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.
Friday, July 20, 2007
"I come and stand at every door
But none shall hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead." - Palestinian hymn
The dead which our silence has killed do not depart. They will remain with us, a silent witness to our sins until the day we die. The fact that we have allowed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to be slaughtered for the sake of high profit margins for energy companies, as well as to ensure the continuation of our lifestyle, will be part of our judgement. May God have mercy on our souls.
"When Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, it was not just for our neighbors' sakes that he commanded it, but for our own sakes as well. Not to help find some way to feed the children who are starving to death is to have some precious part of who we are starve to death with them. Not to give ourselves to the human beings we know who may be starving not for food but for what we have in our hearts to nourish them with this to be, ourselves, diminished and crippled as human beings." -Frederick Buechner
One of the signs that the reign of hatred and domination is coming to an end can be found in the resistance of those directly charged with the enforcement of the imperial rule. Army National Guard Spc. Eleonai "Eli" Israel has refused to continue fighting and is currently waiting to return home to an uncertain fate.
This ex-street kid and decorated soldier reasons as follows: "I have taken and/or destroyed the lives of people who were defending their families from being the 'collateral damage' of the day. Iraqi boys are joining groups like 'Al Qaeda' for the same reason street kids in the U.S. join the 'Cribs' and the 'Bloods'. It’s about self protection, a sense of dignity, and making a stand...Our own sacrifices, as tragic as they are (and they are tragic), are dwarfed in comparison to the carnage that has been brought on the Iraqi people. 'Success' in Iraq is not a matter of the number of coalition deaths 'declining'. Success would be an end of the catastrophe we have inflicted on a entire society, and restoration of dignity and sovereignty."
Though the truth of his insight has become common wisdom even in America, few are willing follow it through to the responsible act - moral conviction knows no timing, a truth that the Democrats are too morally obtuse to grasp. Indeed, their enslavement to tactical considerations has destroyed their moral effectiveness. "I envy the soldier who is able to see the injustice of this war from afar, and has the courage and conviction to take the stand against it. There will be those who criticize soldiers for being willing to weigh moral convictions against political ambition. What matters is making the stand. Whether you chose not to join the military in the first place, or you realized after joining that it fell short of the requisite levels of integrity, the moment you realize the truth is the moment to take a stand. My moment came with only three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in Iraq. Moral conviction has no timing."
Moral truths must be acted on when they are perceived, not when it is tactically optimal, by which time the original force of the moral insight has degraded. In fact, letting tactics dictate in this way is already an implicit denial of the moral insight into the fundamental criminality of the war. What is the moral stature of the secret Christian who lets his fellow Christians walk humbly to martyrdom while he sits praying in comfort, denying his convictions to the authorities? What will be the fate of the "German Christians" who supported the Nazis even after they knew about the trains packed with Jews heading toward the camps?
Eli Israel has tasted this martyrdom: "I informed my chain of command of my beliefs. I could tell from that first conversation that things were not going to go well. I told them that I believed our presence in Iraq was unlawful. I explained that I no longer believed in a policy of war and that I would file as a conscientious objector. Simply put, I could no longer in good conscience participate in a combat role against the Iraqi people. Seconds after the words left my mouth, my life changed. Inside I had more peace than I had felt in over a year. I knew immediately that I had done the right thing. However, I was aggressively disarmed, confined, and shut off from contacting anyone, including family or an attorney."
How many anti-war Christians would be willing to accept this treatment? And to enjoy the peace that comes from acting for truth?
"I was illegally confined to a cot in an operations room, placed under 24 hour guard, and escorted to the bathroom before I was formally charged with refusal to follow an order two weeks later. I remained confined until I pled guilty (with little choice) less than a week after that. I was immediately sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to serve 30 days in a military prison. I was just released from the brig the other day and I’m now in the process of being 'kicked out' with an 'Other Than Honorable' discharge. I regret nothing."
What makes his story particularly powerful is that for Eli, an orphan and street kid, the military was the first place where he had found pride of achievement. To give it up takes a courage few of us will ever know.
