THE NEW YORK TIMES, MONDAY, DECEMBER 24, 1990 21
Small Lights in the
By Donna Baranski-Walker
It gets dark early in New Hampshire now that
winter has set in. The leaves have fallen since
September, when I first began my quiet effort in
My candle still shines out on Friday evenings
with its silent message to the families of Iraq. The
neighbors across the street keep their candle shining
too — two small lights in the cold, deep darkness of
A candle in the window. It is a quiet message of
reason and hope: “Understand that we do not want
to be your enemy. Instead of fighting a deadly war,
can we, as neighbors, build a just and honorable
If the light extends beyond my home to houses
throughout my town and then throughout the
country, perhaps the people in the many lands
affected by the crisis — Europe, Asia, India and
especially the countries of the Middle East will also
join in this quiet gesture.
By itself this will not solve the problem, but
what if families in Iraq, having already suffered
eight years of great war, also place a candle in their
window one night, for peace? Despite all the
barriers of language, history and culture we are not
so different on the most basic, fundamental level.
We all have families — children, mothers and
fathers, brothers and sisters — whom we care about
deeply. Surely we can work this out without
rewarding aggression or being forced to war.
A few hundred people in my town have joined
this gesture, and I know of Friday night pockets of
candlelight throughout the U.S. I have received
letters from some 70 people in small towns like
Centuria, Wis., Micanopy, Fla., and larger cities
like Los Angeles, Kansas City and Winnipeg.
I have received telegrams from South Korea, the
only other place where the United Nations ever
authorized the use of force. Thousands of Koreans
are placing a Friday candle in their windows; some
write to say that this idea moved them to tears.
People in Japan, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands,
France, Denmark and Poland have learned of it
through computer networks.
There is no “organization” spreading the
message. It started with my family in New
Hampshire and it is carried by the energy of the
people who hear of it and take it to heart. People
have spread the word in their church papers, faxed
and mailed it to out-of-town friends and relatives.
In this age of the “global village,” a news message
can reach every corner of the world in a day. Surely
we can use this network to reach out, while there is
Americans are not prone to national gestures. It
must be difficult to imagine why such an effort
holds any validity.
Yet the Czechs and the Poles have shown the
worth of national gestures as a mechanism for
achieving one’s goals when other nonviolent means
have failed. In the bleak years preceding their
revolutions, they placed candles in their windows to
voice their solidarity with those against the
totalitarianism regimes in control. At the very least
the window light showed individuals that they were
One of my neighbors stopped placing a candle
in his window. He sees negotiation as equivalent to
concession. He believes we should just go in there,
bomb Baghdad and get this over with quickly.
It cannot be so simple. Once the killing starts,
once innocent people die, there is little room left for
talking and negotiation. Even when a war is “won,”
the hatred and animosity left over festers for a long,
It is not a question of peace at any cost. The
world community, through the deadline set by the
Security Council, has demonstrated a readiness to
use force if the international embargo proves
unsuccessful. Have we demonstrated just as clearly
how deeply we desire, how strongly we prefer, a
just honorable resolution through peaceful means
over resolution through force?
The silent candle holds many voices in its
message to the people of Iraq. It is a way to show
that we, people of every type, belief, background
and race offer our thoughts, prayers and support for
a fair and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
It is a symbol of support for our soldiers far
away from their families: Please be safe and
unharmed. It is a willingness to go the extra mile to
find avenues of understanding. It is a quiet,
determined belief that people of goodwill can
triumph over violence.
In my family, we will place our candle in the
window this Friday evening, and every Friday
evening as long as the crisis lasts. Across the street,
my neighbors’ candle will quietly shine out once
again to meet ours somewhere in the darkness of
the night. And maybe, just maybe, the light will be
bright enough. ❑