An Article from the York Weekly dated August 29, 2001 from The York Weekly. The photo and article was by Michael P. Keating of the York Weekly. Courtesy of York Weekly and Seacoast Online.
York Weekly for the past 50 years Miles Freeman has been writing letters: Letters to the editors of newspapers, letters to congressmen, senators, presidents; anyone really who might lend him an ear for a moment and see the world through his eyes.
Unlike the stock of local letters to the editors of newspapers such as The York Weekly, or The York County Coast Star, Freeman's letters don't pertain to zoning issues or selectmen's activities. No, when it comes to writing letters to the editor, the world is Freeman's stage.
American involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early-'70s, the Central American contra wars in the 1980s and the war against Iraq in the 1990s have been just a few of the issues Freeman has centered on in his letter-writing campaigns. His latest letter, which can be read starting on Page A7, centers on the recently revealed charges of alleged American atrocities committed during the Korean War.
It all started because I saw something in the newspaper that I didn't like so I wrote a letter to the editor, and what I wrote got a lot of response, so I just kept on writing, said Freeman, who just turned 81 years old, and who has been a pacifist for as long as he can he can remember. I don't mind spouting my mouth off, and I do get some good responses. Some people call me Commie, and tell me to go back where I came from, but I don't let that bother me. I'm no Communist, no sir, but I always say that Godless Capitalism is not better than Godless Communism.
While Freeman spends a good deal of time writing letters, he also remains active in his church, The York-Ogunquit Methodist Church, where he serves as the official bell-ringer/greeter for the church's thrice-weekly summer pancake breakfast fund-raisers at the church's Shore Road location in Ogunquit. He also continues to serve as a board member of the York County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, an organization he helped to found in the mid-1970s.
This Saturday, Sept. 1, the church will donate all of its pancake breakfast proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, and Freeman will be on hand to answer questions about the organization's efforts to help build housing for low-income people in York County, and the world over. The breakfast costs $4 per person and runs from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Over the years, Freeman, quite often with his wife, Dr. Ruth Endicott Freeman, have traveled extensively through Latin America helping to build houses and schools on Habitat-sponsored initiatives. The Freemans have lived in Ogunquit and been members of the York-Ogunquit Methodist Church since 1955.
Freeman traces his pacifist leanings to the teachings of Jesus Christ which he learned as a child. We learned that Christ forgive his enemies, that he turned the other cheek, the whole bit, he said.
When he was attending the University of Maine in the early 1940s, Freeman became a member of the Maine Christian Association, a student group whose director was a pacifist. During this time he also came across a book titled, Character Bad, by Harold Studley Gray, a conscientious objector jailed during World War I for refusing to fight and kill the enemy. The book is a collection of letters Gray wrote to his mother from prison. After meeting and speaking with A.J. Mustie, one of the most famous pacifists in the country who spoke on campus, Freeman decided to register for the World War II draft as a conscientious objector and request alternative service.
Asked how he felt about not fighting against someone as evil as Adolph Hitler, Freeman countered that Hitler was to a certain extent a creation of the Allied powers. Hitler was supported by the allies for a very long time, he said. At the height of his power the allies gave (Hitler) as much support as they gave the Weimar Republic forces, the same as we did with Saddam until he got out of hand. We can do lots of things to avert war, if we want to, and that's what I've spent my life trying to do.
Some of the things Freeman has done include joining the fellowship of like-minded Christians at Koinonia, Georgia, in 1942. Named after the Biblical name for community, Koinonia was a first of its kind, integrated community of black and white Christians in a farm-style setting.
I would go down there and volunteer to work the farm for about two or three weeks each year, explained Freeman. It was here that I met Millard Fuller, the man who started Habitat for Humanity (in 1976). I wanted to stay on and work there with Habitat but Millard said, No, Miles, you go back home and start up a chapter where you live, and so I did.
Freeman and others created the York County Chapter in 1984 and over the years that chapter has helped to create nine other affiliated chapters of Habitat for Humanity in the state of Maine. We've built homes for about 17 families in York County in the last 15 years, said Freeman. Habitat celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with its annual conference Sept. 12 in Indianapolis, and Freeman plans on attending to help celebrate the more than 100,000 homes built by over 1,400 U.S. affiliated chapters, as well as the more than 100 chapters around the world.
Habitat for Humanity was created to help alleviate the housing crisis here and abroad with special emphasis placed on helping people of low to moderate income build and buy their own homes. To be eligible for a Habitat home, an applicant must have an income of between $10,000 to $20,000 annually, said Freeman. They must also be willing to put in between 200 to 300 hours of sweat equity into the building of their home, or someone else's home being built by Habitat for Humanity.
The low-interest mortgage is paid by the homeowner over time, but the mortgage itself is held by the local Habitat chapter until it is paid in full. It's set up so that they have to pay to cover all the materials that go into the home, said Freeman. It's also set up so that nobody gets something for nothing. Not content to sit back and let the government charged with representing him conduct a foreign policy he believes is at odds with fundamental human rights act in his name, Freeman has in recent years taken part in travelogues with members of the group, Witness for Peace. If the vast majority of the American public knew what was being done in their name they'd stand up and do something about it, said Freeman, who traveled to Columbia in March to join in solidarity with the peasants there who are allegedly being displaced by the so-called war on drugs.
1.3 billion in American taxpayer money is going there ostensibly to fight drugs, but 80 percent of it is going to the military which is forcibly fumigating and spraying agriculture to kill off all the coca plants (which produce cocaine) and at the same time the fumigation is killing off all the other plants and animals, he said. If we were really serious about fighting drugs we'd go after demand, not just the supply, and we'd support drug rehabilitation, and we'd support alternative agriculture in these countries that are producing these drugs.