How providential that the Church has chosen this time to beatify Franz Jagerstatter for his resistance to the death against Nazism. He indeed is the model that we can look to for the resistance to which God is calling us against the war machine that has plunged our Iraqi brothers and sisters into a hell not unlike that imposed by the Nazis on the Jews during WWII.
In the words of Spc. Israel, "Seek the truth. Make the stand."
Read the whole story here: Courage to Resist
How many deaths must line the comforts we enjoy? Are we enablers of death or do we put the force which life has given us behind the liberties which life demands? As Glenn Greenwald so forcefully expresses, those who fail to defend the framework of freedom are as culpable as those who attack the body of freedom directly.
"The common, defining political principle here — what resonates far more powerfully than any other idea — is a fervent and passionate belief in our country’s constitutional framework, the core liberties it secures, and the checks and balances it offers as a safeguard against tyrannical power. Those who fail to defend that framework, or worse, those who are passively or actively complicit in its further erosion, are all equally culpable. With each day that passes, the radicalism and extremism originally spawned in secret by the Bush presidency becomes less and less his fault and more and more the fault of those who — having discovered what they have been doing and having been given the power to stop it — instead acquiesce to it and, worse, enable and endorse it." - Glenn Greenwald.
Our Lord came to give us freedom, which can only arise in the rich soil of truth. The only time our Lord became violent was when confronted with those who collaborated with the imperial powers against his people. He called them "thieves", living in a den of robbers and drove out their agents with whips. Their descendants make a fine living diverting the passion for justice that wants to roll over the seats of power like a mighty river. Their job is to clothe the dominions and the powers in the costume of inevitability, seeking to cover the odor of decay. The deepest guilt lies with those who oil the passage of laws that bring torture, massacre, and devastation to millions of innocents. Their "compromise", "realism", and complicity lends the patina of justice to these crimes and maintains them in a way that naked power never could.
The death sentence was passed against Jesus only when he challenged the enablers of imperial domination in the temple of collaboration. When will we start to turn over the money changer's tables?
Sunday, July 01, 2007
"At some thoughts one stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide 'I will combat it by humble love.' If you resolve on that once for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it." - Starets [Elder] Zosima from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
"I could not [again] deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate." - Army Spc. Mark Wilkerson after seven months in a military brig.
'"You don't want to shoot kids, I mean, no one does," said Sergeant Campbell, as he began to describe an incident in the summer of 2005 recounted to him by several men in his unit. "But you have this: I remember my unit was coming along this elevated overpass. And this kid is in the trash pile below, pulls out an AK-47 and just decides he's going to start shooting. And you gotta understand...when you have spent nine months in a war zone, where no one--every time you've been shot at, you've never seen the person shooting at you, and you could never shoot back. Here's some guy, some 14-year-old kid with an AK-47, decides he's going to start shooting at this convoy. It was the most obscene thing you've ever seen. Every person got out and opened fire on this kid. Using the biggest weapons we could find, we ripped him to shreds." Sergeant Campbell was not present at the incident, which took place in Khadamiya, but he saw photographs and heard descriptions from several eyewitnesses in his unit."'
'"Everyone was so happy, like this release that they finally killed an insurgent," he said. "Then when they got there, they realized it was just a little kid. And I know that really fucked up a lot of people in the head.... They'd show all the pictures and some people were really happy, like, Oh, look what we did. And other people were like, I don't want to see that ever again."' - The Nation
We celebrate our dominance until we understand what it destroys. It always destroys at least one child - the one that lives within our heart. In the case of Iraq, dozens of children are slain every week to maintain our domination system, the one whose emptiness was shown by one who died on a cross. But blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. We, on the other hand, will receive the reward of our lifestyle.
Ultimately, the urge and the power to carry out social liberation comes from God, as is clear from the signs of the kingdom which Jesus pointed out to John. They were the signs of an end to the domination system under which creation continues to groan. Social revolution is an essential element of the much greater and more intimate revolution which Jesus Christ is working out within our souls.
