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 V.21 No.22 | May 31 - June 6, 2012 

From the Foxhole

Preach the Gospel Always

If necessary, use words

Chuck Hosking prepares to ride to Kirtland Air Force Base.
Rebecca Belletto
Chuck Hosking prepares to ride to Kirtland Air Force Base.
Chuck Hosking is an American marvel, as close to a homegrown prophet as you’re likely to come across. In threadbare and patched clothes, riding around Albuquerque on a slipshod bicycle with a plastic bag seat, he remains happily committed to the true gospel.

For the last 50 years, he's lived in defiance of our national character. Instead of being materialistic and acquisitive, he has pursued a life of minimalism and sharing. Instead of being xenophobic, he has sought to connect with other cultures. Instead of being strident and bellicose, he has pursued peace. Instead of embracing our addiction to television and computers, he has never owned either.

At the age of 14, he participated in his first civil rights march. It was Chicago, 1962. Groups of white detractors lined the route, taunting the marchers. He remembers the hatred in their faces. Instead of being cowed, he resolved to follow—truly follow—the compassionate teachings of his Christian upbringing.

His desire to better the world led him to apply to the Episcopalian priesthood as a young man. At that time Vietnam was raging. When he expressed in one job interview that the ministry should be at the forefront of the civil rights and anti-war movements, he was politely shown the door.

This was the same time Martin Luther King Jr. was being ostracized by fellow clergy for speaking out against the war and enjoining the country in protest. “If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight,” King said during a speech in 1967.

Columnist Alex Limkin (right) with Hosking, demonstrating in front of the Hosking residence in Southeast Albuquerque
Rebecca Belletto
Columnist Alex Limkin (right) with Hosking, demonstrating in front of the Hosking residence in Southeast Albuquerque
The young Hosking chose action. He marched against the Vietnam War. He stood up and sat in for black student scholarships. When he received his draft card, he did not burn it. Instead, he tore it to pieces and sent the pieces to the draft board with his name and address. “I wanted them to understand my position in no uncertain terms,” he told me. “I was openly and adamantly noncompliant.”

He began attending Quaker meetings. Several years later, in 1970, while teaching math at a Lower East Side alternative school in New York City, he met his life partner, Mary Ann Fiske. Married in 1971, they committed themselves to social justice and global equity.

After relocating to Albuquerque in 1982, Chuck and Mary Ann did everything possible to live their values of economy, conservation, love of others and sustainability. For the next 25 years until Mary Ann's death in 2007, they subsisted contentedly on about $6,000 a year, tending a robust garden, canning vegetables and practicing thrift.

This was made possible in part by the purchase of their South Broadway home in 1984 for $20,000 in savings, which meant no mortgage. Any other income they earned over the years was donated to charitable organizations in developing countries. Given that their annual income remained below the taxable minimum, they took comfort in not funding war.

Hosking discusses Paul Chappell's book   The End of War   with Limkin.
Rebecca Belletto
Hosking discusses Paul Chappell's book The End of War with Limkin.
Chuck may be best known for the weekly vigils he has maintained at the gates of Kirtland Air Force Base dating back to Ash Wednesday 1983. There, often alone and buffeted by inclement weather, he has patiently held banners encouraging passing motorists to question their involvement with weapons research and development.

I am in awe of Chuck. Not only does he live his values, he does so without arrogance, narcissism, spite or hostility.

For too many years I believed in the wrong religion and practiced the wrong faith. I believed in the religion of violence, the religion of superior firepower. I believed, narcissistically, we had the right to menace the world, spending half our tax dollars on weapons and weapons research and weapons training.

Now that I have a garden to tend, I am hopeful. Is not a soldier planting seeds a harbinger of peace?

Alex Escué Limkin served in the U.S. Army for 15 years, including a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. He documents his experience as an Iraq veteran at warriorswithwesthusing.org.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
 
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