In ex-garage: a white-collar approach to ending war

Two 10-speeds are cradled in the bike rack near the front entrance to 222 High Street. On this near-perfect California day, Christney and Bill McGlashen have left their diesel Peugeot at home and pedaled the mile to work.

Since they exchanged a posh house in Silicon Valley for a smaller one in town , they find fewer uses for a car.

Years ago, such simplicity would have been unthinkable in the upwardly mobile McGlashen family. Bill's assignment as a White House Fellow and special assistant to top Nixon presidential officials George Shultz and Donald Rumsfeld kept the McGlashens in a social and political whirl in Washington. Nor would it have meshed with the fast-paced corporate life style they once led here in California, where Bill cofounded one lucrative business and then served as president of another.

But today this change in life style is welcome, for now the McGlashens have the time, energy, and - last but not least - the necessary funds to spend doing what they love best.

Behind the white stucco walls of 222 High Street, in a former automobile garage that once housed monkey wrenches and spare tires, Christney and Bill are working with 27 other couples on an unusual project: a blueprint for ending war.

They are members of the Creative Initiative Foundation (CI), a nonprofit educational group formed in 1962 by 10 women.

The McGlashens joined CI in 1973 because, like many Americans at that time, they were looking for ways to ''make a difference in the world.'' CI fit their requirements.

''It was obviously a group of people who understood human relationships and were applying that knowlege to make a better world,'' explains Bill, a middle-age businessman who clearly breaks the stereotype of the 1960s radical antiwar activist.

For the past 23 years, CI volunteers have devoted their time to numerous war- and nonwar-related projects, including energy conservation, toxic waste disposal , and teen-age alcohol and drug abuse. But as the awareness of the threat of nuclear war rose in the late 1970s, CI's members shifted priorities to try to better educate the public on the issue. They call their work the Beyond War project.

Two years ago, they sponsored lectures by two of the United States' most noted arms control experts, retired Rear Adm. Gene R. La Rocque, director of the Center for Defense Information, and SALT II (strategic arms-limitation talks) negotiator Paul C. Warnke. Beyond War workshops were developed to help concerned individuals formulate their stances on nuclear war.

More recently, the project produced two films on the subject for public viewing.

The philosophical underpinning of the project draws from the organization's Beyond War statement of purpose, which has undergone no fewer than 55 revisions:

''. . . we must accept that war has become obsolete. The same process of discovery that has led science and technology to develop weapons of annihilation has also produced the possibility of new ways to relate to other nations, other cultures, other peoples. Technology has moved us beyond war; what must now move beyond war is the human mind.''

That statement, and ultimately the entire Beyond War project, in turn gain inspiration from a 1945 remark by Albert Einstein: ''The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.''

In their educational projects, Beyond War volunteers emphasize this point repeatedly: To preserve the world from nuclear destruction, mankind must change its mode of thinking to improve its methods of conflict resolution. Disarmament is a step, they say, but not a final solution.

Don Fitton and his wife, Virginia, are co-workers of the McGlashens and have been members of CI since its inception. Don, soft-spoken and twinkly eyed, was the organization's first president.

''The Beyond War statement is a culmination of where we've been headed since the beginning,'' he says.

''We initiated this whole (antiwar) effort over 20 years ago. Then it went into the background, and we worked on other issues that seemed to be more contemporary. But this has always been on our hearts, and now, for some reason, the timing is just perfect. The world is coming alive. You just can't pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV without seeing something about it.''

Beyond War's miniature office hums with activity five days a week. Globes and maps of the world dot walls and desktops. Even the lapels of workers sport small enamel pins of the planet.

There are computer terminals, numerous cubicles, a video room, and conference facilities. Yet order prevails, a testiment to the soberness and thoughtfulness of the occupants. All are well educated; they range from business executives to former CIA agents to secretaries. Like the McGlashens, many others have forfeited lucrative jobs, homes, and even social status to work here full-time.

Craig Ritchey hasn't given up his law practice yet, but he did take a cut in income and exchanged community activities for time spent working on the Beyond War project. Next year, if all goes according to plan, his family will scrimp while he takes a sabbatical to devote full time to the project.

It seems incongruous that, in tailored business suit and neatly cropped hair, this clean-cut former deputy to former US Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus should be an antiwar activist. Yet, he speaks of his involvement with complete certainty.

''There's no question that this is the overriding concern (in my life),'' Craig says. ''Everything else fits in the context of this.''

''If I can speak for all of us, we're married, have families, have children, lead very normal lives, except we're obsessed with what the need in this world is. We feel an urgency. In very ordinary kind of clothing, in houses that we live in and children that play soccer and Little League (baseball) and dance . . . and do everything else, it is an absolute preoccupation in the most positive sense.''

Craig is one of 35 staff members conducting Beyond War workshops in the Bay Area. In the three months since they began, more than 600 people have attended them in churches, schools, community centers, and even private homes. Other workshops have been held in Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; and Denver.

Those attending are shown one of the two color films produced by CI; ''No Frames, No Boundaries,'' a 21-minute presentation contrasting the intricate beauty of Earth with the destructive potential of nuclear war (a different approach from ''The Last Epidemic,'' a film distributed by Physicians for Social Responsibility which stresses the horrors of nuclear war), and ''Beyond War,'' a compilation of interviews with political leaders, military personnel, arms debaters, and people on the street discussing their views on nuclear war.

Closed doors pose no limit to Beyond War volunteers. Members have given presentations in the executive offices of some of the most prestigious publishing, technology, pharmaceutical, and energy firms in the country.

''When we reach out to educate the general public, we have chosen consciously to stay very involved with the world,'' Bill McGlashen says. 'There's always a tendency to want to go to the mountaintop and get away (from problems). We have chosen conscientiously not to do that because we think the hope, the possibility , we're talking about, will only be realized if a huge number of people . . . realize that we have to stop posing as an enemy, and instead work creatively toward solutions.

''That requires an involvement with business executives, with schoolteachers, with children in every way we can creatively imagine.''

Yet the organization has dealt with its share of skeptics.

''I wasn't very sure of them at first,'' says Monica May, a staff member at the Santa Clara County (Calif.) Volunteer Center, who has been involved in numerous antinuclear activities. ''But now I think they're doing a real service.

''They're reaching another segment of society that would probably not be reached by some of the other (peace) groups. . . . I think it's an interesting approach - going into homes, talking with other couples, and going to businesses . . . it's broadening the base of awareness.''

''The Beyond War project is something that is not proprietary. We're not trying to own it,'' Don Fitton says. ''We're not trying to have people join Creative Initiative at all. We're trying to challenge people to think with the basic faith that human beings know what's right.

''It's not a sense of trying to build an organization, or build an empire, or anything like that. It's more to plant the seeds and help in any way we can.''

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