"I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice." - Ezekiel 34:16
Then let the trees of the forest sing!
before the coming of the Lord,
who comes to judge the nations,
to set the earth aright,
restoring the world to order.
- Psalm 96
"We are one people. We cannot separate ourselves now. There are many good things to be done for our people and for the world. It is important to let things be good. And it is important to teach the younger generation so that things are not lost." - Corbin Harney
"Anything whose nature as such consists in being part of another is intent first and above all on that to which it belongs, rather than on itself." Thomas Aquinas, ST I, q. 60, a. 5
"...And 40-year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can--do you know what I mean?--we have this power that you can't have. That's really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level.'
In Iraq, Specialist Middleton said, 'a lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want.'" - The Nation
Such is the liberation promised by Satan. "You can do what you want." You can dominate, rape, terrorize, kill - you are absolutely free. No need to recognize the humanity of others - you are the only human, the only American. The dark ones are animals subject to your every command, whatever your debased whims might be.
'"They were the law," Specialist Harmon said of the soldiers in his unit in Al-Rashidiya, near Baghdad, which participated in raids and convoys. "They were very mean, very mean-spirited to them. A lot of cursing at them. And I'm like, Dude, these people don't understand what you're saying.... They used to say a lot, 'Oh, they'll understand when the gun is in their face.'"
Those few veterans who said they did try to reach out to Iraqis encountered fierce hostility from those in their units.' - The Nation.
"According to descriptions culled from interviews with thirty-eight veterans who rode in convoys--guarding such runs as Kuwait to Nasiriya, Nasiriya to Baghdad and Balad to Kirkuk--when these columns of vehicles left their heavily fortified compounds they usually roared down the main supply routes, which often cut through densely populated areas, reaching speeds over sixty miles an hour. Governed by the rule that stagnation increases the likelihood of attack, convoys leapt meridians in traffic jams, ignored traffic signals, swerved without warning onto sidewalks, scattering pedestrians, and slammed into civilian vehicles, shoving them off the road. Iraqi civilians, including children, were frequently run over and killed. Veterans said they sometimes shot drivers of civilian cars that moved into convoy formations or attempted to pass convoys as a warning to other drivers to get out of the way." - The Nation
On the trail we leave behind, on the path where we have ridden, we can see the image of our own soul. Have you ever turned to look at that path? As a country, we must turn and look over the path where we have passed. Do children's dead bodies litter (or hajjify) it? What does that make us? We roar through life, chasing the thrill of our own momentum, insulated within the belief that we alone are real, we alone breath and bleed.
"And, you know, 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...
Sergeant Flatt was among twenty-four veterans who said they had witnessed or heard stories from those in their unit of unarmed civilians being shot or run over by convoys. These incidents, they said, were so numerous that many were never reported." - The Nation.
The analogy of humanity is life, giving life, receiving life, celebrating life, making it ever richer. The enemy of humanity inspires us to take that life away, to drain the humanity from the faces which are different.
'"We saw him there and, you know, we were upset because the convoy didn't even stop," she said. "They really, judging by the skid marks, they hardly even slowed down. But, I mean, that's basically--basically, your order is that you never stop."' - The Nation.
As long as you never stop, you'll never have to feel the soft finger's blood, never recognize that your humanity was left in a twisted heap by the side of the road. You're surviving, right? You're making it home? Maybe "home" lies in the faces of those flattened donkeys and you'll never find it again because of your well-rewarded obedience.
In the words of Thomas Aquinas, "God is compassionate...To be compassionate is to have a heart that suffers from the misfortune of others because we think of it as our own." In fact, this is also at the heart of what reverence means. "He who robs his friend of compassion in the time of misery leaves the fear of the Lord behind."
Come! See the wonders
God does across the earth:
Everywhere stopping wars,
smashing, crushing, burning
all the weapons of war.
An end of your fighting!
Acknowledge me as God,
high over nations, high over earth.
