So we aren’t such a just society. My childhood dreams have been drained to a trickle. I remember singing with gusto at 9 years old,
You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag
and forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of, the land we love,
The home of the free and the brave.
Our country is a militaristic society bent on destruction. Oil drills flatten wildlife in our bays; road kills deer and teens play with Uzis.The richest Americans evade taxes. Morals seem the least concern.
But I am determined to find a just path. I am American, I am a humanist and I will ask for a world justice from the US which will make my country proud. It’s an oxymoron but it’s true. If we citizens support justice for all citizens we will be prouder Americans. I’m also a Quaker listening to a deeper Voice as to how Friends live in justice. So I was excited to share the SOA Watch on Nov 21 with 7,000 people at the gates of Fort Benning, GA. I am on a quest this year learning how to build community where sisters/brothers have justice in the center.
I went with Mary Reagan, a former Maryknoll worker in Brazil who now educates people in Somerville around housing rights. The two of us joined several others in the movement to stop war by not paying for war. Most of you know that I’ve been a war tax resister for 25 years. I went to either find out how war tax resistance (WTR) can be more acceptable or how to find another way to stop feeding the demon of endless war. At Fort Benning were bushels of convinced peaceniks but only a few resist war taxes. Why?
It was the gathering of the religious and leftist community. It was a great people to be gathered’ (as Jorge Fox said); it was musicians and artists changing the world; it was collectives and college students. It was inspired because 30 years ago Maryknoll sisters were murdered in El Salvador (by those trained at SOA). Father Roy Bourgeois, a founder of SOA Watch came out this year in favor of women priests, which the Pope didn’t swallow well. And many Latinos were taking leadership, because the SOA is training assassins to work in Latin America. It was all day Friday and Saturday with a culminating prayer procession on Sunday. Some people were arrested, some were interested in WTR, many clusters of groups sang music or braided hair. College students came from all over the mid-west. Workshops on nonviolence were everywhere.
I learned in 2 hours that the left, talking about immigration it twists us and gets us to think of illegal people. Instead of immigration, I ask this community to discuss Migration. Because everyone of us through our lives or our parents’ lives has a migration. We need to tell our white, middle-class stories of migrating from college back home or of our grandmother’s migration from country to city. If we just talk over and over about Mexicans migration across the border, then we think of it as tragedy or hardship, add their story to the hardship in our own lives. I migrated to Chad for 2 years to teach English with Peace Corps. I learned of lots of groups collaborating with Central Americans like FOR, WRL, CPT, AFSC, and Emma’s Revolution.
Our time ended with a beautiful solemn dance on Sunday at 10 am. In the prayer procession, led by veterans in uniform, people held up thousands of crosses; 10 coffins were carried by pallbearers, all with names of Columbians, Guatemalans, etc. of all ages. We walked in a huge circle while names and ages were sung from loud speakers. It was a call and response. After each name was offered in song we in the prayer sang back, Presente! Then after 2 hours we put the crosses on the military’s fence with other messages. I was, being a tender heart, in tears.
So why go to the SOA Watch? The Watch is not another anti-war rally. It is the ultimate. It states that the war machine is wrong. It also has more leadership from Latinos than most Justice with Peace events. In 2000 there was 17,000-20,000 attending and thousands of arrests. The Southern Command, responsible for insuring US national interests from Mexico to Chili. More than thrusting our dominance through NAFTA/CAFTA is also the US teaching the military elite in other countries different ways to kill. They train Guatemalans, Columbians, etc. on how to most effectively subdue a people, usurp cooperative government styles and cause military takeovers. They teach coup d’Ã©tats– they are responsible for the recent ousting of Zelayain Honduras in 2009. Two military generals Vasquez and Suarez were trained at the SOA.; SOA acolytes are directly responsible for assassinating S. Allende and V. Jara in Chili; and of many others.
In 2001 the SOA reconnoitered and by act of congress became the WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Security) and has trained 60,000 Latinos a year. President Correa in Ecuador, October 2010 had an attempt on his life and the military branch had some connections with the SOA training. Why an attempt to depose this leftist leaning Correa? One clue is that in 2009 he successfully closed of a US air base in 2009. The Ecuadoran government is fully recuperating our sovereignty over the Manta base,” said the Ecuador government.
So we place ourselves at Fort Benning where we stand for helping our neighbors. It’s more than just a shout-out bashing the military. It was listening to stories of the victims. We want to offer art, music and cooperation. We are standing against the SOA. OK, truth is that the annual weekend is an anti-war event. However it is religious, lots of music around creating a just world, art and puppets make pageantry, and the solemn procession or the memorial service. It’s high energy, based in Spirit of Truth, and has a Latino element spread throughout.
It was a combination of Spiritual practice, Latin culture and political will. The different groups were colleges, art collectives doing Alterna Ts, huge murals, large number of religious groups like Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Mercy, Maryknolls, Catholic Worker movement. Lots of trade groups with Salvador painted boxes, and Guatemalan colorful crafts. So 26 people got arrested in the streets. They broke the city code, and were released from bail with a stiff price. This is the first time the SOA organizers had offered a coordinated way to make a statement about the SOA and put their lives on the line to break a civil code, not the federal laws. So many got arrested blocking the street leading to the base.
It was a memory that recommits me to work this entire year to stop injustice. Con el poder de dios. Aleluja!
To learn more:www.Soaw.org