Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peace activist Peter DeMott dead after fall/Peter in his own words



For those who did not go to Ithaca for his wake and/or funeral, you should know that huge numbers of people turned out to celebrate Peter’s life.  As I drove up and back, I had many remembrances of adventures I shared with him.  My first political arrest took place with Peter and two others at a White House gate, so it now seems obvious that I must blame him for my criminal career.  This suggests there is credence behind the slippery slope argument. Kagiso, Max




Peace activist Peter DeMott dead after fall




Feb. 20, 2009


Ithaca peace activist Peter DeMott, 62, died Feb. 19 after a fall while working in a tree. His wife, Ellen Grady, was able to see her husband before he went into surgery at a Pennsylvania hospital where he was airlifted following the accident. DeMott, a father of four daughters, died during the surgery.

DeMott was a veteran Catholic peace activist who spent time in prison for numerous anti-war protests. A Vietnam veteran, DeMott lived and worked with the late Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister at Baltimore's Jonah House as part of the Atlantic Life Communities before settling in Ithaca with his family.


DeMott was born in Washington, DC, but grew up mostly in Minnesota and Nebraska. After graduating from high school DeMott joined the Marine Corps. He spent most of 1969 in Vietnam as a communications specialist.


In a 2005 personal biography, DeMott wrote: " Upon completing my enlistment in the Marines I joined the Army where I received training as a linguist and an assignment to a NATO post in Ankara, Turkey. My experience in the military convinced me of the futility of war and of the sad misallocation of resources which war making requires.


"In l979, I joined the Catholic Worker movement and began to work nonviolently for justice and peace by addressing some of the root causes of poverty, unemployment and homelessness. I am married to Ellen Grady. We have four daughters (Marie, Kate, Nora and Saoirse) ... In the fall of 2003, I traveled to Iraq as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation and saw firsthand the terrible impact of the aggressive war of invasion which the US had launched on that country. My faith in God prompts me to work for a world which unifies us all by ties of love and solidarity and mutual cooperation."


DeMott gained notoriety in 1980 when he was at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, CT, saw some keys in the ignition of a shipyard van, started the van and rammed it into the body of a Trident submarine in what he called a spontaneous act of disarmament. In 1982, DeMott was a member of Plowshares Number Four, also at Groton, CT, when a group of seven activists, including his wife-to-be, hammered on another Trident submarine. The action resulted in a prison sentence for DeMott.


Last December 29, DeMott was among a group of activists arrested at the Pentagon during a Holy Innocents retreat. He was to appear in court March 6.


DeMott was the brother of the late Maryknoll Fr. Stephen DeMott, a missioner and former editor of Maryknoll Magazine.


"I will miss Peter deeply," said Durham, NC peace activist Beth Brockman, who with DeMott and five others were arrested at an Oct. 20, 2007 demonstration at the headquarters of Blackwater USA in Moyock, NC, near the Virginia border. "Like the meaning of his name, he was a rock, a real stable presence for me, and in the nonviolent community. It is hard to imagine the depth of grief that Ellen and the girls must feel, that the Ithaca community must feel."


O’Neill is a regular NCR contributor.


Copyright © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company


Peter was invited to write about himself for an anthology first published in 2002, called_From Warriors to Resisters: U.S. Veterans on Terrorism_. His powerful essay can be read at http://www.resistersbook.org/newsite/pdfs/09peter.pdf

Finding My Way

Peter J. De Mott


Peter De Mott was born in Washington, DC on January 6, l947, of parents he describes as “poor but honest.”

He joined the Marines in November 1967 and left after two years and nine months, having attained the rank of Sergeant (E-5). He then enlisted in the U.S. Army in August of 1971, and left after four and a half years (as an E-6) .


He married Ellen Grady in July 1984, and they have three daughters:

Marie, Kate, and Nora. They are all awaiting the arrival of a fourth child

in June 2002. Peter works as a general contractor and handyman, doing

carpentry, masonry, roofing, and gutters. He hauls trash, trims and fells

problematic trees, landscapes, moves pianos, paints houses, and cleans

chimneys and windows. He also works mightily at cleaning up and overhauling

social structures.

Wanting to realize my culturally conditioned fantasies of adventure

and heroism, I began my rather illuminating military

experience in November 1967 when I enlisted in the

United States Marine Corps. A little over a year later, after completing

boot camp (where I learned instantaneous, unquestioning obedience

to orders) and receiving training in the field of communications, I arrived in Vietnam.


There I worked both as a telephone switchboard operator and as an air

traffic controller. I spent almost all my time in Vietnam in relatively

“secure” areas, sprawling military bases isolated from the local people.

I participated in no fire fights, saw no “action,” and returned to the

United States following a twelve-month tour of duty. I was seemingly

unpoliticized and untraumatized by my time in Southeast Asia (which

cannot be said of many of my comrades-in-arms).


While in Vietnam I attended Roman Catholic Mass regularly and on

occasion would go to confession, as I had been brought up to do. As

a dutiful young Marine who followed orders well, I had no idea that

my work in Vietnam was helping to bring about the deaths of some

two million people there, maim and displace countless others, and

severely damage and degrade the local environment. That sad realization

came to me only much later. While in Vietnam I operated

under the influence of a training film my fellow recruits and I viewed

in boot camp, which justified U.S. involvement in the war as a defense

against communist aggression. (We were told the communists were

struggling to extend their “evil empire.”) Like millions of other soldiers

down through the course of history, we were taught by the power elite

to look at ourselves as heroic patriots willing to make the ultimate

sacrifice in defense of our native land and its cherished ideals.


