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She Walked for All of Us - Louise Bruyn's book

She Walked for All of Us
One Woman’s 1971 Protest Against an Illegal War
Louise Bruyn
Distinction Press, Waitsfield Vermont
2013
 
More than forty years ago, Louise Bruyn, dance-teacher, housewife, mother, Quaker, from Newton, Massachusetts set out from her home to walk to Washington, DC to tell President Nixon to end the war on Vietnam.
 
Interestingly, the evocative photo of Louise on the cover of the book reminded me of The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien about a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam. Much has been written about the history of the war and a fair literature has evolved based on the personal experiences of the soldiers, such as O’Brien’s great work. 
 
Yet, not that much has been written by peace activists who opposed the Vietnam War through the 1960’s to its conclusion with the U.S. defeat in 1975, telling their stories.
 
This book is important to me, because of the rare courage and perseverance that I know is required to wage non-violent struggles toward the most positive end – that we all might live in peace, in balance with nature ­­– on this planet.   
 
Contained in the why of each personal story is the how. How did people oppose the Vietnam War? When the war ended, what did they do? Many people have lived entire lives of resistance and these stories can and should be told. The importance of retrospect in giving stories to paper for future understanding of the history is as important as taking action was during the time of the Vietnam War.
 
On February 6,1971, Louise read an op-ed in the Boston Globe from which she quotes, “Vietnam Village wipeout proof of how deeply the nation is sunk in anesthesia.” Distressed and disturbed by her own feeling of “anesthesia,” despite some years of war protest, Louise tells how the idea of walking to Washington, DC to tell President Nixon took hold of her in such a way that she had to carry it out. 
 
She set out on a purposeful journey against the purposeless war that was killing and displacing millions of people in Indo-China and had brought about the deaths of 44,676 U.S. soldiers by March 19, 1971. 
 
From February 17, 1971 through April 2, 1971, she walked from Newton, Massachusetts, through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland before reaching her goal. The gentle reader will feel the rhythm of her feet as she, step by step, places one foot in front of the other down the east coast. 
 
Louise tells us in daily detail of the people she met along the way, of the support community that helped her on the journey, of how she came to see the weather differently traveling each day in the rain, shine or snow. She juxtaposes natural world beauty with the reality of truck exhaust and litter on the highway, in a duality that mirrors the purpose of her walk to end the war.
 
She finds support in unexpected acts of kindness, occasionally from people who disagree with her. She is reflective and self-critical in describing personal aspects of the journey. There are moments of elation as well as tears for the reader. 
 
Interviewed by reporters (local and national press, TV and radio), each place she goes, Louise is always working, sometimes struggling to keep the focus on the war and not on her feet or the weight of her pack. This is her great aim as she goes.
 
I was surprised (and delighted) by her being interviewed on March 22, 1971 by a reporter for the Wilmington Morning News named Cathy Wolff, whom I know as the Clamshell Alliance media spokesperson (from the No Nukes movement later in the 1970’s). 
 
Louise incorporates very carefully chosen quotes from The New York Times for each day of her journey to illustrate the news of the day at that time. This helps the reader navigate the labyrinth of history. 
 
At “the pace of a snail, a unit of one….the power of the spirit in me was unleashed in the process. The action for me was humanizing. The response from others had led me to believe it was also humanizing for them.” (pp. 196-197).
 
This book is valuable because Louise Bruyn shows us how by her singular action she was able to galvanize people all along the way in this tale of the eternal struggle of humanity to find the path from the power of one to the power of many. 
 
Many thanks to the Friend who alerted me to She Walked for All of Us.
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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