Vermont WILPF Gathering celebrates 15th year

Standing, L to R: Joan Ecklein, Nancy Wrenn, Kristina Borjesson, Beth Adams, Robin Lloyd, Charlotte Dennett, Mary Hansen Harrison, Barbara Soros, Paki Weiland, Eileen, Nancy Ramsden, Ariane Blondin. Kneeling: Virginia Pratt, Katherine ‘Max’ Vose, Ana Santoyo, Caryn Feinberg, Marlena Santoyo.

The 15th annual Vermont WILPF Gathering at Wing Farm, Rochester, VT, took place in late August (27-31), with some 22 WILPF women from Vermont, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Iowa in attendance. Host and organizer Robin Lloyd pointed out that this occasion was somewhat different from earlier gatherings. The first day featured the “opening” of the Bone and Rag Shop Gallery in a room in a former cow barn on the property, with a demonstration of simple weaving of a sort that might have been used by the earliest white settlers on the land, followed by a fascinating slide show and talk on the art of tracking, including photos of animals that Robin’s niece and her partner had taken on nearby fields and hills.

Robin had recently attended the World Social Forum in Montreal and learned about the Kilimanjaro Initiative from her longtime friend Njoki Njehu, who runs a women’s empowerment center, Daughters of Mumbai, in rural Kenya. The initiative is a project of women across Africa who will be gathering together in October at Mount Kilimanjaro to proclaim the importance of women’s land rights. (Watch an animated video about their quest.) Robin adds, “We wanted to send a message of solidarity to the women of Africa with our group photo.”

A report noting the many highlights of the gathering will soon be posted on the VT WILPF Gathering website. Our group conversation on the last day brought us together in concern for our country and our democracy with questions we want to share with all of WILPF. These were questions that were sparked at dinner the night before, when the question “Is Hillary as bad as Trump?” was heatedly debated.

Is our democracy going to survive? Are we at a tipping point? Several participants felt that we are facing fascism, and it is terrifying. Others asked, what is fascism?

  • A middle class that is angry and seeking scapegoats.
  • People being arrested and jailed for immigration reasons: terror imposed on an entire underclass in this country.
  • The militarization of the police with the excess weapons of war; the fact that globalization is not working; and robotization is taking over the workplace—all are factors leading us into an oppressive future.
  • The Reichstag fire in Germany was blamed on the Communists and led to a rule of terror against workers. Black people have been terrorized during and after slavery.

Many voters may look at the situation and simply decide not to vote. How can we get the key issues of war and peace before the candidates and the public? How can we save ourselves before we fall off the cliff? Mindless activism is not the answer. We must think of ourselves as a resistance force. We must become more focused.

As a result of this discussion, several of us decided to attend the September World Beyond War conference in Washington, DC.



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