Small-Town Residents Send Peace Message

Published on
the Portland Press-Herald (Maine)

Small-Town Residents Send Peace Message

Dennis Hoey

HARPSWELL, Maine - Harpswell is a tiny town on the coast of Maine, but a few of its residents hope its collective voice -- the town meeting -- will send a message that is heard across the nation.

Hannah Trowbridge and Victor Skorapa Jr. have collected more than 100 signatures from residents who support a resolution calling on Congress to prohibit spending for any type of military intervention in Iran by the United States.

Trowbridge and Skorapa presented the resolution to Harpswell's selectmen on Dec. 13. The board took no action, but its members agreed to consider putting the resolution on the March town meeting warrant to let voters decide whether to support it.

Trowbridge said she realizes it's asking a lot of the selectmen and town meeting to take on a national issue, but she believes it's worth the effort. The resolution would be forwarded to members of Maine's congressional delegation.

"We just felt that, here we are, a little town in the middle of nowhere. We want to make a statement to the government that we are paying attention," she said. "I think if we could speak with one voice, it could have a ripple effect. If every person does what they can to promote peace, we can make a difference."

Other towns and cities across the country have considered or adopted similar resolutions to oppose military action against Iran.

Concerns have been increasing in recent months over whether President George Bush would order an attack on Iran based on the belief that it is developing nuclear weapons. Those concerns eased somewhat after the intelligence community said Iran is not building nuclear weapons.

"It would be terribly dangerous," said Skorapa, 84, of attacking Iran. "It would put the Middle East in turmoil. When would we ever get out of that region? Would we ever get out of such a mess?"

Petitions asking local governing bodies or members of Maine's congressional delegation to oppose any war efforts have been circulated in such towns as Freeport, Brunswick, Bath, Georgetown, Westport Island and Woolwich.

Bob Lezer collected more than 200 signatures in Freeport.

"This country does not need another war. We can't afford it, financially or socially," Lezer said.

Selma Sternlieb of Brunswick, who is coordinating a regional petition drive, estimated that more than 1,300 signatures have been collected in southern Maine.

"This is just the beginning," said Sternlieb, who plans to collect more signatures in Brunswick before presenting the petitions to the Brunswick Town Council.

Sternlieb is a member of Peaceworks, a Brunswick organization that has held peace vigils on the Brunswick Mall every Friday night since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"They (the council) will probably say this is not a town issue, but it is," she said. "The billions of dollars that we are spending in Iraq does not go toward repairing bridges or helping people who can't afford to buy heating oil."

"By attacking Iran, we will only be adding to the pain of the world and be doing nothing to alleviate the suffering," Sternlieb said.

Sternlieb said the local petitions are based on a national campaign to encourage diplomacy with Iran. The group leading the national campaign is CodePink Women For Peace.

Gael Murphy is co-founder of CodePink. She said the petition campaign asks that the president and Congress use non-violent means to resolve any conflicts between the nations.

"The more cities and towns that do this, the better. It's an important message for the president and Congress to hear," Murphy said.

Harpswell Selectman Jim Henderson said his board is still pondering whether to put the Iran petition on the March town meeting warrant. A decision will probably be made in January.

"We agree as a board that it is not appropriate for three individuals to speak for the town," Henderson said. "Is it appropriate for the town meeting to consider? We'll have to wait and see, but a war with Iran would definitely affect Harpswell. It might be helpful to policy makers to let them know where we stand."

Copyright © 2007 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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