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Concerning Quakers

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Concerning Quakers

Since the first part of Invasion! seems to go out of its way to bash Quakers, I had better set the record straight before a howling mob of blood relatives—led by my mother!—storms into my office.

I was born a Quaker, and my first memories are of sitting in the front pew of the old Alliance (Ohio) Friends Church not causing a disruption while Father led the singing and Mother played the piano. Much later I met my wife at Quaker Canyon Camp (she was also a ‘birthright Quaker’, from Cleveland), and years later, after simple living-room nuptials, we adjourned to the much newer Alliance Friends Church for the reception. Nobody dressed like the Quaker Oats guy. Nobody spoke in thee‘s and thou‘s unless reading from the King James edition of the Bible. Nobody clamored to expel us when we departed for Fort Benning, Georgia, nor when I graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course and then Ranger School. In fact, the assistant pastor when we left was a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

I can assure you the Quakers of Dolley’s time are not the Quakers I’ve known for my entire life.

And yet . . . .

I recall dozens of older men, respected Quakers in good standing, who had served with honor in either World War Two or the Korean War. None were career soldiers. Some were Quakers who refused Conscientious Objector status and fought because they knew defending their country was the right thing to do. Others became Christians and Quakers following their military service. None of them seemed proud of their service, but almost ashamed, as if it were a dirty little secret from a life long since reformed.

The mild denunciations they endured! Conscientious Objectors held in esteem rather than scorn. A Sunday School wall that sported a poster depicting a child wearing an Army fatigue shirt and helmet, captioned with 1 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. A silver-handled knife hidden away for years to avoid the self-righteous criticism of the more pious. You see, the tale of Dolley’s knife is true, I have it on my desk as I write this. Except that it was made in 1943, in the sand of Tarawa Atoll by my father-in-law, who’d just survived a human-wave attack by firing his artillery piece into Japanese faces at pistol-shot range.

Hidden away! That family heirloom should have been displayed—proudly!—and the story of its making told every Thanksgiving just before it was used to carve the turkey.

So, my beloved Quaker Friends and Family, if my story seems overly harsh and unfair, remember that I wrote it from Dolley’s perspective. Also, remember that I’m describing those Quakers, mostly. Finally, remember those old Quaker combat veterans. We failed them.

 

 

Created in 1943 in the sand of Tarawa Atoll by Sergeant Andy Popick, U.S. Army
Created in 1943 on Tarawa Atoll by Sergeant Andy Popick, U.S. Army.  A Quaker.

 

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