- Psalm 46
"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
"The mighty are only mighty because we are on our knees. Let us rise!" - Camille Desmoulins
"Army Spc. Eleonai 'Eli' Israel was stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad when he told his commanding officers June 19 that he would no longer participate in the illegal and unjust U.S. war on Iraq. 'We are now violating the people of this country in ways that we would never accept on our own soil,' said Eli.
Support Eli by going to http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/ and making a donation. Make hope fold a little thicker around us by defying the mighty on their thrones, as Mary did when she proclaimed the greatness of the Lord. Let the voice of John of Damascene rise with the voices of those who have put an end to killing in their hearts.
In the words of Kenneth Rexroth, "There was a similar movement amongst the Humanists of the early sixteenth century, contemporary with the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. They attempted to develop a social philosophy based on the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Clement of Alexandria, John of Damascus and similar thinkers. Its basic concept was the establishment of a community of love encompassing all of society and having as its final end the divinization of the world. These words are John Damascene's. They are also Teilhard de Chardin's. They are also Karl Rahner's. They are also St. Thomas More's." This movement continues into our day through the voice of liberation theology, the voice of the poor rising into the conscience of the Church. Make a pledge to carry out an act of resistance each day to the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
"The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political faction in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet, published a statement on Sunday alleging that more than 350 people have been killed by a US military operation in Baquba to hunt down al-Qaeda-affiliated members.
They termed the operations 'collective punishment' in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province which lies 57 kilometers north-east of Baghdad...
The forces shelled these neighborhoods with helicopters, destroying more than 150 houses and killing more than 350 citizens, their bodies still under wreckage, in addition to arresting scores of citizens,' the statement added."
"A representative of al-Sadr who spoke to the media in Najaf said that four members of one family, including women, were killed by a US bomb, and another 16 young men died. 'There were no clashes between the Mahdi army and occupation forces,” he said. “We are condemning this attack, which targeted the innocent people in their homes, and we are calling on the government to open an investigation with the occupation forces to find out what happened.'"
"Basheer Ahmed, a Sadr City resident, said, 'At about 4 a.m., a big American convoy with tanks came and began to open fire on houses, bombing them. What did we do? We didn’t even retaliate. There was no resistance.'" -wsws.org
And who did you say would share in the rewards?
"The new oil law is universally presented in Washington as a policy aimed at guaranteeing that oil revenues are shared by 'all Iraqis'. The reality is that the entry of US and other energy giants into Iraq’s oil industry will lead to wholesale plunder. Iraq’s oil minister has predicted that as many as 65 of the 80 known undeveloped oil fields will come under foreign control. If the oil industry was developed to its full production potential, it could pump 6 million barrels a day and generate annual revenues of more than $130 billion, with the profits as high as 20 percent for the transnational companies.
It is this prize that has cost the lives of over 700,000 Iraqis and close to 4,000 occupation troops and left the country’s infrastructure devastated. Washington’s perspective is to transform Iraq into a lucrative source of wealth for American corporate interests and a military base in the Middle East to extend US domination over the resource-rich region. To achieve this, it requires both a fig leaf of legality from the puppet Iraqi parliament in Baghdad and an end to the anti-occupation insurgency wracking the country."
Violence always destroys itself because it is born of the despair of God. It usually achieves its immediate goals, petty as they always are, in this case, the control of the Iraqi oil pool, but unforeseen consequences always raise their their unlucky heads. In the words of Shane Claiborne, "Violence kills the image of God in us." The murder of that image always wreaks untold consequences. Violence is the weak and cowardly cry of those in whom the hope for God has suffocated. It is our job as peacemakers to keep this hope alive.
As we tolerate violence, the image of God dies within us. The death of this image always leads to suicide in one form or another. It could be suicide which is the other face of American prosperity or the suicide which comes when emptiness is accepted in place of God's fullness. But violence will always twist toward the inner face of suicide sooner or later.
Again, in the words of Shane Claiborne, "May we love loudly."