The day before war broke out last month, city councillors passed a resolution demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf.
Now, after weeks of fighting and with a ground war seemingly imminent, the City Council has thrown its weight behind the American presence and is advocating a swift end to hostilities.
Miniature American flags adorn the desks in the council chamber, yellow ribbons decorate the trees and bushes outside City Hall and a banner stating "God bless and protect our troops--bring them home safe," hangs across Mass. Ave. outside the council building.
Ever since war broke out in the Persian Gulf last month, the City Council has had to grapple with the question of how to respond on the local level to a national crisis.
Councillors have had to determine how to construct a cohesive municipal policy and present a unified front to the state and federal governments while taking into account the diverse viewpoints of Cambridge citizens.
"We are trying as adequately as we can to represent the needs of the community...to give people a voice. Desperate attempts are being made to retain a dialogue and a respect for differing opinions," says Councillor Ed N. Cyr. "Cambridge has a long history of speaking out on issues of national concern. We are one of the voices the people have."
According to Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55, the council should act as a mouthpiece for its citizenry and provide methods for its citizens to come to terms with the crisis.
"The City Council does represent the community," he explains. "I do think that the council can serve as a kind of sounding board, and certainly when a country goes to war people need somewhere to express themselves."
The council sent copies of the resolution it passed last week, which expressed "its hope for rapid Allied success in fulfilling the United Nations' mandate with a minimum of civilian, American and Allied casualties," to state and federal lawmakers.
In addition, the city has passed an order that will ensure that Cambridge reservists called up to serve in the Gulf will not lose their salaries during their tours of duty. And some councillors are trying to pass a resolution which will allow police officers to display American flags on their jackets.
Municipal Peace Group
In addition, the city's Peace Commission, created in Cold War-era 1982 to provide education about peace to Cambridge students and citizens, has stepped up its outreach activities since the war began in an effort to help people confront the crisis the nation faces, says Director Cathy Hoffman.
According to Hoffman, since January 16 the commission has directed its community involvement efforts towards three different fronts: in-school peace programs, measures to prevent harrassment of Jews and Arabs and neighborhood open discussions.
"It's as important for people with different points of view to talk to one another as it is to stop the war," she says. "Right at this moment it's important to just have dialogue."
Early this month, the Peace Commission sponsored a community forum about the war in the Middle East that drew almost 100 citizens to the cafeteria of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School to air their opinions about the war and how it had touched their lives.
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