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.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Break the Illusions
"The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions." - Karl Marx.
The U.S. corporate media along with their supporters in Congress is currently instilling the required illusion of the day - our soldiers are great heroes and thus deserve our undivided support. In fact, most soldiers are ordinary people doing their job in difficult circumstances. There are heroes among them, as there are among all occupations. But the purpose of the illusion is to justify the war by promoting the idea that war breeds heroes, that it brings out the best in ordinary people and makes them into extraordinary beings. This lie is being promoted with the specific purpose of extending the spirit of sacrifice to those of us who must fund the war, to make us feel selfish and unpatriotic if we refuse to part with the funds needed to support these brave beings.
But true heroes do live among them. On June 21, 2007, Specialist Eli Israel said: "I have told them that I will no longer play a ‘combat role’ in this conflict or ‘protect corporate representatives,’ and they have taken this as ‘violating a direct order.’ I may be in jail or worse in the next 24 hours. Please rally whoever you can, call whoever you can, bring as much attention to this as you can. I have no doubt that the military will bury me and hide the whole situation if they can. I'm in big trouble. I'm in the middle of Iraq, surrounded by people who are not on my side. Please help me. Please contact whoever you can, and tell them who I am, so I don't ‘disappear.’"
Do not expect the media to highlight this heroic act. The light of Christ comes to us in many forms, but it always comes with the message of nonviolence, that we must put an end to violence in ourselves and our relationships. Once we perceive the true nature of war as the attempt to impose domination on weaker peoples through violence and terror, then we fall under the domination of Christ's gentle yoke that leads us to renounce this violence, as Specialist Eli Israel has. Naturally, his defiance of the domination system cannot and will not be tolerated and he will have to suffer much as have all who have taken this path.
He could have simply served the killing machine, won the medals that the machine was willing to give him, and left, perhaps as the central actor in another glowing CNN piece on our heroes on the ground. But in words that strike profoundly at the illusion that binds us so tightly, "Moral convictions are not based on timing or convenience..." We cannot become moral after the fact, after the situation that called for our decision, once our violent duties have been fulfilled. To acquiesce in activities perceived as immoral is to fail morally, though naturally there are degrees and mercy must always be paramount.
So how can soldiers persist in their violence as the convictions of nonviolence begin to grow? In the same way that we Americans continue supporting a government that commits terror on a global scale. We practice selective ignorance. We semi-deliberately ignore whatever contradicts our ability to carry the duties which empire has assigned us. The purpose of the corporate media is to aid this process of selective ignorance so as to remove any guilt we may experience in the process of ignoring our brother's plight. They make us laugh away our convictions by making those who take them too seriously seem unbalanced. All moral issues are muddied and made artificially complex to aid the process of justification.
But Specialist Israel has seen the simple truth and acted, an act of resistance that will be punished according to its degree of sincerity. The empire knows how to deal with self-seeking insincerity; laziness and cowardice are its stock in trade. These facts of human nature are punished, but punished lightly, because they are useful to its purposes. The refusal to commit violence, however, is a blow to its heart, and no mercy will be shown.
Some words from the heart: "I want you all to know, that most of us that are over here, came to Iraq, with the very best of intentions, and really thought that the Iraqi people wanted us here. Now that I'm here, I realize that they want to work it out themselves, and I know we should respect that. One guy lies about the reason for sending me to Iraq, and then tries to keep me here even after he's caught. Another guy actually believes that we can make up reasons as we go, and still wants to believe the original lie. The third guy realizes it was a lie, but thinks it's the people who were told the lie—and who paid the greatest price for it (those wearing uniforms)—that should be blamed for not making the lie out to be "OK" in the end. This war is and was lost, but not by the military."
The light on the lamp stand is the light of conscience that illuminates the whole man, personal and communal. This light cannot be resisted, it can only be denied. To deny is to fail to live in Christ's love for all mankind, both friends and enemies.
The true feelings of the Iraqis are reflected in their tentative "waves": "I'm attuned enough to know that even the kindest Iraqi families that manage a "wave" to me as I pass by (when not done in fear), do it because my smile lets them know that I'm only doing my job, and that I'll try my best not to let my weapons of war hit their children when I have to defend myself that day." Such is the face of domination.
If you understand that moral convictions are not a matter of timing, please support Specialist Eli Israel. Supporters are asked to contact Eli’s senator Mitch McConnell to ensure that his rights are respected. Senator Mitch McConnell, 361-A Russell, Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510. Phone: (202) 224-2541. Fax: (202) 224-2499. May the light of Christ end the sickness that requires war's illusions.