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, July 01, 2007
A Cry Before the Dark Face of God.
"We’d be cruising down the road in a convoy and all of the sudden, an IED blows up," said Spc. Ben Schrader, 27, of Ft. Collins, Colo. 'You’ve got these scared kids on these guns, and they just start opening fire. And there could be innocent people everywhere. And I’ve seen this, I mean, on numerous occasions, where innocent people died because we’re cruising down and a bomb goes off.'
Worse yet were home raids, or 'cordon and search' operations. Twenty-four vets who participated in the raids described them as a relentless reality of the occupation. Generally on little evidence, Iraqis were rousted in the night, their homes turned upside down, the family patriarchs humiliated and sometimes arrested.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Westphal, 31, of Denver, said that he’ll never forget one on a hot summer night in 2004. He and more than 40 other soldiers raided a farm near Tikrit and, pointing their rifles and lights at a group of sleepers, woke them up.
'The man screamed this gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, just horrified scream,' Westphal recalled. 'I’ve never heard anything like that.'
It turned out the people weren’t insurgents but a family sleeping outside to escape the heat."
We all cry before the dark face of God when the mystery of human violence makes us shiver with rage. The dark cry rising from the violated man is the cry that every Christian who loves God should raise at the sight of the inner and outward violations we make on our fellow images of God. We must become as passionate as God about the mutilation of justice.
"The antipathy toward Iraqis was confirmed in a survey released in May by the Pentagon. Just 47% of soldiers and 38% of Marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55% of soldiers and 40% of Marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured 'an innocent noncombatant.'"
O how our empty hearts howl in the wilderness! They are empty of the love that God has poured into us.
This Sunday we were presented with the careful details of what the good Samaritan did. Have you noticed how thoughtful the Samaritan was? Instead of self-congratulation, there was concentration on the details of how the beaten man was to be nurtured, renewed and brought back to health. Right now in Iraq, children wounded by American contempt for life, for God, and for their inner integrity, are lying by the side of the road with hands reaching out for our care. Will we do the careful tasks that need to be done to end this suffering?
It is not sufficient to give charity, but deeper questions must be asked if we are to be true Samaritans. From a recent article in the Nation: "The Iraq War is a vast and complicated enterprise. In this investigation of alleged military misconduct, The Nation focused on a few key elements of the occupation, asking veterans to explain in detail their experiences operating patrols and supply convoys, setting up checkpoints, conducting raids and arresting suspects. From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents."
In other words, the conditions of the war have led to the indiscriminate mass killing of innocent civilians. A culture of contempt for the life created by God for love has been ingrained in the soldiers in Iraq. Most believe that this is due to accidental conditions or incompetence by the war's leaders. In fact, this contempt is part of standard military indoctrination and will not be healed until the stain of war is wiped from our civilization.
"'The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them,' Sergeant Mejía said."
Over the next few posts, we will be examining the soldier's stories in detail to reveal the spiritual face that emerges. In the course of this investigation, we may also see glimpses of our own face in the mirror of this contempt, a contempt we participate in when we refuse to be Samaritans to the Iraqi people that our membership in a nation deluded by fear has called us to be.
"Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will." - Frederick Douglass