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OVER 2000 Harvard and Radcliffe students and professors will begin a day-long "fast for peace" this afternoon to demonstrate their outrage over present American policies in Viet Nam. It would be foolish to believe that the fast will have any measurable impact on the American war effort, but the demonstration is nevertheless likely to have several constructive effects and should be supported.
The one certain, calculable result of today's fast is that North and South Vietnamese war victims will benefit from over $3500 of desperately needed aid. Though the staggering damage the United States has done in Southeast Asia makes this contribution no more than symbolic, there is still a good chance that the money will save some lives and make a few other lives more bearable. This in itself would make the fast worthwhile.
Today's demonstration, however, may also help maintain the momentum of the peace movement after its peak last month in Washington. The fast can hardly match the November 15 march in dramatic impact, but for individual participants, this demonstration could be just as important. Hundreds of people who have never fasted before will experience a hint of the hunger which is a fact of life for South Vietnamese peasants whose fields have been destroyed by American bombs and defoliating agents. It is just possible that bringing the war home in even this small way may generate new commitment to peace in some individuals.
It is hard to think of any demonstrations that have directly affected American policies in Viet Nam and unlike the march on Washington, the fast has not managed even to create the illusion that it could. But in its quiet way, the fast will work to repair the incalculable damage the United States has done in Southeast Asia.
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