Guest Commentary

Tucson's 'progressive community' continues to fight for peace and oneness

The lives of two Tucson heroes, Jim and Lucille Burkholder, were celebrated on May 10 at the Maya Quetzal on Fourth Avenue, a restaurant they helped establish and continued to support. Lucille had told her family that she would not last more than two years after Jim died on May 9, 2006, and true to form, she was right. She departed on April 23, 2008.

The event was truly a celebration, an expression of admiration and gratitude for two lifetimes of goodwill and service supporting civil liberties, justice and peace worldwide.

If Jim and Lucille had been killed serving in the military, they would have been ceremoniously honored and praised by Tucson's "traditional community." Instead, with very little ceremony and a wholesome feast, their love for each other and their affection for and from Tucson's "progressive community" was confirmed.

Gathered were doctors, lawyers, construction workers, educators and artists--people of all professions, ages, sizes and colors, dedicated, outspoken citizens of Tucson, bound together as friends of the deceased.

Tucson's "traditional community," with its economy based on war and its faith based on an image of God that blesses the United States and its weapons of mass destruction, was unaware of the celebration.

Having been reared in the "traditional community," I often ask a "heavenly father" for comfort and guidance. I don't hesitate to use the image presented to me as a child, but as an adult, I am no longer afraid to be entirely honest about my feelings and motives. Only then can I be moved, from a world full of people who are trying to believe (or trying not to believe) in a particular manmade image of the Unknown, into the "progressive community," a world of forthright people who doubt, question, explore and believe what they truly believe. Jim and Lucille lived in the "progressive community."

Seasoned activists, like Mary MacEwan, age 96, of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, inhabit the "progressive community" to inspire us. Tucsonans young and old who allow their curiosity to break free from the mindset of the "traditional community" give us hope.

With individuals gleaned from all our traditions, the "progressive community" contains a bounty of opinions on any topic and is generally united in the concept of humanity as one product of a common source. That experience of "oneness" provides the humility to "speak truth" to manmade earthly powers as well.

The "traditional community" is in charge of the world and in charge of Tucson, and the risk of suffering consequences for speaking and behaving according to the direction of conscience is the price an activist pays for self-respect. Lucille Burkholder, a mother of six, was proud to have been arrested, handcuffed and booked in her nonviolent opposition to the wars being waged by the "traditional community."

She also insisted on receiving full credit for bringing about the profound change in her husband of nearly 65 years, saying, "I'm the one who finally turned that man around."

No matter how much the horror of war--from World War II through Vietnam--had to do with his changing course, he always agreed. "She's right!" he would say.

Somebody asked at the celebration, "How could a woman rear all those terrific kids, much of the time alone when Jim was in the Army, and then later choose to spend her time and energy working for progressive causes?"

I had no answer at the time, but later realized that she had been nourished and rewarded by her own good work: Lucille accomplished the mission of activists in Tucson and everywhere. She moved a high-ranking Army officer, James B. Burkholder, from the "traditional community" into the "progressive community," where he became a powerful voice as the national president of Veterans for Peace.

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