Letters to the Editor, Circleville Herald, Circleville, Ohio

 17 October 2007

Huckleberry Finn and “Eyes Wide Open”

Perhaps the most well known chapter of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is also its moral high ground. Huck has been helping Jim, the Sawyer family’s runaway slave to escape.  He has been pursued by armed law enforcement officer’s as well as the good citizens  and businessmen of Hannibal, Missouri. Huck is further tormented in his own consciousness, knowing that he is stealing, or assisting in Jim’s theft of himself. Huck replays all the sermons he has heard in church, all the discussions on the town square about the evils of the godless northern abolitionists, yet he sympathizes with Jim, now recognizing him to be a human being in need, like himself. Huck grows beyond the conventional wisdom of his time, risking even eternal damnation by stealing Jim, becoming a here-and-now abolitionist, resolving “All right then, I’ll GO to Hell!” What brings Huck to an independent moral decision? A personal encounter with the humanity of the escaped slave Jim.

The Circleville Friends Worship Group (more commonly known as Quakers) and Veterans for Peace invite you to a personal encounter with the human cost of the Iraq War on the Pickaway County Courthouse steps Friday, October 26th through Sunday October 27th. We shall host speakers and group music and singing of peace songs on Saturday the 27th from Noon till 4:00 p.m.

“Eyes Wide Open - The Human Cost of the Iraq War” features an empty pair of combat boots for each of the almost 180 Ohio troops killed in Iraq as well as a collection of civilian shoes for the over 100,000 Iraqis civilians killed.

So few of us have a human connection with the Iraq War.  The caskets coming home are, by executive order, forbidden to photo-journalists.  Almost none of our 535 elected federal representatives have a son or daughter serving in our armed forces. Few of us have a relative, wrongfully suffering “extraordinary rendition,” aka tortured and held without legal rights.  Few of us are concerned about the unknown tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children killed directly by the euphemism of  "collateral damage” inflicted by U.S. firepower. Few of us are concerned with the damage to our national character suffered by these actions.  Some, including the majority of the House and Senate, have become aware that money for children’s healthcare is irresponsibly being siphoned into an unnecessary war that we started because we couldn’t think straight after 9/11.

We invite you to a quiet contemplative moment, among the combat boots and shoes our lack of a personal connection has emptied at “Eyes Wide Open.”  Perhaps in the stillness, we can begin to atone as a nation. It is a long road ahead, but one we can and must travel.


Brad Cotton,

Convener, Circleville Friends Worship Group