BATH, Maine — Loukie Lofchie and Suzanne Hedrick are anti-war activists who go back decades. They have lost count of the dozens upon dozens of protests they have participated in together, so it’s safe to say that when it comes to activism, they agree on a lot.
Where they differ, however, is on what effect their efforts have had over the years. Saturday outside Bath Iron Works, where they and a dozen others observed the beginning of Advent by decrying the shipyard’s construction of guided-missile destroyers, they found themselves in a rare but convivial disagreement.
“We’ve been protesting and marching together for many, many years,” said Hedrick. “It’s so discouraging that we haven’t made more of a difference.”
Lofchie, 89, of Brunswick, whose activism began during World War II when she lived in German-occupied Holland, piped right in.
“No it isn’t,” said Lofchie to her long-time friend. “Look at all the young people who have joined the 99-percent movement. We have new hope. I think it has really woken up a lot of people.”
Lofchie, who for decades has been a familiar face in protests at Bath Iron Works and throughout Maine, said her participation keeps her involved with like-minded people and, as a bonus, buoys her hope. One of her biggest goals is to see Bath Iron Works build anything other than war machines.
“BIW is full of intelligent people,” she said. “It just seems like they use an awful lot of energy to build weapons of war. We’re just asking them to commit to building peaceful things. I truly believe a lot of the employees here would prefer to do that.”
Lofchie and others at Saturday’s protest suggested that the United States spends far too much on its military considering there are so many needs within its borders that aren’t being met. Those needs range from health care to housing to food for the hungry.
George Ostensen of Hope said he has protested at BIW every fall for the past 12 years. As a Christian, he said it’s his way of celebrating Advent. He intends to continue his protest every Saturday until Christmas.
“I’m not saying anything against the workers here,” he said. “They are great workers but they need to have leadership with a different plan.”
Ostensen said he sees justifications for American military action in other countries becoming harder and harder to understand.
“We have a need to defend ourselves, but to police the whole world is a different ballgame,” he said. “That’s not our business. Our business is here in our own country.”
Mary Heath of Brunswick agreed. She said she protests at BIW “as a matter of principle.”
“It’s just a position I take as a person on this plan not to support war machines,” she said. “I just think it’s not sustainable. This is not World War II anymore. This is almost 2012.”