SOA: on crossing the line and life on the Otherside Print
My parent didn?t want me to speak to this court today. Like any loving parent, they sought to protect and cradle me even at the jaws of the criminal justice system. Afraid I would show this court, the hubris and arrogance that I showed them as a stubborn juvenile activist. I myself have carried a unique degree of fear in addressing this court, afraid of a court which very well holds my future, livelihood in its hands. Still as the daily struggle of life has shown me, what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruise and misunderstood. You see, when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. When I dare to be powerful?to use my strength in the service of my vision of a better world, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. Our silence will not protect us from the inhumanity and cruelty, as Audre Lorde teaches us.

We all know the hideously wretched history of the School of Americas. If anything, the protests at the WHINSEC military base act as candid retellings of the brutal and bloody history of repression and human cruelty that has been happened at the hands of SOA graduates and continues to largely ignored by most Americans. For me, going across that fence was my own personal method of addressing with the inhumanity of a place like the SOA (now WHINSEC). When describing the experience to a good friend of mine, I could only tell her that crossing that fence was tantamount to releasing a dark and desperate cry from within my own heart that has been forever bruised and weighted by the intensely unthinkable violence created by military institutions like WHINSEC.

In recent moments, I have come to view the annual SOA/WHINSEC protests as very large therapeutic exercises: each of found our own ways of confronting the monstrosity of an institution like SOA. Some of us channeled our anger and frustration into our own voices and made ourselves heard in to the streets of Georgia. We marched and chanted and screamed til our vocal cords and heels were weary. Some of us sought the vibrancy and perseverance of joy and music and, ultimately, life itself through dancing and moving our feet to the rhythms of el pueblo de la lucha. Thus shuffling our feet became a method of breaking through the despair and misery left buried deep into the soils of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile and all across Latin America by the soldiers trained at the School of Americas. Some of us challenged ourselves to be more educated about the perversity and pervasiveness of oppression. Thus we spend our time at these protests being students of injustice, learning about how the darkness of oppression reached far and wide from the automobile factories of Argentina to the supermarket aisles of Wal-Mart. Some of us employed theatrics (i.e. las Puppetistas) to express our own personal sorrow about the institutions like WHINSEC. Some of us sought the divine to make sense of the devastation that WHINSEC has left across the world. So we spent our time at these protests clinging to the divine and prayed that some higher power heal this bruised and battered planet of the violence and inhumanity of places such as WHINSEC. One of my favorite chicana feminist poets says that we are each ?refugees of a world on fire,? parched for lack of lively rain as we journey to make sense of all the despair that we pass by.

So for me personally, whether my own personal arrest will lead to the closing of violent, racist oppressive institutions like SOA is at most secondary. ?Crossing the line? was my own personal affirmation of the lives of thousands of Latin Americans who have been tortured, raped, assassinated, ?disappeared,? massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins. I choose civil disobedience as my own method of coping with the inhumanity of places such as the SOA that laud ?security? and American national ?interests? over the faces/names/stories/cultures/lives of el pueblo and, ultimately, justice itself. In that moment, ?crossing the line? became a way for me to say not in my name will this institution continue to torture, raped, massacred, batter, harass, and threaten el pueblo del mundo. No Mas. Whatever method we choose, each of us confronted the rabid, militaristically violent monster that is injustice on our own terms. These are just some of the thoughts that led to me cross onto a US military base and disobey men who I believe continue to senselessly plunder the earth with their murderously bloody hands for their own greedy self-interests.

So with hands quaking, I jumped over a barbed fence onto the WHINSEC military base, carrying only a white wooden cross engraved with the name of Jairo Caucail (a victim of the SOA who was murdered in Choco, Colombia) and sat down unto a green field as young people buzzed around me with enthusiasm and excitement about my action. Of course crossing that line came with all kinds of consequences and I feel prepared to undergo them. I feel that the answer to Dunya?s question was, ultimately, yes. hell yes. For me there is no better way to spend my time than standing in solidarity with la lucha and standing against vicious monsters like the School of Assassins who continue this very day to brutalize people around the world. If that solidarity means prison time, that?s a burden I?m willing to bear for my actions. This doesn?t mean that each of us should have walked across that fence to prove that we ?value? social justice and solidarity; la lucha needs all of us. It demands that we each find our own way of crying out against the despair of militarism and violence.

I want to leave you all with something that touched my heart. In the darkness of the Muscogee County Jail, one Jesuit priest who had crossed the line less than an hour after did and who still sits in the Muscogee County jail at this moment spotted me across the Detox tank afraid and cold and clearly in a very vulnerable state after undergoing hours of questioning and processing by both the US military and Muscogee County prison system. He leaned over to me and offered some words of encouragement and said in a then-hoarse voice that now seems to quake throughout my body whenever I think about it, ?Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." I felt then, as I feel now, emboldened by that comment. Thank you your time.

Donte Smith
January 30, 2006