How can we do that? Is the idea as audacious as King Canute’s belief that he could change the tides by his will? Or is it enough people being like “salt” that hasn’t lost its saltiness?
We are a day past Martin Luther King Day, which ironically fell three days before a Jesuit priest, John Dear, will be sentenced for his non-violent actions in a U.S. senator’s office in New Mexico a year and half ago. I didn’t know anything about Dear until I received a note from Laurel that included what he intends to say to the Judge on Thursday:
On Thursday morning, Jan. 24, I’ll stand in Federal Court in Albuquerque, N.M. and be sentenced for our effort, nearly a year and a half ago now, to visit the office of our senator. Judge Donald Svet asked us to write letters to him about ourselves, and allowed my co-defendants each to make a statement at their sentencing last November. Here below are excerpts from my notes of what I will say in court on Thursday, if allowed.
John Dear is not only a Jesuit priest, but also a peace activist, and the author of more than 20 books, most recently, Transfiguration (from Doubleday, with a foreword by Archbishop Tutu). He has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the U.S., and after 9/11, as a coordinator of chaplains for the Red Cross at the New York Family Assistance Center. From 2002-2004, he served as pastor of four churches in New Mexico. Some say he was banished to that remote area by a church hierarchy that wanted him less visible. If he was, it didn’t. He has traveled the war zones of the world, been arrested some 75 times for peace. He lives in the high desert of northeastern New Mexico.
Back to what he will say to the judge:
This war has turned the entire world against our country, and sowed the seeds for future terrorist attacks against us. It does not promote security but instead threatens everyone’s security. It wreaks havoc on the people of Iraq and the Middle East, as well as our country and the people of New Mexico. It is also a complete waste of money. Those billions of dollars spent killing Iraqi children should be used instead to house the homeless, feed the hungry, provide universal healthcare and better schools, heal the returning veterans, and cleanup the environment, here in New Mexico, in Iraq, and throughout the world.
I want the senator and the New Mexico government and the federal courts and all government leaders to stop this war because it is killing thousands of U.S. soldiers, including New Mexicans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mainly civilians. No one deserves to die so that U.S. oil corporations can get richer, or for any reason. Our message is: The killing must stop now. That day, I carried the names of every U.S. soldier killed, and some 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed, and read them aloud to remind myself and others of this reality. Although many people are now against this war, unfortunately, the killing still goes on, and still needs to stop.
Dear has his own sentencing instructions for the judge:
As Gandhi said to his judge, I think you have two options: either renounce your guilty verdict upon me and join our campaign to end this war by upholding international law and the Nuremberg principles and supporting those who work nonviolently to end this war; or if you really support this unjust system which makes war, maintains weapons of mass destruction here in New Mexico, and kills people in Iraq and Afghanistan, then give me maximum sentence.
The whole world knows this war is a disaster. History will judge us all for where we stood, what we did, what we said at this kairos moment. I urge you to choose life, take a stand for peace, and call upon the whole country to speak out against this war and be converted to the truth of nonviolence.
How do we change the winds of indifference to the war? Maybe we better pay more attention to the Jesuit who is not a tractor. Thanks Laurel!