By Peter Bergel
Editorâ€™s Note: I wrote the following letter to the judge whose unenviable task it is to sentence the Kings Bay Plowshares actionists recently found guilty of conspiracy, destruction of government property, depredation and trespassing for a 2018 anti-nuclear weapons protest at Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia. If you would like to write your own letter, please send it to Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, c/o Bill Quigley, Loyola University New Orleans Law Clinic, Campus Box 902, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118 by December 20. â€“ Peter Bergel
Regarding Sentencing of: Martha Hennessy and the other six members of the Kings Bay Plowshares
Dear Judge Wood,
My name is Peter Bergel. I had the opportunity to meet and travel with Martha Hennessy in 2016. I found her to be a very sincere, very dedicated individual whose values often prompt her to take action on behalf of the well-being of the human family.
I have spent large portions of my life working to end the scourge of nuclear weapons so I consider Martha to be a sister-resister and I admire her commitment to the cause, though I do not necessarily share her affinity for the particular action that occasions this letter. However, whether one likes or despises her choice of tactics for making clear her opposition to nuclear weapons, I believe that all citizens of planet Earth should be grateful to her for taking a stand in defense of us all. That would include Your Honor. You may have decided that the facts in this case necessitate a guilty verdict â€“ and in that I suspect all the Kings Bay Plowshares members might even agree with you. However, in considering whether this action deserves a harsh or a light sentence, I believe the debt of gratitude that you, along with everyone else, owe to these people should be allowed to argue for very light punishment, if any at all.
I am pretty sure that Martha would not want me to write you anything that sounded like a plea for leniency, and indeed leniency is not what I am urging. Leniency suggests that someone be dealt a light sentence even though they did a more serious wrong. In this case, I believe that whatever wrong might have been done is far out-weighed by the service to humanity that was done at the same time. Therefore, I am encouraging you to act in the service of gratitude.
Assuming you have read this far, I thank you for your time and attention.
Peter Bergel is the long-time leader of Oregon PeaceWorks and the editor of its monthly news magazine, the PeaceWorker.