An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Texture of Peace



Let's begin this week's blog with a prayer for Cindy Sheehan, who has made the hard, yet wise decision to pull back and regroup. The Democrats don't deserve the money and tears of this noble woman. Those who truly struggle for peace have long realized that the Democratic Party, while more than willing to feed off the progressive energies that rise from the anti-war and other progressive movements, ultimately has no more than a parasitic relationship to the forces of peace and justice in this country. It pains me to say this because there are many good and sincere progressives in the Democratic Party, but their recent capitulation has confirmed a long-standing inner capitulation to the forces that rule this empire. Those of us who have truly paid attention for the last 20 years foresaw the obvious conclusion to the pretense of resistance that Democrats have simulated for the last six months. The function of the Democratic Party in the empire's metabolism is to serve as a region of safe discharge for rebellious longings. They must present a realistic image of rebellion in order to draw progressive emotive force, but once the identification is made, they safely discharge the energy for change into submission which is characterized as "realistic compromise". No one seems to notice that this "compromise" always comprises total capitulation to the requirements of the war machine.

So much for the Democrats. Cindy's action of withdrawal is symbolic of the current state of the anti-war movement as a whole. We have striven long and hard for four years within the current political alignments which have gladly feasted on the humanity of our grief. These political forces will soon find other victims. She has made the courageous decision to give no more heart's blood to the soulless machine that is more than ready to throw thousands more bodies into the jaws of Baal. Few understand how significant a turning point this may turn out to be. The current political system has revealed its true nature in an act of blatant hypocrisy by those who were trusted to end the madness. This act of cowardice is a spiritual event that will begin a new phase of struggle, one that may soon make the current alignments obsolete.

One of the favorite tactics of empire is to create false leaders to draw followers that would otherwise follow true leaders such as our Lord. The media loves to flatter itself with its power to create such leaders (Hillary is the obvious current candidate), and so is seduced into serving the empire in this way. Cindy, on the other hand, led from a beating heart, hence the viciousness of the media's attacks. They perceive genuineness as weakness and react accordingly.

The case of Cindy Sheehan's resignation from one form of activism is profoundly symbolic for the antiwar movement. She gave her passion and life blood (literally) for several years to this cause only to withdraw exhausted and with a sense of futility. That sense of futility is a cry to heaven, a spiritual fact of great significance. Pouring one's heart's blood into the current structures of democratic change has become futile. "Those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable." as Robert Kennedy put it. Realization of this fact is slowly dawning across many progressive circles who have given their heart's blood to stop a war recognized as unjust by a large majority of the American people. The current power structure created this war, as it does most wars, in order to distract attention from the new modes of resource theft that they planned. Cindy's action was a cry from the heart that such plans are deeply immoral and inhuman and the deaths that they require are not just "collateral damage", but life changing blows to the people that actually pay the price. Unfortunately, the current political system cannot tolerate such fundamental change. It is owned and operated by those who regard such lives as an acceptable price to pay and whose response to its own errors of judgment is invariably to increase the rate of murder.

The system needs fundamental conversion. The democratic means of change provided in the Constitution have failed and Cindy, being at the center of the antiwar movement was one of the first to realize it. As she sees clearly now, we need a fundamentally different approach than lobbying Congresspeople and getting the vote out on election day. These means have been tried and we have seen that even when they succeed with the people, they fail to influence the government. The cry of agony and grief is filtered out and smothered in order to smooth the path of dominance. The government is now fully controlled by corporate power and the gestures it makes toward listening to the people have devolved into obvious lies. Witness Rahm Emmanuel's statements that giving way completely to the war machine's demands was actually a way of stopping it. In the past, there would be at least a symbolic concession toward the opposition to justify capitulation. Now, the ruling powers no longer feel the need to make any concession, and are able to comfortably depend on the Democrats to justify their endorsement with rhetorical gestures.

So the decision must be made to work outside the system. The system is a finely tuned mechanism for supporting corporate power and part of that mechanism is channeling dissent into ineffective dead-ends. The more sincere and likable progressives work within that system, the more legitimation it receives and the more effective it can carry out its neutralization function. It needs the heart's blood of people like Cindy Sheehan since it has no life within itself. By denying our life to it, we starve the beast.

"Evangelical conversion requires more than a change of heart; it also requires a liberation of social organization insofar as it produces and reproduces sinful patterns of behavior. This social conversion is brought about through transformative social struggle, with the tactics and strategy suited to bringing about the changes needed. Social sin has to be opposed by social grace, fruit of God's gift and of human endeavor inspired by God." - Leonardo Boff.

So we bid a blessed farewell to Cindy and pray for new streams of grace to come upon us from the Holy Spirit to heal the heart of a broken world.

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