Terry Messman: Blockading the ‘White Train of Death’


You know the saints not by their works but by their dreams. Terry Messman’s wonderful article on Jim and Shelley Douglass and the great movement of White Train activists and Catholic communitarians gives you a glimpse at not only the fruits of their lives of faith but of the dreams that inspire.

I first visited Jim and Shelley at the Ground Zero community near Seattle in 1984. Barbara Bennett (of blessed memory) and I were driving from Davis, Calif., to Seattle to catch the Inside Passage car ferry to Haines, Alaska, then on to Anchorage. We spent the night at the Ground Zero community’s tracks house outside the perimeter of the Bangor nuclear submarine base on the Hood Canal. I remember watching the sunset turn the gun-metal grey sub hangers a deep, disturbing red.

I’ve had the honor of knowing Jim and Shelley since then and being a guest and hosting them as guests in the tradition of Christian hospitality. They are mentors, saints, prophets, and friends. (Learn more about Jim Douglass’ books and witness and Shelley Douglass’ witness and ministry at Mary’s House.)

Thank you to Terry Messman for this exceptional article on one portion of their lives:

Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, has been a lifelong source of inspiration for James and Shelley Douglass, both in their nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear weapons, and also in their solidarity with poor and homeless people.

Day devoted her life to the works of mercy for the poorest of the poor, and often quoted Fyodor Dostoevsky on the high cost of living out the ideal of love in the real world. “As Dostoevsky said: ‘Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.’”

The same warning might be given to those who try to live out the ideal of nonviolence in action, since love and nonviolence are essentially one and the same. (One of Mohandas Gandhi’s descriptions of nonviolent resistance is “love-force.”)

Although it may be heartening to read about nonviolence in the lives of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Dorothy Day, it is a more “harsh and dreadful” proposition to engage in actual resistance to a nuclear submarine capable of destroying hundreds of cities, and protected by the most powerful government in the world.

Instead of nonviolence in dreams, one faces nonviolence in handcuffs and jail cells, nonviolence sailing in the path of massive submarines, nonviolence on the tracks blockading “the train out of hell.”

By the early 1980s, Jim and Shelley Douglass and the members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action had created a highly visible campaign of resistance to the Trident nuclear submarine based at Bangor Naval Base near Seattle. …

Read Blockading the ‘White Train of Death’ by Terry Messman

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