A Broken Heart Ends the War

I stepped out of the rally organizer's van. It was like stepping into a churning river, the thought flashing through my mind, "I was coming out!" At last, my newly formed convictions of conscientious objection to war and oppression would become known. I was taking a big risk, but the world seemed entrapped in the deathgrip of war and injustice. Stepping up to the microphone I was in full dress military uniform. It was December of 1981 in Southern West Germany and many Germans were wanting to control their destiny.

I stepped out of the rally organizer's van. It was like stepping into a churning river, the thought flashing through my mind, "I was coming out!" At last, my newly formed convictions of conscientious objection to war and oppression would become known. I was taking a big risk, but the world seemed entrapped in the deathgrip of war and injustice. Stepping up to the microphone I was in full dress military uniform. It was December of 1981 in Southern West Germany and many Germans were wanting to control their destiny.

I was speaking at a demonstration protesting the proposed use of nuclear weapons for the defense of Western Europe. I knew I was probably going to be court-martialed for doing it. In brave defiance, I took a stand against the insanity of war. For months I'd considered it, contemplating and immersing myself into the sea of pacifist thought. Now I desired to take action. The West German anti-war gathering was in awe at my unexpected appearance. An American solider protesting his own country's nuclear arms policy meant a great deal to the resurgent peace movement of the early 1980's.

My presence at the rally was brief but hardly unnoticed. Demonstrations condemning the use of nuclear weapons in Central Europe had been increasing that year. A BBC news team was covering the event as it scoured the continent for signs of change. In front of the cameras I declared, "There are many Americans, even in the military, who do not condone nuclear war." The German soldiers, who stood on the stage, clasped my hands. We were brothers, united in a cause!

Deciding to return to my Stuttgart barracks I changed into civilian clothes and headed for the train station. As I ambled along I contemplated travelling to another demonstration the next weekend. But at that moment two plain-clothes German policemen stopped me. "What identification do you have? What do you have in your backpack?" Within moments I was behind the bars of my own military police unit. I had defied the authority that has the responsibility of maintaining a semblance of tranquility in a very insane world. Instead of a possible Conscientious Objector discharge I was most likely headed for a military prison.

My civil disobedience was rooted in the many things I'd read at the base library. I had devoured many anarchist and pacifist writings: Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Scott and Helen Nearing, and more. The thought formed in me that I had a chance to be part of something great, a chance to change history and live for global disarmament. It became quickly apparent to me that there was a network of anti-war groups to contact. Oh, how I desired to join their camaraderie! I would give anything to be part of something that could shake the world free. It would cost me my soul! And I decided it was worth it!

The first payment came quickly. A Boston radio talk show host reached me in solitary confinement. "Mr. Bergeron, would you like an opportunity to tell your story? Would you be willing to go on the air live and answer questions?" he asked in a manner that reminded me of a carnival barker as he introduces the next side-show. Was this what I had risked my life for? A sinking feeling overwhelmed me as I responded, "No, thank you. I never meant for my search for sanity to become a circus attraction!" Later I would accept media attention in order to give the issues a voice in the press.

With the attention that I had received a court-martial would be difficult to conduct. The international peace movement promised to make the trial a spectacle. My military lawyer presented me with the option of a discharge "for the good of the service." After accepting the discharge I was flown back to America.

Immediately after landing I sought out the movement that had seemingly saved my life. Within a matter of weeks I met many of the well-known activists of the peace movement. I was acknowledged and invited to speak on television and at demonstrations. Even a Vermont-based political-theatrical group did a play depicting my saga.

Finally, the door had opened and I was connected to a global community of social justice action groups. Here I would find the community that I craved to be part of. In 1982 the nuclear freeze movement was working its way through the political process. Vermont was leading the way in its town meetings in supporting this halt of weapons production. The movement was colorful; it was strong in my home Green Mountain state. We were also good-copy.

Joining league with other veterans of civil disobedience, I lived and breathed protest. I realized that many tactics were used by the various groups, voting, product boycotting, etc. Only CD (civil disobedience) seemed effective to me. Other expressions of dissension were not wholehearted enough. These actions were not effective against the military-political-industrial giant. It would take a selfless devotion to abolish war. My friends and I knew that what was also needed was a base for activism. We had to be contributing members of the larger community. It would not be enough for us to be "revolutionaries." Being teachers, farmers, and co-op workers would show that we had unity and could make positive contributions, and we would not just be pointing the finger at "The System." Seeing the problems is one thing, but living the solutions is another!

