Stacy Bannerman, the new executive director of Peace House in Ashland, is a seasoned author, lobbyist and national talk show guest, who has come here to further its present programs, such as Uncle Food’s Diner, and to focus on ending the nation’s wars and shed light on the largely unrecognized manner in which wars are brought home by combat veterans.
Helping in Uncle Food’s Diner on her second day on the job Tuesday, Bannerman lauded Ashland’s conscious and active “culture of peace,” adding “we need to do everything we can to stop the violence and stop pretending the war did not come home.”
She foresees expanded educational projects, getting the message out to the media and having lobby days with supporters visiting capitols in Salem and Washington, where she has often conferred with legislators and testified before Congressional committees.
“Ashland is clearly ahead of the curve on peace and (being named to head Peace House) is an invitation to advance the work. There is a bubble around us in this country, because there is still war going on. We have a moral and democratic obligation to engage the values of peace and embody them on a larger scale. As a community, we can’t disengage from the country’s foreign policy.”
Bannerman and her husband came to the Rogue Valley in 2008. She was founding Executive Director of Sanctuary One, an animal shelter in the Applegate Valley, overseeing healing programs with veterans, animals and nature.
The North Dakota native was founding executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Outreach Center and the program and marketing director at Genesis II for Women, an alternative-to-sentencing agency. She was interviewed on Hardball with Chris Matthews, BBC, Deborah Norville on MSNBC, the Lehrer News Hour, NBC Nightly News and The Connection on PBS/NOW, according to her website, www.stacybannerman.com.
Bannermann decried the continuing wars and suggestions the U.S. should attack Iran, noting a Yale study that showed domestic violence would decrease 21 percent if combat veterans were not in the picture. She was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and, she says, a third of National Guard equipment and forces were not there to help because they were in Iraq. She also faulted the present violence in Baltimore, noting “a city is declaring war on its people,” using equipment and trained law enforcement personnel that had come from Iraq.
Peace house board President Herb Rothschild said it was “great good fortune” to get Bannerman as chief. “She came just in time in our search, though we have a good pool of applicants. Peace House is in good shape, with strong programs and secure financial support.
“She has extensive first-hand knowledge and is eloquent about the damage war does to people when combat veterans come home. It’s terrible mental trauma and changes of personality, with huge impact to the family. We’ve not had anyone with that kind of experience here, to communicate to people the complete unacceptability of the military solution.”
On national talk shows, Bannerman said the make-or-break for the hosts was getting a 15-second soundbite, interviewing in a “talk show persona” and stacking interviewees before and after her with pro-war comments.
Bannerman was at the quadrennial election night celebration at the Historic Ashland Armory in 2008, cheering what she thought would be the end of all wars and in the same hour, talking to her husband, who had just put boots on the ground in Iraq.
About war ending, she says, “I was wrong. It sure looks like it (perpetual war) from where I sit ... I’m going to tell myself this till I believe it: I’m blessed to have had the personal experience I’ve had, protesting war, which my husband was getting into and getting personal knowledge that comes by the awful grace of God. As Martin Luther King said, ‘You have to have a tough mind and a tender heart.’”
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.