Blood on the Tracks: The Life and
Times of S. Brian Willson
“We are not worth more, they are not worth less.” This is the mantra of S.
Brian Willson and the theme that runs throughout his compelling
psycho-historical memoir. Willson's story begins in small-town, rural
America, where he grew up as a "Commie-hating, baseball-loving Baptist,"
moves through life-changing experiences in Viet Nam, Nicaragua and
elsewhere, and culminates with his commitment to a localized, sustainable
In telling his story, Willson provides numerous examples of the
types of personal, risk-taking, nonviolent actions he and others have taken
in attempts to educate and effect political change: tax refusal, fasting,
and obstruction tactics. It was such actions that thrust Brian Willson into
the public eye in the mid-'80s, first as a participant in a high-profile,
water-only "Veterans Fast for Life" against the Contra war being waged by
his government in Nicaragua. Then, on a fateful day in September 1987, the
world watched in horror as Willson was run over by a U.S. government
munitions train during a nonviolent blocking action in which he expected to
be removed from the tracks and arrested.
Losing his legs only strengthened Willson's identity with millions of unnamed victims of U.S. policy around the world. He provides details of his travels to countries in Latin America and the Middle East and bears witness to the harm done to poor people as well as to the environment by the steamroller of U.S. imperialism. These heart-rending accounts are offered side by side with inspirational stories of nonviolent struggle and the survival of resilient communities.
Willson's expanding consciousness also uncovers injustices within his own country, including insights gained through his study and service within the U.S. criminal justice system and personal experiences addressing racial injustices. He discusses coming to terms with his identity as a Viet Nam veteran and the subsequent service he provides to others as director of a veterans outreach center in New England. He draws much inspiration from friends he encounters along the way as he finds himself continually drawn to the path leading to a simpler life that seeks to "do no harm."
Throughout his personal journey Willson struggles with the question, “Why
was it so easy for me, a 'good' man, to follow orders to travel 9,000 miles
from home to participate in killing people who clearly were not a threat to
me or any of my fellow citizens?” He eventually comes to the realization
that the "American Way of Life" is AWOL from humanity, and that the only way
to recover our humanity is by changing our consciousness, one individual at
a time, while striving for collective cultural changes toward "less and
local." Thus, Willson offers up his personal story as a metaphorical map for
anyone who feels the need to be liberated from the American Way of Life-a
guidebook for anyone called by conscience to question continued obedience to
vertical power structures while longing to reconnect with the human
archetypes of cooperation, equity, mutual respect and empathy.
About S. Brian Willson:
S. Brian Willson is a Viet Nam veteran whose wartime experiences transformed him into a revolutionary nonviolent pacifist. He gained renown as a participant in a prominent 1986 veterans fast on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The fast was in response to funding of Reagan's Contra wars in Central America. One year later, on September 1, 1987, he was again thrust into the public eye when he was run over and nearly killed by a U.S. Navy Munitions train while engaging in a nonviolent blockade in protest of weapons shipments to El Salvador. Since the 1980s he has continued efforts to educate the public about the diabolical nature of U.S. imperialism while striving to "walk his talk" (on two prosthetic legs and a three-wheeled handcycle) by creating a model of right livelihood including a simpler lifestyle.
Visit Brian's web site for his essays and more information.
A film about Brian's life has just been released! (2016)
Purchase "Paying The Price For Peace" from Bo Boudart Productions.
Purchase the book, 'Blood On The Tracks: The Life and
Times of S. Brian Willson'
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