Because I Have Gotten to be 80 Years Old

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War Resisters League - One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance

Twenty years ago, on March 19, 2003, the U.S. launched the disastrous and deadly invasion of Iraq. With great hope and determination, millions around the world joined antiwar protests on February 15, a month before the attack.

100 years ago in December Grace Paley was born. That’s something brighter to celebrate during this Women’s History Month. In June 2003, War Resisters League honored a brave group of folks, the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who spoke against war even as they had lost loved ones on that tragic date in 2001. Grace could not attend the program, but she sent a greeting. This still-so-relevant excerpt was printed in WRL’s magazine The Nonviolent Activist (July-August 2003).

Grace planting a sign for women victims of war, Women’s Pentagon Action, 1980. Photo by Dorothy Marder, WRL Files.Because I have gotten to be 80 years old, students and even middle-aged people ask me if these years, this historic moment, are worse than others or still bearable.

My usual answer is that the world is worse but the people are better. This is probably because of the extraordinary revolutionary movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement. Movements for nonviolence and civil disobedience. Women and men were much improved. I’m not joking.

It’s true this non-elected government has driven many of us even normally cheerful folks to fear and despair... [But] what has heartened me in the midst of the terrible badness of our country’s government, its bloody intentions — the millions of Europeans, South Americans, Australians, Africans — all those worldwide demonstrations against American preemptive war. I don’t remember anything like this global effort not to end a war but to prevent it. You might call it preemptive prevention.

About Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Grace said, "Their cry that war is not the answer to their grief ennobles us all." If you don’t know about Grace Paley, you can find out lots with a simple web search. But be sure to read her writings too!

Vera Williams and Grace Paley, editors
Stories and Poems by Grace Paley
Paintings by Vera Williams


Edited by Kevin Bowen and Nora Paley

- blog post by Ruth Benn

Photo (above): Grace planting a sign for women victims of war, Women’s Pentagon Action, 1980. Photo by Dorothy Marder, WRL Files.