I met some wonderful people. We tried to make a growers co-op work, but our own egos got in the way. To plant tiny seeds in the hard soil of the Green Mountains was a labor of love indeed. The co-op suffered because members did not honor their commitments. Living off the produce of the land would at times lose in the contest with easier ways to make a living: being lawyers, carpenters, computer analysts who are better paid ...

The months turned into years and being an activist took its toll on my soul. Along the way I had angered many veterans who had, in an honest and sincere fashion, risked their lives for my freedom. Someone even threatened to kill me as I marched in my hometown in Vermont. That incident made the press and the person lost his position as a public official. My life was one of strife and turmoil. Good people (who only tried to live their lives as best as they could) were offended at my irreverence. My hope for community never materialized. In the spring of 1984 I prepared to plant my carrots. Turn in the buckwheat for weed suppression and nutrients. Plant with my friend Louie the carrot seed, and watch for germination to take place. HOW I NEEDED TO BE PLANTED LIKE A SEED. I was very alone and not bearing fruit. I was scratching others with my thorns.

After planting the carrots I traveled to my last protest. Our plan was to disrupt the daily functioning of the CIA's lower Manhattan offices. We sat down in true Ghandi form, forcing the police to physically dismantle the human blockade. Looking at my 25-dollar violation I questioned within myself what it was that I was planting. Was civil disobedience the seed that should be planted in the hearts and minds of people? Would the seed of protest bear fruit that could "speak truth to power"? In Vermont my carrots were germinating. In New York City my conscience was beginning to cry out for moisture, for water.

Upon returning home one of my friends realized my plight and tried to cheer me up. "Come on Jim, let's take in a movie!" As we filed out of Jimi Hendrix's "Rainbow Warrior" I looked into the eyes of the aging 60's generation, hopelessness filled me. Our heroes were committing suicide. Our leaders were successful authors. But where were the words that could set a people on fire? Who could take us beyond our own pet agendas?

At this time I gave myself to tenderly weed the tiny carrots. Every day after working for another organic farmer I would work, alone, sweating long hours to save the fragile fruit. Now I was distancing myself from the angry words. Yes, the world was corrupted, but so was I! I was trapped in a shallow political existence. My roots were hitting the hardness of my own heart. If my heart didn't break soon I would shrivel up, burnt up by the unmerciful heat of my own tongue.

Many years before I remember walking into a church. It had been a few years since that time. I was searching too. I looked up at the cross and pleaded in thought, "Please, if you are real, come down off that cross and show me." It was 1984, and I was nearing the place where I might be able to hear. My heart was beginning to break.

On June 22nd an earth-shaking event took place. A small, humble people in Island Pond, Vermont, had been rounded up and brought into court. Their crime was that they loved their children with all their heart and soul. I was stunned! All the civil disobedience that I had committed could not hold a candle to the illumination that the Community in Island Pond had shed that day. I read their expose on the inner workings of the mass media and saw that I too was trapped in the web of dullness. Their simple life of devotion to their God and His purpose had threatened guilty men. I found one of their freepapers in my friend's house. Reading it, I fell in love with people that I had never met. The freepaper spoke of a life that comes from peace, not war. It spoke of a love so powerful that it had the divine ability to persuade people to give up their own greed and selfishness. One of the poems I read spoke of a salad. It was written just for me, by the very God that is protecting this planet. The work was entitled, "A Carrot is Good, but a Salad is Better." My carrots were all that I had that had any virtue. I could sense something very real tucked away in that remote corner of Vermont.

An inner force compelled me to visit this brave people. I quickly saw that what had taken root among this people was worthy of my full attention. I capitulated to their good and kind King, Yahshua. I and the carrots had found the salad!

This all took place 20 years ago and much healing has taken place in my life. To further hasten the healing of my soul, I found a wonderful woman. Before we got married my wife saw that I was changing and gave me the name "from the heart." It is not good for a man, or for that matter, a carrot, to be alone.

I love you and invite you to join in the real struggle.

~Jim

The Twelve Tribes is a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, composed of self-governing communities. We are disciples of the Son of God whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua. We follow the pattern of the early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, truly believing everything that is written in the Old and New Covenants of the Bible, and sharing all things in common.

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