On a Thursday night a few months back, I saw a conscientious objector from South Dakota at the University of Toronto. Before I saw him in person, I had heard Jeremy Hinzman’s name in Quaker circles and then on a CBC radio program which narrated stories of Vietnam and Iraqi war resisters in Canada. Hinzman’s quietly humorous voice had impressed me, especially when recounting his “reason for visit” to immigration officials at the Canadian border: “We’re going to visit Friends.” Luckily the border staff didn’t detect the implied F, but if they had noticed it might have spelled trouble for the visitor and his family, for these kind of Friends welcome fugitive soldiers, even shelter them in their homes, just as they did for Underground Railroad refugees more than a century ago.
As an American who immigrated to Canada via Britain, I sympathize with Hinzman’s plight and agree with his position on the war. That’s why I was so keen to hear the views of a former US military insider. I have also shared some aspects of Jeremy’s situation, such as sheltering at the Society of Friends’ Meeting House when I first came to Toronto almost three years ago. Although I was fleeing isolation from my family instead of a command to fight in Iraq, I think displacement is universally disorienting. Moreover, as a peaceful American and daughter of a Navy man, I wanted to learn more about Hinzman’s experience.
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