by Lauren Paulson
The dining room of St. Francis was not filled to capacity on May 9, 2012. It should have been. A true legend spoke to a mixed group of about 60 Occupiers on a hopeful Spring evening.
He is S. Brian Willson. His audience comfortably circled around him as he perched on a table before us. S. Brian is a somewhat shy hero. Even using the word hero is inadequate to describe what he is, what he has done, what he stands for.
A Vietnam Veteran from the second half of the 1960’s, he shocks us with a simple story of napalm and death from those days. Following an American napalm strike on a village in South Vietnam, he stumbled on a torched mother staring at him with her dead eyes while clutching her three dead children. Mr. Wilson poignantly told us, you don’t walk back from an experience like that as the same person. He joined the anti-war effort of the time with zeal.
His passage happened on September 1, 1987. Brian Willson put his body on the line in a way few have the courage to do. What he did on that day is important yet superseded by his current message and persona.
1987 is really the middle of his story. President Ronald Reagan was in the full bloom of breaking the laws and bringing a rain of death in Central America. Wilson’s objective that day in September was to stop the munitions shipments from Concord, California to Central America during the Iran-Contra period of the war in Nicaragua. A full discussion of these tragic events can be found on Brian’s Wiki site and a Democracy, Now interview of 2011.
Willson recounted for the audience the hundreds of ‘wars’ the US has engaged in along with the number of people killed over the decades, some now forgotten. As we had done in Cuba in 1961, we were funding the insurgents against the indigenous chosen government. Those innocent countries have yet to recover from Air America and our troops (so-called advisors) on the ground.
Willson describes his experiences in those wounded countries and modestly speaks of his path from Vietnam to Blood on the Tracks, the title of his 2011 memoir. He has covered the waterfront of peace activism, from friendly political parlors (Sen. Kerry) to the formation of Veteran peace organizations.
Willson calls for a clean paradigm shift as the only solution. He recommends small, self-sufficient villages as they best solution if there is such a thing. He bade us farewell with a Ghandi moment: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
On that note, S. Brian Willson asked us to prepare for the next event in Chicago on the subject of NATO. One wonders if he is going to do it by cycling there.