After a tour of duty in Vietnam, I found myself serving as a military

policeman at the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms, California.

There I became more and more disillusioned with life as a Marine,

with its stultifying duties and inflexible discipline. I left the Marines

in the summer of 1970 and about a year later joined the United States

Army, after signing an enlistment contract which promised me a course

of study at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

For a year I applied myself to acquiring Turkish there, and then received

orders for a NATO assignment in Ankara, where I worked in

a three-man office in the Turkish General Staff Building.


My duties could be described as primarily clerical in nature and did

not prove particularly demanding. What I liked most about Turkey

were the frequent trips all over the Anatolian Peninsula as well as

Thrace, visiting areas of historical or archeological significance. From

Turkey I also traveled to the Soviet Union, Germany, Syria, Ireland,

Italy, and Greece. In those years I viewed the Army as an interesting

job, which provided me with training and travel experience and an

opportunity to meet and know other cultures. My role as a pawn in

a geopolitical struggle for global resources did not intrude upon my consciousness.


Finally I had an eye-opening experience during my trip to the Soviet

Union, when I realized that the people there had the same hopes and

dreams as the folks back home. Having grown up on a diet of propaganda

that the Russians made up a godless country bent on world

domination, I saw and experienced instead their common humanity,

which helped to change my perspective profoundly.


Once again feeling rather disaffected with the sterility and bureaucracy

of military life, I turned my back on the Army in February l976, and

returned to my hometown to complete my college education. Following

graduation, I explored the possibility of becoming a diocesan

priest by going to a seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota—but dropped

out after a year and got involved in the Catholic Worker movement.


The Catholic Worker taught me many things I’d never heard before:

pacifism, nonviolence, voluntary poverty, personal responsibility for

contemporary injustice, and service to Christ in the person of the

victims of military and corporate violence and greed. The Catholic

Worker also introduced me to nonviolent civil disobedience and its

history and practice in our country. A process of conversion had

begun in me, as I began to question authority and realize the need to

make myself as marginal to evil as possible.


My arrest at an “arms bazaar” was the initial outward, visible act of

my conversion process, an ever-evolving journey leading me (please,

God) on the Via Crucis (the Way of the Cross). Christ tells us that if

we wish to be His disciples, then we must deny ourselves, take up the

cross, and follow Him in faith and obedience. The cross represents

both the lot and the glory of those who nonviolently resist systemic,

institutional injustice, and then experience the retribution of the high

and mighty as a consequence. Jesus commands us to love one another,

and He tells us that no one has greater love than a person who

lays down his or her life for a friend. Every act of civil disobedience

(which is equally aptly termed “divine obedience”), performed in a

spirit of love, helps to restore humanity to a communion of solidarity, unity, and mutual aid.


So, with this consciousness, I took part with Father Roy Bourgeois

and others in a protest at an arms bazaar in Rosemont, Illinois (by

Chicago O’Hare International Airport) in February 1979. An arms

bazaar amounts to nothing more than a marketing event put on by

weapons manufacturers, who invite members of the “defense departments”

of various countries to view and then purchase the weapons

systems on display there. The United States sells billions of dollars

worth of weapons annually all over the world. Expenditures for these

lethal instruments of war deny life to those whose basic needs for food,

clothing, shelter, medicine, and education then go unmet.


As President Dwight Eisenhower put it: “Every gun that is made,

every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final

sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who

are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending

money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius

of its scientists, the hopes of its children.... This is not a way of

life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war,

it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”


Since my first act of civil disobedience more than two decades

ago, I have undergone arrest many times at the Pentagon, the

White House, the School of the Americas, and various military

bases and weapons manufacturing sites. Participation in two

Plowshares disarmament actions (which symbolically yet concretely

beat the nuclear sword into a plowshare, in accord with

the vision of the prophet Isaiah), are included in that list. These

acts have resulted in periods of incarceration in a variety of jails

and prisons, cumulatively about two years in all. Separation from

family and friends has been difficult, conditions behind bars less than ideal.


I realize, however, that nothing of good and lasting value comes

without a price, and I have been privileged to be part of the worldwide

struggle for peace and justice, along with so many others who

have done so much. To the extent that we sit passively by during

these challenging times—when the fate of the earth and all its life

forms hangs in the balance, to that very extent we give our tacit

approval to the forces amassed to destroy us.


On September 11, 2001, I happened to be working with a friend from

Chile when I learned the shocking and terrible news about the planes

slamming into the World Trade Center. My friend commented, “You

reap what you sow.” He was remembering September 11, 1973, when a

U.S.-backed coup in Chile killed its democratically elected president;

bombed the presidential residence; tortured, raped, and murdered

thousands; and sent many (including my friend) into exile. The

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who then assumed power, dispatched

agents to foreign countries (among them the United States),

to assassinate those exiled Chilean nationals whom Pinochet saw as threats.


Sadly, what the U.S. aided and abetted in 1973 in Chile represents

only a small portion of a much larger picture of domestic as well as

international terrorism, stretching back in history to the genocide

practiced by the military of our country against its indigenous population

(millions of whom have died). Sadly, too, the violence and

destruction currently meted out by our military in Afghanistan, Iraq,

Colombia, and Vieques (to name a few) could beget more reciprocal

violence from desperate people. I believe that Jesus’ command—to

love your “enemies” and do good to those who hate you—provides

the only answer to the horrific cycle of violence now engulfing the entire human family.



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: