A committed group of about forty individuals arrived Eugene on Friday, carrying with them the flame of Hiroshima, the inspiration of hope, and the power of the people. Walking the leg of their five month journey that took them from Junction City to Eugene proved a challenge that they had not yet encountered. Prejudice rang out in the sound of two shots fired from a nearby (high power) rifle. Moments later a pickup truck sped past them, passengers flipped them the proverbial finger. They were next greeted by a confederate flag hanging from a tree.
The previous day was not without it challenges either. Treesa, a Portland resident who has been with the Hiroshima Flame Walk since its commencement in Bainbridge Island, WA., told me that they had walked eighteen miles yesterday in the worst weather so far. Though relieved to reach Monroe to take respite for the night in a church, she said that they felt unwanted there. The pastor was edgy and uncomfortable. Andy, one of the walkers from Portland, and our very own IMC reporter, tells me it was due to the threats that the pastor had received on his answering machine regarding hosting the walkers in the church. Hmmm, I thought we were all god's children...
Perhaps symbolic of the unwelcoming community, the church lost electrical power (due to a wild windstorm that hit Lane County earlier that day) fifteen minutes after the group settled into the church. Not to fear since they had the brightly burning flame of Hiroshima and some church candles to provide their night light.
Andy, who intends to go the entire distance of the flame walk, said that Chisao, the Flame Walk coordinator, has been the recipient of threats all along the way. According to Andy, someone yelled out to her, "they should've bombed all of Japan". Another called her a "slant-eyed gook". But Chisao's resolve remains strong, impervious. I was impressed with her enthusiastic energy and her level of organizational ability to keep the group on task.
Upon arriving Eugene in the late afternoon, the Flame Walkers merged efforts with the weekly Peace Vigil held on Friday at the Federal building. A few members of the core group shared their vision of the Hiroshima Flame Walk with those of us in attendance.
We heard from a Native American elder who was lovingly embracing the lantern that holds the Hiroshima flame. She prayed aloud, saying that the fire is our heart, our future, our past and present. She told us that she is helping to carry the flame home to Arizona, to the land where the raw radioactive materials that helped to construct the bomb originated. Returning the flame to this location is a symbolic act of extinguishing the flame of cultural division, discrimination and destruction, in hopes that it will resurrect a new unity amongst all nations - One Planet Indivisible.
Tom, representing Indigenous peoples, told us that they are doing a "Walk of Peace" for the future of the children. He went on to say, "though the walkers are physically and spiritually suffering and hurting, they are walking strong with prayers and the power of their ancestors".
We also heard from Eugenian Stanley Thompson, a retired nuclear engineer who worked in the nuclear energy industry for seventeen years. He said that he finally quit because "it [nuclear energy] is a death sentence to everyone who comes into contact with it." Thompson ended his speech by announcing that he is now an "anti-nuclear engineer".
The circle closed with a sing-along led by Shingo, African-american Flame Walker who carries a large blue flag with the picture of the earth and the words "One People - One Earth". The song, one that his grandfather used to sing, refers to "economic slavery"... "Before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave"...
After the Peace Vigil a community potluck was held at the Jefferson Middle School. Food was aplenty, which, according to Treesa has been a common occurrence in all of the towns that the group has spent a night in thus far. After dinner, The eugene love rEvolutionaries interviewed a few of the Flame Walkers. Their words and conviction are such an inspiration. I am deeply in awe of the diligence and undaunted passion that the Flame Walkers possess. Om mani padme hung.