One is never too young to stand up for one’s convictions

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Apr 06, 2009 One is never too young to stand up for one’s convictions

This evening, I stopped by the local Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist temple during its annual flower festival, where I met up with the local nun and my friend and teacher Takako Ichikawa, my longtime friend and mentor Jun Yasuda, and Brother Kato and Brother Toby from the Leverett, Massachusetts Nipponzan Myohoji temple.

As inevitably happens when I visit with these folks, I learn more than I anticipated. Jun-san underlined that a fourteen-year-old and sixteen-year-old man were among the two-month walkers for the annual fifteen-to-twenty mile daily Walk for a New Spring from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. that just arrived in Washington after beginning in mid-February. This annual walk began after the September 11 tragedy, and symbolizes the transition of life to buds and full bloom, starting in the winter and ending in the spring, and starting in the colder climes of Massachusetts and ending in the South, which is where Washington, D.C., is located.

At the temple close to my boy’s bedtime, I did not have a chance to speak with these high-school-aged peace walkers, nor with Manodan Hirose, a retired postal worker who flew from his native Tokyo to join the walk.

In high school, I kvetched too much about world injustice without taking enough positive action beyond sending my Congressional representatives an occasional protest letter. (Fortunately, I found positive social justice activist outlets through such activities as Amnesty International once I arrived at college.) These two high schoolers have gotten off their butts and on their blistered-to-calloused feet to make their voices heard, apparently missing out on two months of class time in the process. Good for them.

Fourteen-year-old peace walker Kieran O’Sullivan told the Trenton Times: “‘There’s a lot of people that I see every day that are against nuclear weapons and want to end war, but I’ve never seen anyone actually take any action… I didn’t want to be like that.'”

Sixteen-year-old Hai Palar is also on the walk. He said: “‘There’s something that just feels really good to me . . . it feels fulfilling to me.'”

Decades-long peace walker Jun-san said: “‘Walking is our method and also our prayer…Prayer has the power for miracle, so when we walk, step-by-step, we see a lot of miracles.'”

As the York Daily Record reported: “The mission of the walk is three-fold, Buddhist nun Clare Carter said. It calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the renunciation of war and to convert the U.S. economy from what they call a war-based one to a peace-based economy. For the past eight years, the walks have been organized by members of the New England Peace Pagoda. They stem from the days just after Sept. 11, 2001, when the United States, and likely parts of the world, were gripped with fear, Carter said. ‘Nothing good could come out when we’re frozen in fear,’ she said.”

A video posted a few days after the start of this year’s walk is here and above. A video from the 2008 walk is here. Jon Katz

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