and nurse Amy Stonemark is quick to draw a distinction between liberals and radicals, and counts herself among the latter. Stonemark has a long history of peaceful protest, marching for civil rights with Martin Luther King in Selma, Ala., and once had the rap sheet to prove it. On the eve of the presidential debate, I sat down with Stonemark to talk about Peace Action- Wisconsin’s first Run/Walk for Peace.

Tell me about the event you’re promoting for Peace Action.

It seems every organization has a run/walk to raise awareness for a disease. We happen to think war is a disease. The first Run/Walk for Peace is a 5K race at Whitnall Park on Oct. 19. The benefits are going to the Peace Education Project of Peace Action.

What do you hope to accomplish with the run/walk?

Outside of making people aware of the fact that [Peace Action-Wisconsin] is for peace and that they should be too, I’d like to raise some money for peace education and I’d like to give people a good time while they’re doing it. We have more than $3,000 in prizes that we’ve collected from businesses. I’m really proud of that.

I’ve put in a request to Mayor Barrett’s office that he come and speak before the race, because he’s one of the Mayors for Peace. If his schedule permits, I hope he can be there.

What kind of people have signed up to participate in the race?

I’ve got an 82-year-old woman who is going to run. I’ve got one man who is 86, and a lot of walkers who are elderly. Right now, including my family, I have around 30 walkers and runners. I’d like to get a hundred, 140. I’ve had a great deal of help from Badgerland Striders. We have sent out fliers all over, and we’ve had two mailings with Peace Action’s newsletter, The Mobilizer.

What in your personal history has motivated you on a path to peace?

Ever since I can remember, my father taught me that justice was due everyone. I can remember standing on a street corner trying to save Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Seeing the injustices in the world; the Korean War; the fact that we got into Vietnam at all, thanks to Jack Kennedy, who said throughout his campaign he was going to save Quemoy and Matsu. Do you know why he was saving them? For the oil.

Not much has changed in America since the ‘60s.

People used to say to me “If you don’t love it, leave it.” I’d rather stay and change it. Not that I’ve changed it very much, but I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. We have to get back to basics, back to the truth that peace is the answer, the only answer. If only I could see it in my lifetime, but I don’t have that much lifetime left.

Is peace activism still relevant?

If we could get enough people for a march, it’s relevant. I think protest is always relevant. It’s part of our Constitution that we have the right to say no. Sometimes it’s nothing more than writing letters. Sometimes it’s nothing more than sitting in at your senator’s or representative’s office and saying, “You must pay attention to this.”

I don’t know if I’m getting through to anyone at all sometimes. It’s really disheartening. A lot of times people tell me that, “Even if you light just one little candle.” My idea is, “Yeah, but the wind just blows it out.” But I keep lighting them anyway.

The Run/Walk for Peace will be held at Whitnall Park in Hales Corners on Sunday, Oct. 19, at 9 a.m. Registration and check-in is from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Picnic Area 1. The fee through Oct. 14 is $20 per person, and $25 from Oct. 15 until the day of the race. For more information, contact Peace Action-Wisconsin at 964-5158 or visit their Web site at www.peaceactionwi.org.

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