"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.

Monday, January 29, 2007

God Weeps

"God weeps," Archbishop Tutu told participants in the ecumenical gathering near the conclusion of the World Social Forum in Nairobi, "and says, 'Who will help me so we can have a different kind of world, one in which the rich know they have been given much so they can share and help others?'"

"Bush and his inner circle," Floyd concluded, "believe that a bigger dose of blood and iron in Iraq will produce a sufficient level of stability to allow the oil majors to cash in the PSA chips that more than 3,000 American soldiers have purchased for them with their lives."

The "PSA chips" journalist Chris Floyd is referring to are the production-sharing agreements devised here in the U.S. by the oil majors that now sit as proposed legislation before the Iraqi parliament. They would give U.S. oil companies virtual control over the second-largest proven reserves of oil in the world. Don't expect to see this spotlighted on CNN anytime soon.

And so 655,000 people had to die. While we Christians sat in our pews and a tiny minority wrote emails to Congresspeople that went straight to the spam filters. What is this impotence that acts as a shadow over all our outrage? "We are at once overeducated and underpowered. We have knowledge that has no consequences for action and makes us helpless. Knowledge is not power, as the classical workers movement believed, but impotence. We do not use our education sensibly in the sense of turning back from the way we have found out to be wrong, namely the way of industrial society. We use it toward even greater hopelessness. In the rich world we still have to learn resistance." Dorothee Soelle.

We must learn the strength of the weak at the feet of our Lord. This is the resistance, the rebellion of the heart, that will end the paralysis of knowledge. "It is costly, and it disunites and unites anew. It is an irreversible step that we can forget or undo only at the price of self-betrayal. This step is a break with the bourgeois half-measure that ponders endlessly whether the other side might not be right as well; it is a break with the violence that so lives in me that I submit myself to it without a fight." Dorothee Soelle.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Animals We Have Made

Standing outside Guantanamo, a mother reflects on her son's life inside:

"Journeying from Dubai to Guantanamo a little more than a year later, Omar’s brother Taher and his mother Zohra were now standing in the same spot. Zohra writes of the 'excruciating' pain of being so close to her son but unable to enter the base. Omar 'is in this cursed jail for so many years in conditions which are not even fit for animals,' Zohra writes. 'I pray to Allah during every prayer that he is released and that he finds people who treat him kindly and compassionately. My heart is ruptured with sadness.'"

The fact that he is an innocent man seems meaningless to our government and the Christians who support it: "By all reports, Omar is an innocent man. A devout Muslim who aspired to be a human rights lawyer, he traveled to Malaysia and Afghanistan in early 2001, got married, and had a child. When the United States invaded Afghanistan, the young family fled to Pakistan and made plans to return to England. Instead, Pakistani security forces arrested them in April 2002 and turned them over the U.S. forces in exchange for a $5,000 bounty."

This, of course, is the story of most the Guantanamo detainees, only ten of whom have received actual charges. The rest were turned in to get the bounty the U.S. was offering, so that bodies could be produced to prove the "war on terror" was working.

For Omar, his intelligence and knowledge led to special treatment by the guardians of democracy: "At Guantanamo, Omar says he was singled out for harsher treatment because of his familiarity with the law and his tendency to stand up for other prisoners. Permanently blinded in one eye when a U.S. guard jabbed him with his finger, Omar has also been subjected to sexual humiliation, has endured high power water jets forced up his nose, and was held in solitary confinement for over eight months. U.S. officials at Guantanamo also allowed Libyan intelligence agents to question and threaten Omar."

The corporate media has done a superb job. It has shined our honor, made us feel proud of our deeds in defending freedom and democracy from the "evil" that threatens it in these poor men sitting in cages at Guantanamo. Its masters must indeed marvel at the consumate job they have performed in turning our attention away from our darkened hearts.

Today's Gospel points the way out of Guantanamo: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Crossing the Line

"Darrell Anderson went AWOL after serving a tour in Baghdad and Najaf. According to Darrell, standard 'procedure' for U.S. troops in Iraq who were fired on in a public space was to shoot everyone in sight. As Darrell put it, 'It is impossible to go to war, and not commit war crimes.'"

"He also recounted his thoughts as he guarded two Iraqi detainees after a long firefight. 'I was exhausted, I had shrapnel in my side, and the blood of my best friend on my uniform,' said Darrel. 'I had been in this hell for four months, and here I am in a room with my weapon, and two of our enemies shackled and hooded. They weren’t humans to me. I wanted revenge. I’m just glad I didn’t cross the line.'

But many soldiers do cross the line. Iraq war veteran Chanan Suarez Díaz described a platoon known for 'unleashing hell' on Iraqi civilians. In the mess hall, they would brag about 'massacring whole families,' Chanan testified."

The main job of the corporate media with regard to war-related reporting is to decontaminate stories such as these so that their explosive political potential can be neutralized. These stories will normally only be reported if it is somehow forced into public attention by an individual act of courage, as in the case of Haditha or Abu Ghraib. If there is an accidental spill of this kind, the news media acts as clean-up crew to reverse its potential effects by recontextualizing it, often by emphasizing minor legalistic issues so as to obscure the major thrust. The same applies to stories such as the Libby trial, which will be formatted as much as possible toward its entertainment possibilities, while serious issues will invariably be reduced to legal quibbles so as to divert the thrust of moral outrage into a dry dispute.

