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.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
You Can't Win a Crime, You Can Only Stop It
Recently, soldiers have begun to speak more loudly about what they have been made to do: "There are so many things that are tied together. I saw one soldier who was stationed overseas and he was an MP and he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because he saw our government do things to people that no person should ever have to see our government do. He said that he couldn’t go into details because it’s all classified, but he still felt that he was bound to military doctrine where you can’t tell anything to anyone. But he has nightmares every night because he saw us torturing people. He was at one of our secret, non-existent prisons and he saw people tortured and he cannot cope with what he has seen.
The more I’ve thought about all these signing statements Bush has attached to these laws, basically our Constitution says we’re not going to torture people, the Geneva Convention says we’re not supposed to torture people, and yet we are still torturing people. So Congress passes a law saying we’re not going to torture people and then Bush passes a signing statement saying that if he feels it’s in the national interest to torture people, he’s going to do it. But he’s not the one torturing people, it’s not his hands that are being bloodied. It is our soldiers’ hands. It is the soldiers at Abu Ghraib who are torturing people." - "Iraq veterans speak out", ISR, May/June 2007.
Mute, like sheep filing quietly into the slaughter chamber, Christians can only speak about personal, not social morality, as if there is a real distinction between them when one is ordered to torture a fellow child of God, so the torture goes on. And our hands grow bloodier by the day.
When will Christians begin to perceive that the issue of personal morality versus social morality is completely artificial? When a soldier is ordered to torture an Iraqi, both personal and social morality form a single act which he or she is morally responsible for. The fact that he or she is ordered to do so changes the quality of the act, but also imposes the social obligation to change the system that results in such an order. The situation's fabric weaves together social and personal factors inextricably into a single garment of responsibility. To artifically cut oneself off from the social aspect of the moral situation and pretend that the social reality absolves one of personal responsibility is to bury oneself in a moral cocoon. Not that we antiwar resisters should stand over the soldiers who murder and torture on orders in a morally superior fashion - there is no doubt that most of us would do the same or worse. And that our guilt is on the same order as theirs because our inaction allows the evil to continually grow.
"As I sat on the outskirts of a city in my seven-ton truck, tanks went in and shot everything that moved: men, women, children, donkeys—it was a turkey shoot. I got to go through and see the aftermath. That was our strategy the whole way to Baghdad, we just leap-frogged all the way up." "Iraq veterans speak out", ISR, May/June 2007.
Scott Ritter says: "In America today, we should have known better, since we ostensibly stand for so much more. That we have collectively failed to halt and repudiate the war in Iraq makes us even worse than the Germans."
Our greater consciousness and more informed sense of history deepens the color of our guilt. It is a dark shade indeed, darker than the shade that adorned Germany at the end of World War II because we set ourselves up as those who were defined by our opposition to fascism, our willingness to die to make fascism disappear. Yet now we have embraced it as our creed, for some even our Christian creed. Some of us admit that we have become emperors, that we love consumption and domination more than the ideals that set this country in motion more than 200 years ago. And we are willing to follow the logic of that domination to the extent of justifying or ignoring torture, murder at the scale of millions, and indefinite occupations as long as the media sings the song of honor in our ears. Rest assured that the media will continue to sing, to praise our brave soldiers defusing the IEDs that the enemies of freedom plant. Because that song will make blind men mad and that is precisely the mission that they carry out so ably.
"The big deal is today and tomorrow morning. Just this minute and then the next determines whether you or I do what we can to stop the injustice and the tyrannies surrounding us, and inside our hearts. Right now is the only time we own!" - June Jordan, poet (1936 - 2002)