I was able to participate in a march and direct action to close the School of the Americas this weekend in Washington D.C. It was amazing to be there while the entire country was watching the debate on the “budget crisis” go down and never once hear a single congress person talk about cutting military spending.
Over 70 million dollars a year could be saved by closing the School of the Americas let alone the human lives home and abroad that would thrive with less military intervention and spending.
We gathered as a group at Dupont Circle and marched with an artist collective that had made puppets honoring the resistance of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Led by the grandmother puppet we walked to the White House and 27 of us laid down in a “die in” front of the White House to symbolize the death and destruction that comes from the School.
We prostrated ourselves and begged from the heart to stop funding the military training that has led to torture, disappearances, death, dictatorships and the destruction of whole economies in Latin America.
The National Park Police who have jurisdiction over the sidewalk in front the White House arrested us for failing to obey a police order to move. We felt that by staying we could call – even if only for a moment – the attention of the White House and our Congress to the importance of the issue and give them a way to save money without cutting schools, health care or PBS!
It was an honor to take a step of resistance and hold up the memory and resistance of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo as we called to close it down. Click on the link below and you can see the puppets, march and even the arrests!
p.s. A quick note about my arrest: an arrest for civil disobedience is handled very quickly. I was held in a room (not in a jail cell) for about two hours and paid a small fine ($100) before my release.
In the last few weeks we have all watched as a firestorm of reform works its way through the middle east, centered of course in Egypt. We are seeing many images that frame the situation in Egypt as volatile and violent. We are being told a story of a thirty year dictatorship and many faceted social movement in sound bytes that take minutes.
The reporting has been OK given mainstream media bias but it misses an important question: Will a dictatorship, even a crumbling one really let the whole world into its world?
Rachel Maddow takes a few minutes more to look at how the story of Egypt is being told and why it is so important. Watch the video and continue to journey with those seeking peace and democracy in Egypt!
Tomorrow, January 5, 2011, SOA Watch activists Nancy Smith from New York and Chris Spicer from Illinois will appear in federal court in Columbus, Georgia. They will stand trial for crossing the line during the 2010 November vigil to close the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).
The two carried the protest against the SOA atrocities onto the Fort Benning military base. They now face up to six months in federal prison for their courageous act of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Nancy and Chris will use the courtroom to put the SOA itself on trial and to take a stand against the SOA, torture, militarization and oppressive U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
The presiding judge, Stephen Hyles, sentenced two other human rights advocates last November to the maximum allowed prison sentence for the same action. Father Louis Vitale and David Omondi, who also crossed onto the base during the November vigil are each currently serving six months prison sentences.
Please write to our Prisoners of Conscience David and Father Louis and send Nancy and Chris good thoughts, strength, courage and love as they speak truth to power in the Georgia Middle District Court tomorrow.
Anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter has heard of the Imperius Curse. It is a curse that when cast on a person will put that person completely under the control of whoever gave the curse. This person now under the Imperius will do whatever the person controlling him or her wishes (while the person under the curse believes he or she is still in control).
I can only guess that a massive Imperius Curse has taken over the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government in the past year. There are really too many examples to list but the latest of the extension of tax cuts to the very wealthy plus the denial of the DREAM Act seem to point to forces at play that can have nothing to do with plain common sense or the slightest moral sensibility.
Instead we are faced with arguments that distort facts and place a new “cultural” purity on the table. What makes America “America” and Americans “Americans” is a very narrow list of credentials that is defined by a few, a very few from a very conservative slant. In this America the wealthy are victims, migrants are terrorists, corporations are people with first amendment rights, the Gulf is clean and war is a state of being necessary for true patriotism.
Clearly a case of the Imperius Curse.
In the Harry Potter stories a person can resist the curse. The curse and its impact of erasing personhood and replacing it with a mindless following of commands can be prevented. To resist the curse, one must show great moral fortitude and courage. The person resisting the curse must believe so strongly in what they know to be right that the pressure to give up critical thought and moral inquiry can be overcome.
Gandhi, while not a reader of Harry Potter, had a similar concept only he called it soul-force. Soul-force is the force within us that gives us the strength and courage to stand up, no matter the consequences, for what we believe in and to struggle for those beliefs. This is not a private struggle for Gandhi or indeed Potter. It is a public one taking on the cultural sphere that roots the lies that are the mark of the Imperius Curse. We must not only believe but act and act publicly to create a wider space for more and more people to engage soul-force and resist the Imperious Curse.
In our final week of Advent it seems most appropriate to spend some time with soul-force. To look into the heart of the longest night of the year, December 21, and imagine what should welcome the dawn. Undocumented youth allowed to flourish? Millions of new, well paid jobs for the unemployed? The end of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?
What would greet your dawn? What calls on your soul-force?
So we gathered from all across the country some even from other countries to begin our vigil, our presence at the gates of Ft. Benning.
We gathered together to hear the testimony of survivors, the stories of those who are currently in the struggle and the poetry and music of many groups of resistance.
The stories from stage reminded us of why we gather. We heard of the human rights violations, the stolen land, the communities broken by militarization, and the fear created by oppression.
We also heard of creative resistance, alternative economies, loving rebuilding of communities. It was a day of energizing grace.
As we left the space, the police attitude changed. There were aggressive arrests, as people tried to make their way to their cars. Theirs was an attitude of control and suspicion that was the antithesis of the nonviolent open space that had been created by the community.
This is our struggle, how do we create change when speaking out is seen as threat? When calling for justice is seen as violent? How do we walk our road?
The day teaches that we walk it together, we walk it in peace, we walk it because this is who we are called to be.