As Christians, we should begin our penance in reparation for these crimes as soon as we hear about them.

Monday, January 22, 2007

An Army of Principles

"An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot."
- Thomas Paine, 1737-1809

"Two Marines in their platoon had been killed, and they just went crazy. They were notorious. Everyone knew they killed a lot of innocent people because they would brag about it. They were in a souk, an Iraqi marketplace, they got engaged while they were doing some patrols, and they just opened up on the whole marketplace. It was midday, people were trying to do their shopping.

We reacted to that incident--we were their support. We left the houses and hauled ass to meet them at the souk, and I remember holding position in the souk for a little bit, and seeing shattered glass everywhere on the street, and bloodstains everywhere, and I remember a guy who was lying on the sidewalk.

A lot of innocent people died that day."

Day by day, the rebellion spreads. This can be most accurately measured by studying the media coverage of the war. If the corporate media is not fearful of a certain trend, such as Democrats standing on their hind legs and barking a little louder, or an event that can be milked for its entertainment value, such as the Libby trial, then they will give it the full treatment. But a genuinely disturbing trend, such as rebelling soldiers in Iraq or the trial of Lt. Ehren Watada or the current anti-war demonstrations, will receive little or no coverage. The same applies to the very wide current perception of an imminent war with Iran. While most of the world is preparing for a disaster of spectacular dimensions, the American public is being carefully isolated, most likely in anticipation of a "Gulf of Tonkin" incident that will spark the Middle East conflagration. I can find no better commentary on the mentality of U.S. ruling class and the spiritual resistance that all of us must begin to practice than these words from Gandhi:

"Kings will always use their kingly weapons. To use force is bred in them. They want to command, but those who have to obey commands do not want guns: and these are in a majority throughout the world. They have to learn either body-force or soul-force. Where they learn the former, both the rulers and the ruled become like so many mad men; but where they learn soul-force, the commands of the rulers do not go beyond the point of their swords, for true men disregard unjust commands."

The last word goes to Chanan Suarez Diaz, a Navy corpsman who was deployed to Iraq in September 2005: "So they keep a lot of news about combat refusals or resistance internal, so people don’t hear about it. Because they know if word got out, this kind of behavior will spread like wildfire within the ranks."

Give all the support you can to these troops by ending the violence that lives in our hearts and hands, that a rebellion of love may infect the Christian world.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Silence is Betrayal

If the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?

"Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment." - Martin Luther King.

It is our faith in right defeated that keeps us strong with real strength, not the bloatings of power that inflame, then abandon the dessicated wreck of lost humanity.

Will we heed the words of John Edwards, speaking the words that Martin Luther King would no doubt be speaking now if he had the voice, a voice which still speaks in our hearts:

"Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.

And to all of you here today – and the millions like us around the country who know this escalation is wrong – your job is to reject the easy way of apathy and choose instead the hard course of action.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out. Tell your elected leaders to block this misguided plan that is destined to cost more lives and further damage America’s ability to lead. And tell them also, that the reward of courage...is trust."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

False Consciousness

"The fact exists; but both the fact and what may result from it may be prejudicial to the person. Thus it becomes necessary, not precisely to deny the fact, but to 'see it differently.' This rationalization as a defense mechanism coincides in the end with subjectivism. A fact which is not denied but whose truths are rationalized loses its objective base. It ceases to be concrete and becomes a myth created in defense of the class of the perceiver." Paolo Friere, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

This is practically all the commentary that is necessary on Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq. Defending the class interests of the occupiers requires a different perception of the war - once the production sharing agreements for the oil wealth of the country are in place, then perceptions will shift once again.

As Christians, when we see a fact such as an unjust war and fail to respond to that knowledge through acts of resistance, then we implant the seeds of false consciousness that ripen into the fruits of self-deception. We have joined hands with the liberator, the representative of the liberation movements of people who work to free themselves by God's power, which is not the power of domination, but of the free gift of self. To fail to act is to betray the gift, to diminish and ultimately to despise it. The gift is the strength he gives us to free ourselves by our actions, for without such action there can be no liberation, which is not an hypnotic state, but a concrete act of freedom.

This is the reality we have imposed on the Iraqi people: "Baghdad is dying, we are all just waiting in line." Khaled -- not his real name to protect his life -- one of our Iraqi employees, said the words softy, his eyes glossing over.

"It's so hard for me Arwa. This skull won¹t absorb English," he said, smacking both palms against his head. "I just have too much on my mind. I'm supporting three families, most of them women, each time my phone rings my heart sinks thinking that one of them was killed."

Khaled is a well-built man, proud and softly spoken. But like too many others, utterly broken by the hardship of life in the capital. Helpless in the face of the violence. Moving mechanically through each day, just hoping to reach tomorrow.

There absolutely nothing to say. Reassuring words ring hollow. And so I just said "I know." And his eyes glossed over even more.

Iraqis are strong and proud. You won't often see their suffering in their actions or in their voices. You see it in their eyes. Baghdad is dying."

In the face of such facts, we reach for the maneuvers of power politics, but somehow we must resist this as well. To use the tactics of our enemies is to be defeated by those tactics. To use them is to succumb to the logic of power. We must embrace another set of logics, those used by "the powerless Christ who was independent of authority, who has nothing but his love with which to win and save us. His powerlessness is an inner authority: we are not his because he has begotten, created, or made us, but because his weaponless power is love, which is stronger than death." Dorothee Soelle.