By Sarah Bisker
March 20, 2003
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
[Editor’s note, 2/23/13 — Readers of my site will surely see that I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing The Post. However, I’m also happy to point out when the Ohio University student newspaper is at its best — as was certainly the case in its March 20, 2003 edition. That day, The Post followed a front page headline announcing the U.S. attack on Iraq with four separate stories on different aspects of local anti-war activities, one on protests in Washington, D.C., an article on OU professors’ opinions of the war, a piece on students whose opinions on the war were either supportive or conflicted, an article presenting the positions of Ohio Congressional representatives on the war and more. All things considered, The Post did an excellent job providing relatively in-depth local context to a story of international importance. It is likely that some prior and subsequent editors and writers of the newspaper would not have handled the matter so well. However, in terms of its handling of this issue, The Post’s staff in the spring of 2003 gave an exemplary performance.]
Students and community members expressed strong emotions on the streets of Athens yesterday.
After a rally in the crosswalk of Court and Union Streets, another group assembled peacefully last night at the Athens County Courthouse to protest war.
More than 30 people gathered with candles and umbrellas to express themselves through song, conversation and silent prayer. For some, this vigil was added to a long list in a life working for peace.
Athens resident and poet Wendy McVicker protested against the Vietnam conflict when she was in high school and decided to become a Quaker and raise her sons in that faith in her 30s.
“Peacemakers feel they take the same risks soldiers take,” she said. “Only with spiritual equipment.”
McVicker said a vigil is a significant measure of protest because it serves as ground for communication and a place where people with similar views can join together.
A rally like earlier (yesterday) included speeches, marching and singing,” she said. “It’s a way to get the word out and attract attendance. A vigil is where people come together and stand watch for something.”
She said she realizes a vigil or a protest is not an appropriate outlet for everyone. But, she felt a public action was an important way for her to communicate.
“For me, taking this kind of action is essential to keep you from falling into either depression and despair on the one hand, and rage on the other. This feels like positive
action to me,” McVicker said.
For Ohio University philosophy professor and vigil attendant Alyssa Bernstein, her presence was not meant to target individuals but show a unified voice.
“We aren’t doing this to convince everyone driving by in a car. What we are doing is standing up here in a quiet, public way about our values,” she said. “There may be people
out there who haven’t signed something, or joined a march, or haven’t come out to stand on a street corner, but who will be heartened however to see that there are other people out there.”
OU senior and accounting major Megan Wagner said the vigil represented a public discourse for education.
“I really hope people realize we need to make our voices heard. I don’t believe we have to see and hold everyone’s ideas,” Wagner said. “Being for America is being for all kinds of opinions. Not everyone is blindly supporting the American government.”