June 1999

By David Trumbull

How are we feeling today?


In 1928 the United States, Germany, Japan, and 60 other nations outlawed war; our subsequent experience--World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Persian Gulf War--notwithstanding. The Kellogg-Briand Pact and other such attempts, in the words of Samuel Eliot Morison, to "keep the peace by incantation" have an ongoing appeal to a certain lunatic fringe of American liberalism. Hence, the infantile delusions of unilateral disarmament, and nuclear freeism that swept American college campuses in the 1980's.

Now we have become men and put away childish things. Liberal Democrats have twice elected a draft-dodging, war-protesting President whose foreign policy consists of bombing much of the non-western world back to the stone age while coddling blood thirsty dictators who contribute to his campaign fund. And while no one is chanting "Hey, hey, Mr. BJ, how many kids did you kill today?" it is reassuring to know that the old time religion of peace through meaningless gesture is still alive in the Peoples Republic of Cambridge.

Cambridge Peace and Nuclear Disarmament Commission

Considering the failures of the League of Nations, the United Nations, and other attempts at international peacekeeping, the Cambridge Peace Commission, with an annual budget of $66,775, is a bargain at twice the price. Cambridge, since the Commission's establishment in 1982, has not had a single war with our neighbors Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Somerville, and Watertown. (Although the flow of ethnic Cantabrigians into Davis Square Somerville following the demise of rent control is creating some tensions at the border.)

The Peace Commission lists first among its major accomplishments in the past year the "Anti-Violence Shoe Gun Project." While I remember Maxwell Smart, in the 1960's television comedy, having a shoe phone, my mind reels at the thought of what Get Smart writer Buck Henry could have done with a shoe gun. Imagine tap dancing with a semi-automatic weapon.

But now I'm being silly. The Shoe Gun Project was, in fact, "a state-wide project to collect 5,285 pairs of shoes to represent the number of young people killed by guns in one year. The shoes were taken to the Smith and Wesson plant, the largest manufacturer of hand guns in the world, where people spoke out about the need to stop manufacturing handguns and weapons"

I have some questions. Why count only the young people killed by guns? Isn't that ageist? And who determined the cut-off for "young"? "Pairs of shoes", isn't that a slight to amputees? No, I say one shoe per victim, except for double amputees--they'll be represented by a wheelchair.

And where did the shoes come from? Were they new shoes, or second-hand? If used, how sanitary was this project?

Where were the shoes made? Are we sure they were not produced by child slave labor in third world countries (oops, I mean lesser developed countries, third world is a Euro-Centric term)? Or if made in the more-or-less developed world, did the manufacturers respect the dignity of the workers, allow collective bargaining, and provide adequate daycare and insurance benefits to same sex domestic partners?

And what was done with the shoes? 5,285 pairs of shoes could have helped 5,285 homeless persons, actually more if you coordinate the proper number of single left foot or right foot shoes to accommodate homeless Vietnam veteran amputees.

The public has a right to answers; they may get them. At a recent municipal hearing on cable television, a "peace channel" was proposed. At last, there will be a venue for a full report on the Anti-Violence Shoe Gun Project of 1998.

Yes, there really is a $67 thousand Cambridge Peace Commission. The Shoe Gun Project was real. But don't wait for an answer the question "what real good did this do?" The only measure of the Peace Commission's success is how good it makes people feel about themselves, not whether the shoe gun project actually reduced violence.

The delegates who signed the Kellogg-Briand pact really did outlaw war. The Cambridge Peace Commission really did gather shoes in a symbolic protest of homicide. The historic facts that Kellogg-Briand did not avert World War II and that the Peace Commission has not stopped a single homicide in no way invalidates the feelings of the participants. How do you feel about that?


David Trumbull is Chairman of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.