Activist’s writings explore results of militarism, greed

“Hope, But Demand Justice: Collected Writings”
by Pat Hynes (215 pages, $22.95 paperback, $9 e-version)

Perhaps, like me, you always meant to read Howard Zinn’s classic, “A People’s History of the United States” and, like me, just never got around to reading the entire 729-page alternate telling of our country’s history.

Zinn’s book is considered an “alternate” recounting by some as he reports from the eyes, ears and voices of the oppressed, the victims of US laws, programs, policies and wars. I was freshly reminded of his book reviews while reading Pat Hynes’ recently published “Hope, But Demand Justice,” published articles, and commentaries on a wide range of subjects.

Like Zinn, Hynes goes beneath the surface to expose the underbelly of conflicts, the unheard voices, the realties and the consequences (intended or not) of policies pursued by those in power.

Hynes’ writings are loosely gathered around broad topics of climate change, militarism, nuclear weapons, the pandemic, feminism, veterans and social justice. It’s astounding that such a slim book, at 215 pages, can cover so many areas of current concern and conflict.

Randy Kehler, a world-renown local hero activist, states in his foreword to the book, “I trust Pat Hynes,” and I agree. Hynes, of Montague, does her homework on her. She’s an accomplished researcher with a career as an environmental engineer, often charged with cleaning up Superfund sites, and has served as director of environmental justice projects.

After setting back in western Massachusetts, with the knowledge that there is no peace without justice, Hynes and others added “justice” to the name of “Traprock Center for Peace and Justice.”

Reading her writings on war, militarism, nuclear weapons and international relations at this moment is particularly difficult, relevant and revealing in the light they shed on our current world situation, with Russia invading Ukraine and the ever-looming threat posed by nuclear weapons. Hynes captures the missed opportunities, the forces at play and the realities of our chosen path.

With clarity and strength, Hynes tells us that four years, 1898-1902, set our course for the next century and into the 21st century for global preeminence and power. She goes on to recount how this mentality created our department of “Offense” inaptly named “Department of Defense.”

She suggests that living by the “Golden Rule” in international relations would manifest today a very different situation, particularly in regard to our two existential threats of climate change and nuclear weapons.

As this past Earth Day was observed, it is poignant to read of the myriad assaults on the natural world that sustains us. Hynes traces how polluted rivers, hazardous waste sites, pesticides and agricultural practices all contribute to species extinction, climate change and radical social injustice.

In a few paragraphs, Hynes connects the dots between the path of toxic runoff by General Electric into the Housatonic River in the 1980s to the awareness and birth of environmental justice in Warren County, North Carolina.

Again and again, Hynes describes and describes how our mentality of “might is right” makes the Pentagon the leading polluter of climate change emissions in the world. Speaking of the United States, Hynes states, “Military is the most oil intensive activity on the planet.”

Ultimately, this is a book about peace. As Hynes writes, “We women have almost universally won our rights, tactically and intelligently across history, without using warplanes, drones, soldiers, bombs, or guns.”

And it is about justice. It’s about everybody’s right to have their needs met by creating the opportunity to live peacefully with each other and the planet. It is difficult to read JFK’s words as spoken on June 10, 1963: “For in the final analysis, we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Hynes’ book speaks to how and why we diverged from that vision of Kennedy’s.

Clearly written, incorporating personal experiences into historical perspective, Hynes presents us with an often “alternate or fuller” take on the many devastating issues we are facing today and an understanding of how we arrived at this junction.

“Hope, But Demand Justice” is written in short essays to be read individually or by a specific topic. You will want to keep it on hand as a reference book to be remembered again and again that there are always choices, and of the many other groups and groups that have chosen to work toward peace and justice. It is a necessary read for all of us.

“Hope, But Demand Justice” is available at local booksellers and can also be purchased at pathyneshopebook.com.

Susan Lantz of Easthampton is a longtime collaborator and activist with Pat Hynes as members of Nuclear Free Future.

.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: