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Home Action Action History 2001 April Fast Journal
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Fast Journal

Day 1

Shalom from Columbus:

Yesterday, Good Friday, April 13, was Day 1 of the Fast and Prayer Vigil, and the first full day of the project. Was also a water-only day. Too busy to be hungry. Maybe that's how the campesinos deal with it.

I have a routine fairly well worked out in my mind that I think will work well to frame the spirit and intent of this whole effort: whether it can and will be executed or not is another matter. So far, what we have been able to do every day is the Rosary at 4:30. This has worked very well as a wonderful way to close the day. We are using the Campaign For Human Development (CHD) Scriptural Rosary for Justice and Peace, which is a very powerful vehicle for contemplation and discernment on the Way to justice and peace, and a gateway to the fact that peace and justice is the Way.

Lil spent a lot of very fruitful time walking a Way of the Cross using Megan McKenna's Pax Christi publication as her guide. She did it on the median island just before the Main Gate that has some very pretty tree-shaded areas and, right on The Line, toetips less than 1 inch from the dividing line between Here and There.

We are getting settled into the neighborhood: there is a small group of kids who worked with Becky and her team in January who have adopted us as well, serving as dog-walkers, sherpas, comic relief, and a biting reminder that one needn't travel to some Third World country to see the marginalized.

They are a treat and they love having Hobo and Ginger to pamper, walk, run, and fun with. The dogs, of course, are in this Fast too. As used as they are to table scraps, they have experienced cold-turkey withdrawal and are on a (gasp!) dogfood-only diet. Or they were until about 2pm, Friday, when the kids brought them a bunch of hamburgers. A number of kids who, on Day ZERO, were absolutely terrified of Hobo were taking him for a walk on Day 1. That's progress, eh?

I finally got the apartment straightened up and moved into; had to, company coming, you know. I wanted to hold out breaking the water-only fast until they got in; but at 9:15, an hour plus after sundown, I went ahead without them. Juice of apple and orange with fine ground sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seed emulsified in solution. How'd it taste? If I got something like that at the Smoothie King, I'd have sent it back. But, under the circumstances, having been without anything but water for 25 hours, it wasn't too bad at all. I keep remembering Gandhi's admonition to view and use and treat food as medicine, and not as a source of pleasure.

Late last nite, Teresa from C3O and then Tom and Jeanie Egan (Pax Christi New Orleans) and my wife Kathy arrived safe and sound. It's good to have community in the house. It is better than good; it is blessing.

In the Gospel reading, Pilate asks "What is truth?" Apparently Jesus remained silent again. That was the thought that kept returning, over and over again.

Roy told the story of a Trappist monk who has been refused ordination for three years now because he has refused to sign an "oath of allegiance and obedience" to the Pope. Lil asked, "Does he get to chose the Pope to which he swears allegiance?"

Quote of the Day: One of the more interesting aspects of being on Vigil at The Gate is the reaction from the folks going in to and coming off of the base. We get waves, honks, smiles, thumbs-ups, and we get thumbs down, middle fingers up, and epithets such as "Go Home!" "Get a Life!" The best was during a brief but intense afternoon cloudburst that knocked down one of our signs; as I stood in the rain trying to retrieve it, a Ranger-tagged SUV whipped by and the driver hollered, "The Gods Have Spoken!!! GO home!!!"

Had a visit from the Columbus Police Department, a young Catholic Chaplain's Assistant who has a 13-year old daughter doing a report on the SOA controversy wants to come by to interview me next week, and, best of all, a guy named Joe Blair. Joe is the retired Army Major featured in the Maryknoll video "An Insider Speaks Out." He was an instructor at the SOA for several years and a Foreign Area Officer in Latin America for many years (including all thru the 80s and the Reagan assault on democracy south of the Rio Bravo). The film is his indictment of what the SOA did (does) based on his first hand experience at the School and with the people trained at the School. We had a great chat. It was a real privilege to meet him. Peace, Good, and Love. Jeff

Day 2. Holy Saturday. April 14.

Re-reading Day 1's report, I realized that I made no mention of Good Friday. The original intent was to read through Leonardo Boff's WAY OF JUSTICE, WAY OF THE CROSS and Henri Nouwen's WALK WITH JESUS: STATIONS OF THE CROSS. That intent was not realized due to a variety of circumstances.

I will read Boff and Nouwen next week when the extended meditation on the Crucifixion and the "Crucified Peoples" begins.

The day - today, Saturday - began wonderfully. Waiting on the desk in the media center was this message on focus by Archbishop Romero from Father Roy:

"We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us...

"We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

"We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between 'master' builder and the worker. We are the workers, not the master builders; the ministers, not the messiah. We are prophets of a future that is not our own."

I think that very fittingly captures what Father Roy's work is all about, and what those of us who have been captured by his mission and his vision should be aspiring to.

And even if Roy and those who are committed to the work succeed, and the WHISC (WHINSEC)/SOA is closed down at Benning, that does not mean that the Beast has been killed.

I keep having this lurking suspicion in the middle of the night that if Congress were to stop funding it, it would be outsourced (to, say, Colombia, and funded via black-budget processes). Or, they may just move it to Puerto Rico, where the US Army Southern Command's forward control elements are located (having re-located from Panama). I used to sleep better before I knew so much.

But that is irrelevant. I am drawn back to the statement about the faith on which my effort here is based; specifically, to the third article of that faith: "that it is also God's will and intent that Good will ultimately prevail over Evil. That there is to be a world without war, without hunger, without poverty, without ignorance, and without death, disability, or disfigurement by treatable or preventable disease. And that this world is not to happen at some indeterminate time in the future, but right here and right now. And finally, that such a world is not just some utopian fantasy, but the birthright of every child, woman, and man on this planet, our birthright as the daughters and sons of God."

That is the faith that makes the hope possible, even in the face of the reality of Good Friday. That reality is that the Empire that crucified Jesus is the same Empire that Columbus worked for, and is the same Empire that is crucifying the oppressed, marginalized, impoverished, and wretched of the earth, and the earth itself. (Read Boff's CRY OF THE EARTH, CRY OF THE POOR.)

After that great start, the day only got better. We have hatched plans for an SOA Watch Fast Food Cookbook, to be part of a special Weight Loss Program under the direction of Father Roy. We started keeping track of the positive and negative responses to our presence (keeping a scoresheet) and will send weekly reports to General LeMoyne (Commander of Fort Benning) and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer newspaper. And finally, I felt like I was in a movie called Mr Rogers Goes to Fort
Benning; there were kids all over the place...the original band of banditos plus a whole new gaggle of their friends. Kathy launched her face-painting project and was an immense hit...they don't have camoflague like that on the other side of The Line. We have begun a dog-handling course for kids, virtually every one of whom is - or was - terrified of at last Hobo when they first encountered him. And next week is Spring Break...

Got to spend a lot of time with Teresa on C3O/GI Rights Network activity. A major focus of that effort is what they call GI Outreach, the result of a sort of chicken-or-the-egg perspective that concludes that the only reason that Empire is still in business is because it has the power and might of the national (and soon supra-national) military force at its disposal. Diminish or disable the military and Empire becomes vulnerable to chaos and collapse. Destroy the military and Empire is dust.

I am coming to believe more than I ever have that it is possible to take back the planet, one step - one heart and mind and soul - at a time. And the place to begin is with the soldier. If there are no soldiers to fight all these wars, will the politicians, CEOs, generals, and media moguls do it? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If there are no soldiers to maintain Empire's unchallenged position of total domination and control, soon there will be no Empire.

So, the strategic purpose of GI Outreach? To subvert the military and thus encompass Empire's doom? That may not be the intent, but that is a very potential result. It is work that has heart.

Kathy took command of the kitchen today, taking inventory and launching a couple of shopping expeditions that stocked the refrigerator and supplied all the necessary utensils, implements, tools, and such to make the place functional. Plus, she made first a fruit juice and then a vegetable concoction that would make anybody why on earth they ever ate solid food.

One thing that is emerging in the Fast is the opportunity and necessity for mindfulness in the whole process of preparing, consuming, experiencing and enjoying food. This is a river that cannot be pushed and requires a focus at all times, so that you don't forget where you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. A moment ago was the first time since the fast began some 52 hours ago that I have experienced a vague sense not that I was hungry, but that I wanted (needed?) something to eat. Automatonously, I rose from the computer and went into the kitchen, opened the freezer and opened the container Kathy had filled with sliced frozen strawberries and had taken one out of the container and was ready to pop it in my mouth when...suddenly, I remembered where I was, what I was doing, and why I was doing it. I was almost as if a sleepwalker, in no control of my body, completely taken over by a need, a desire, a demand for something in my mouth and my belly. It was actually pretty scary. I need to put signs on the refrigerator to jar my somnolenceness when it happens again.

We closed the day with selections from the Campaign for Human Development's "Novena for Peace and Justice" and "A Justice Prayer Book" serving as a lead-in to recitation of CHD's Scriptural Rosary.

I see that the reading for tomorrow, which is Easter, the third day of the Novena, is Isaiah 58:6-8:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry.
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them;
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed."

So, what I'm doing is easy, eh?

This was sent to me by Jim Wilson ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) he asked that I share it with you all....

And it is Saturday,
the tomb is sealed,
and grief runs unchecked,
the moment of truth denied,
as his broken body
is consigned to the dust.

The pain and agony
demanding the rote attendance
upon customs of burial,
a little spice, mixed with tears,
hopeful always
that the bitter joke is over.

Confusion, despair, rejection,
how can this be,
and there is the tomb,
stone cold tomb,
shouting its vengeance
in silent passion.

The day lasts forever,
will it never end,
mourning calls the names,
Mary, Mary, Salome,
and their stilled answer
waits, impatiently waits.

How lifeless their breath,
how hollow their eyes,
no lilt in their step,
simply moving about in a stupor,
not caring,
to even cry.

Truth killed,
love denied,
life demeaned,
meaningless filling that basket of anointing,
to anoint the anointed one,
in the tragedy of all time.

Sabbath,
Torah,
all forgotten,
only the calamity of death,
incumbent depression forced
the tomb was sealed forever.

It is Saturday.
Peace, Good, and Love.

Jeff

DAY 3 Easter Sunday Mass

Did some much-needed interior decorating to Casa Rutilio Grande, as we have christened our base camp/base community here in the Southgate Apartments. Have hung some posters and pictures and prayers and such, and a band of newsprint on the wall for people to leave a message for those who follow. There are posters from Acteal (the site of the 1997 massacre in Chiapas of 45 children, women, and men as they fasted and prayed for peace), from the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, again in Chiapas, icon art of Romero, the Jesuits, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Thomas
Merton, and, most importantly, the Madre do Los Desparacidos, the Holy Mother of the Disappeared, the Patron of the Latin American woman who waits for the return of her father, husband, son or daughter, brother or sister, who has been "disappeared."

Part of the Mass was a public expression of that for which we were most thankful that Easter morning. Jeanie Egan spoke of The Women. The Women who keep the family, the church, the society, the nation, the planet together and moving inexorably on a path of life and hope, as a countervailing force to the elements driving it all, us all, on a path of death and despair.

We can always use more posters, pictures, banners, and the like. Please bring them, send them.

Another part of the Mass was shared reflection on resurrection journeys. Tom Egan spoke of his experience at the November 2000 Vigil here at Benning in which he engaged Major Colon, the School of the Americas Chaplain in an extended conversation on how it is possible to preach the Gospel of Jesus, on the one hand, and to be a soldier, on the other. The Major saw no difficulty whatever. That conversation really put a hook in him. It really put a hook in me, as well. I hope Major
Colon comes by the Peace Site, as Tom has designated our location (when the MPs drive by, he was prone to standing at attention and giving a salute that involved making the peace sign, holding it horizontally, and touching the bill of his Pax Christi cap, while barking: "Peace Site secure, Sir!!!").

That's all part of that dialogue I hope to have with him and others in the Christian community here at SOA/WHINSEC, Fort Benning, and Columbus in which we could explore those questions like, "Would Jesus carry an M-16?.Would he teach others how to use one?.Would he attend SOA/WHINSEC?.Would he encourage his disciples to attend SOA/WHINSEC?.Can a heart and mind trained to kill a neighbor still have the ability to follow the central Christian commandment to LOVE that neighbor?.Can a killing system or agency be made consistent with the "Kindom" - we are all kin in God's eyes - of God?"

Tom is a wonderful story teller. He told one about a protest vigil at a nuclear submarine facility in which he had brought a foot-long plastic model of a Trident nuclear sub to the action, along with a small wooden cross. When he was arrested, the police confiscated the cross, claiming it to be a weapon. When he asked them if they wanted his submarine, they looked at him like he was mad. Which he, in fact, most decidedly is. And it is a fine madness indeed. Tom has organized the parallel, rotating Fast that is on-going in New Orleans. He's running for the national council of Pax Christi this year and plans to start a PaxMakers seniors baseball team in the fall. He is the proud, if perplexed, father of a Navy SEAL, and is developing a concept for Peace SEALS, a sort of muhajadeen special operations gang of practitioners of nonviolent transformative revolutionary love. If anybody can do it, Tom Egan is The Man. The Rock.

I was able to close out my conversation with Teresa from C3O and GI Rights Network. Casa Rutilio Grande is also now the provisional affiliate and local contact point for the GI Rights Network in Columbus. She came here to give me some one-on-one training in that work, and she thinks -- and I think - that we're ready to open shop. If there are any Fort Benning soldiers seeking information about alternatives to military service, we should be able to help them out.

Channel 3 was out again, taking a couple of sound bites in the rain. The reporter/cameraman told us to give them a heads-up for next Sunday's mass, and they will try to send a crew out to cover it. We aired on the Sunday evening news and Monday morning; again, I didn't see it.too busy with other stuff.

We had a wonderful Easter here at Rutilio Grand; hope yours was as joyous and fulfilling.

Peace, Good, Joy, and Love.
Jeff

Day 4

Easter Monday, 2001. Jeanie Egan's Honk Signs are out: "Honk To Shut It Down!" and "Honk To Close It!" face incoming and outgoing traffic. At some point, when there is absolutely nothing else significant to do, we will conduct a scientific tabulation of responses. In the time they've been up at this writing, definite patterns emerge: women are more likely to honk than men; people of color more likely than whites; the smaller the vehicle, the likelier the honk; as many people in uniform honk as
people in civilian clothes (of course, these guys may be honking to close Fort Benning, not just the SOA); and SUVs with plates that say "Ranger," or "Airborne," or "Born to Die" do not honk. . Take that back. One "Airborne" did, with a black, female soldier with gold on her hat; I couldn't tell if she was a Major or a Second Lieutenant.

Beginning to feel a bit wearied; took a mid-day nap for about an hour and it made all the difference in the world. I don't think it's from the fasting so much as from a lack of a decent nite's sleep for over a week. I must remember the admonition Mother Theresa received right at the beginning of her work, when she was not taking sufficient care to ensure that her physical needs were being met: someone very wise told her that if she did not take care of herself first, there would be nothing left of her with which to take care of The Forgotten Ones, Jesus in his most disturbing disguise.

Had an interesting conversation with a young artilleryman today who stopped at the Peace Site at The Gate and wanted to know what we had against the SOA/WHINSEC. In his mind, the reason we are training Latin American soldiers is that, eventually, they will be our enemies and we will know what they know and thus be better able to defeat them. The argument that we train them so as to advance and protect transnational corporate interests approached the issue from a different direction, but arrived at the same destination: there is nothing about the place that benefits any of the marginalized, oppressed and impoverished wretched masses of Latin America. Upon that, we could both agree. Sharp young man with a beautiful young wife.

Kathy and the Egans headed out around 10:30, to return to New Orleans. I really, really, really hated to see them leave. Kathy set up the kitchen and demonstrated that fruits and vegetables and seeds can be turned into delightfully tasty fare. She is a genius. She is my secret weapon.

The Religious Editor of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer came out and spent the better part of an hour doing an interview. The write-up is supposed to be in this coming Saturday's Religion section. The best question she asked me was: What happens on May 25, the after the Fast is scheduled to end? Well, if there is no one to take my place, I guess I will just have to keep on fasting. The vision, the intent is that until the School is closed down, someone will be here doing extended Fasting and
Vigiling. That is my first objective right now; to find someone to whom I can pass the torch when I break my Fast at 2pm on May 24. If I don't, I'll be there on May 25. Beyond that, a number of interesting possibilities present themselves, all of which will be subject to an extended and intensive period of discernment during the next 37 days.

The most interesting comment that I have received from everything I have sent out went as follows: "I was unaware of your intense interest in religion and your need to feel good about yourself. I cannot quarrel with your attitude nor your desires relative to the school at Ft. Benning. I wish you well and hope that you succeed -- but will not be surprised if the status remains quo after your 42 day stint. The US Army is a very potent adversary. I surely hope that you don't get into trouble leading to arrest and time in the cooler. I hope your temper will be controlled."

Last things first. I have no intention of doing anything to get arrested during the course of the Fast and Prayer Vigil: that's not at all what this is about.

Second, the Army is not the adversary here. There is no one at Fort Benning or in the Department of the Army who has the authority to close the school. That is a decision that only the President or Congress can make. The real adversary is the world-view that generates US political, economic, military, and diplomatic policy and action toward Latin America that makes an institution like the WHINSEC/SOA not only possible, but necessary, and thus inevitable.

So why am I doing the Fast and Prayer Vigil here and not in Washington, DC? Because the ghosts of the victims of the SOA/WHINSEC hang out at the Fort Benning Road Gate and they need comfort and solace, solidarity and support. But above all, they need prayerful and reflective action. I have realized that when Judy Liteky called The Gate "a sacred place," it wasn't because of what the living have done there, but because of what the dead cannot do there.

What they cannot do is to cry out for an end to the repression, to the torture, the terror, and the tyranny. Their voices are gone; their tongues cut out. There are the ghosts of too many victims hanging around Washington, DC. So, the ghosts of the daughters and the sons, the sisters and the brothers, the husbands and fathers and the wives and the mothers of Latin America choose to congregate on Fort Benning Road.seeking only to know that they have not died in vain, that the madness will be stopped, that it is safe to return to their graves in their beloved homelands so drenched in blood and tears.

I confess a need to "feel good about myself." I confess a greater need to feel good about my country and what it does in and to and against the crucified peoples of Latin America. I confess a desire to be able to look at the relationship that exists between the United States and the masses of Latin America and not see expropriation, exploitation, enslavement, and extermination as principle methodology and terminal objective.

Finally, this is not at all about religion. It is about faith. And it is about spirituality.

I need to cogitate on this one a bit before expressing myself. This is the sort of thing where it is easy to get tripped up on and wrapped around all kinds of axles involving semantics, nuances of meaning, and the like.

I am reminded of Mark Twain's THE WAR PRAYER, and I am reminded of John Dear's THE GOD OF PEACE: Toward a Theology of Nonviolence. First Twain:

..It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came-next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams-visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!-then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation -- "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever--merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and
country imperishable honor and glory - An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said "I come from the Throne-bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import-that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of-except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this-keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer-the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it-that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle-be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their
wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

***
And then John Dear:

"As Gandhi said, nonviolent social change does not come from governments, courts, or schoolrooms, but from within prisons and sometimes on the gallows. The praxis of nonviolence requires civil disobedience to preparations for war.and divine obedience to the God of peace. Though we may be jailed or killed for proclaiming the truth of
nonviolence, we will be found faithful emphasis added). We will be blessed."

As befits this Easter Monday, let's let Daniel Berrigan have the final word. In a meditation on why there is still war, after all these years of peacemakers attempting to make peace happen. Basically, he says that the reason we still have war is that there are not as many peacemakers who are as committed and dedicated to peace as there are warriors dedicated and committed to war. And one of the primary reasons for that, he says, is almost cruel in its clarity:

+++

We have assumed the name of peacemakers but we have been unwilling to pay any significant price for peace.

We want peace with half a heart and half a life and half a will

the war continues because the waging of war is total but the waging of peace is partial.

.....but, What of the price of peace?

I think of the good, decent, peaceloving people I have known by the thousands and I wonder. How many of them are so afflicted with the wasting disease of normalcy that, even as they declare for peace, their hands reach out with an instinctive spasm in the direction of their loved ones, in the direction of their comforts, their homes, their security, their incomes, their futures, their plans -- that five year plan of studies, the ten-year plan of professional status, that twenty-year plan of family growth and unity, that fifty-year plan of decent life and honorable natural demise. "Of course, let us have the peace," we cry, "but at the same time let us have normalcy, let us lose nothing, let our lives stand intact, let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties." And because we must encompass this and protect that and because at all costs -- at all costs -- our hopes must march on schedule, and because it is unheard of that in the name of peace a sword should fall, disjoining that fine and cunning web that our lives have woven, because it is unheard of that good men and women should suffer injustice or families be sundered or good repute be lost -- because of this we cry peace and cry peace, and there is no peace.

There is no peace because there are no peacemakers.

But what about the question of cost? REAL cost?

The angel told him, "Suppose that ten thousand war resisters came unarmed to the border of a war zone, fasted there, prayed, and marched right in. In sum, risked their lives, with one thing in mind: to bring sanity, an alternative, to a mad impasse. Suppose they hung in, refused to go away, eventually sat down with those bristling, untrusting leaders."

"Wait a minute," he said. "Suppose they failed. Suppose they were machine gunned or rounded up and carted off to concentration camps."

The angel responded by breaking into song, "Everybody want to go to heaven, nobody want to die."

Peacemaking is hard. Almost as hard as war.
...
Peace, Good, Joy, and Love.

Day 5

Easter Tuesday, 2001.

A very quiet day, with no particular revelations to record. Trying to settle in to a routine, but it is very difficult. There are always distractions that give us an excuse not to do what we think we should be doing. On the other hand, those distractions are usually someone doing what they think they should be doing and who also seem to think that they need our involvement or assistance in their particular project.

The original plan to do daily scriptural reading and reflection at The Gate has not materialized as yet. The daily recitation of the Rosary, on the other hand, is. It is a wonderful way to close out the day. The praying and reading of The Hours back at Casa Rutilio Grande, on the third hand, is going even better. That is emerging as a discipline of considerable comfort and worth.

I took only water during daylight hours today because, frankly, I wasn't hungry. It wasn't that I was too tired or lazy to drink my juices; I simply had no need or desire to drink them. In the evening, I had a fine concoction left from Kathy's efforts at the weekend: carrot and apple juice with ground sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds.
Another beautiful day.
Thanks.

Day 6

Easter Wednesday, 2001.

The day started with a boom. Beat-up pickup truck barrels by, rifle in the back window, "backy juice" stains all over the left side of the truck body, big burly bear of a guy at the wheel. He goes by Jeanie's "Honk To Shut It Down!" sign and bellows, "Horn's Broke!!!" and gives a huge thumbs up. Later that day, the other side of the Honkers was seen and heard: "Go Home, you Communist B---!!!" screamed a voice from an SUV with an Airborne and Ranger decal in the back window. He was yapping at Lil, our 78-year old Grandmother who was wrapping up her and her husband's full week on duty at The Gate.

They are leaving tomorrow and I will really miss them. They have been a very good set of companions for me this week, gentle, steady, peaceful, and joyous in their determination to see justice done and peace prevail. They hope to be back down for the trial on May 22.

There may be direct action and civil disobedience in conjunction with the trial. My intent is to hold steady with the Fast and the Prayer Vigil. Presumably by then, there will be someone who has stepped forward to begin their Fast and Vigil on May 25. If not, I'll stay at The Gate until there is a replacement. Kind of like in the Army when you are on guard duty: the first rule is that you do not leave your post until properly relieved, even if that means staying there forever.

I got out to the Peace Site a little earlier today (actually, I believe that my energy level is going up, now that I got a decent nite's sleep, am napping for an hour or so during the day, and the effects of the Fast are starting to kick in) and noticed that there is a lot of traffic between 7:15 and 7:45. A lot of traffic. I think I need to move my start time up to begin earlier. I contacted the Columbus Police Department and was advised to send in a request for an amendment to my Permit, which I will do in the next day or so. I need to be out there earlier. And, I walked by The Gate later in the evening and then again nears midnite.the place is even more special and more sacred and more spooky at nite. There really are ghosts out there; it wasn't just a dramatic expression of sentiment.they are really there. I need to spend
some more time at nite out there.

Peace, Good, Joy, and Love.


Day 7

Easter Thursday, 2001.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of OPERATION DEWEY CANYON III. On this date in 1971, more than 1500 Vietnam veterans, some in wheelchairs and many still recovering from wounds received in combat action, began to gather in Washington DC at the call of an new anti-war organization, Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Following a week full of Congressional hearings, ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetery, marches and protests and arrests at the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court, the grande finale took place on the steps of the Capitol. The VietVets threw the medals, awards, and decorations they had earned in the US military into two large coffins, renouncing their military service and denouncing US policy and action in Southeast Asia.

One is led to ask, what would be the impact of 1500 veterans doing the same thing at Fort Benning, at the SOAW November Vigil?

Yesterday marked the end of Week 1. Bill and Lil are gone (they left after a brief visit and prayer at The Gate), and so are the kids (chased away by the police yesterday). There is solitude. There is silence. There is a settling in and down into the ground, digging in if you will, preparing for Weeks 2-5 that loom ahead.

Two visitors today: a young female MP (Military Police) who had been sent out on occasion to keep watch over us and wanted to find out what, why, and who we were, and a young Major on staff at the SOA/WHISC, who wanted to find out essentially the same things. This Major was four years old when I completed my second tour in Vietnam in 1968. In both instances, we had what I felt to be a very fruitful exchange. The Major might be back to continue the dialogue. While he understood the concept of "ghosts" at The Gate, he seemed genuinely perplexed that I would link the SOA, NAFTA, GATT, and the FTAA. The young MP is on her way to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to join her MP husband, get out of the Army, and have her baby.

An issue that keeps surfacing over and over again from the people here at Fort Benning: Why do you protest here? Why do you not protest in Washington, where the policy and decision makers are? As often as it is surfacing leads me to believe that SOA protests here are a real pain in the butt to the Army; all the more reason to keep doing them here. Let me chew on that one; there are other -- tho not better -- reasons for maintaining a presence here than the Ghosts at The Gate. I need to articulate them.

A thought struck me as I sat at The Gate today, wrapped in solitude, attempting to clarify the images and discern the messages swirling about that were almost, but not quite, palpable. What this in fact may be is something akin to a vision quest: a solitary encounter between self and Other for the express purpose of learning one's task and of finding one's path.

Tomorrow, Friday, the 8th day, is a water-only day. This one will be a bit tougher than last week's.

Peace, Good, Joy, and Love.


Day 8

Easter Friday, 2001.

As a Friday, today was a water-only fast day. It was a little bit tougher than last week's, but not uncomfortably so. Next week, with the observance of the assassination of Bishop Gerardi of Guatemala on Thursday, we' ll have consecutive water-only days.

Made it on to the site earlier today; Peace Site was operational by 7:35. Much better. Seeing a lot more of the folks going on their way into work. I submitted a request to the Columbus Police Department to amend permitted hours on at the Gate; will get out there at 7 in the morning to be able to see the incomers.

Really enjoying the quiet and the solitude, and the opportunity it presents for reading, reflecting, writing, and pondering. I guess the primary time I really miss having someone around is at 4:30, come rosary time. That is very much more grounded and moving when it is done in a group. I have received messages informing me that many people are saying their rosaries at the same time in locations all over the place; I thought I sensed a web humming. Started John Dear's THE GOD OF PEACE:Toward a Theology of Nonviolence.

Been able to finally begin my extended reflection on the arrest, trial, sentencing, torture, death walk, and execution of one Jesus of Nazareth, some 2,000 years ago in a place called Palestine, by elements of a global Empire, and, at the same time, the daily remembrance and reflection upon how that Crucifixion continues to be carried out to this very day, in places called Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, and Cuba, by elements of a differently named but essentially unchanged global Empire. I'm beginning by using Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff's WAY OF THE CROSS, WAY OF JUSTICE and Henri Nouwen's WALK WITH JESUS: Stations of the Cross.

The Summit of the Americas begins today in Quebec with the objective of laying the final framework for establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It is to this that our eyes must turn and to the world-view that is attempting to implement the FTAA that our minds must grasp if we are to understand why the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation must exist.

On January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect to create a "free trade zone" from Canada through the US to Mexico, the Zapatista Rebellion occurred in Chiapas.

When the FTAA goes into effect, to paraphrase Che, "Two, three, many Chiapas'" The only way that Empire will realize the envisioned free trade zone in the western hemisphere from the North Pole to the South Pole is if it is enforced by state-of-the-art military and national security state oppression, repression, terror, and tyranny. The mission statement of the U.S. Southern Command, which has strategic and tactical operational responsibility for everything south of the Rio Grande, includes the following terminology: "protecting the supply of strategic natural resources and access to the markets."

And you thought Plan Colombia was about stopping the flow of drugs. I'm still pondering the question of why demonstrate at Benning as opposed to Washington, and I know that the answer includes linkage to the FTAA and NAFTA, the Inter-American Development, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, structural adjustment programs, and so forth. This is about "Men With Guns," but it's not JUST about men with guns. It's about "bread and not stones." And, it is about the Peace of Christ and the God of Peace. Still chewing.

The best part of the day was mail, the old fashioned way. A letter from Sister Marge Eilerman, OSF, from Richfield, Ohio. She is a Franciscan nun who is on probation for wandering onto the grounds (of Fort Benning) once too often. It was a very supportive and encouraging letter that closed with this simple imperative: "we must close that institution down." Additionally, Rosalie Riegle Troester, professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan and member the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker community in Saginaw, sent a copy of her book, VOICES FROM THE CATHOLIC WORKER, which is an oral history of the Catholic Worker movement and phenomenon. Professor Riegle has been sharing with me her experience with creating the CW House up there and felt that this book would be helpful in efforts down here.

I knew I was in the right place when I read the very first quote in the book from one father Mike Baxter: "You know, the Catholic Worker is not a liberal movement. It's a radical movement, and there's a sharp difference. Liberals say, 'Hey! The homeless aren't being fed. Let's march on City Hall.' Radicals say, 'The homeless aren't being fed. Let's feed them.'

(Dom Helder Camara said, "When I gave food to the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why the poor had no food, they called me a communist. Why do they call me a communist? I have no need of communism. I have the Bible." People like Camara are very dangerous. Places like the SOA/WHISC are designed to make the world safe from people like him.)

I haven't been this excited about getting mail since I was in Vietnam. Someone sent me a message expressing solidarity with my hunger strike. I responded that I didn't think that this was a hunger strike, that it was a fast. Which got me to thinking: what is the difference between the two? Hunger strikes seem to be almost desperate, angry actions that make demands; fasts seem to be deliberate, centered efforts that propose resolutions.

Vacuumed, did laundry, and generally got the place ready for some Pax Christi New Orleans visitors who are coming over late Saturday nite. Kathy will not be joining them this weekend; maybe next.

Peace, Good, Joy, and Love.

Day 9

Easter Saturday, 2001.

I think I've mentioned that we've been prefacing the afternoon rosary with readings from the CHD's Justice Prayer Book and with praying its Novena for Peace and Justice. Yesterday's Prayer Book offering is from Latin America, and is gripping in its simplicity and its power:

O god,
To those who have hunger,
give bread;
And to those who have bread
Give the hunger for justice.

In reading Boff's WAY OF THE CROSS, WAY OF JUSTICE, at the Fourth Station, where Jesus meets his mother, we are reminded of Mary's declaration of revolutionary insurgency at the time she was told that she was to bear the son of the God of whom she declares:
".has shown might with his arm;
He has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has deposed the mighty from their thrones
And raised the lowly to high places.
The hungry he has given every good thing,
While the rich he has sent empty away." (Lk 1:51-53)

Thought for the Day: Caminente, no hay camino. Se hace el camino el andar: Walker, there is no road. We make the road by walking.

Quote for the Day: "Those who respond to the suffering of the poor often recover in their own life the deep meaning they thought they had lost; they recover their human dignity by becoming integrated into the pain and suffering of the poor. From the poor they receive, in a way they hardly expected, new eyes for seeing the ultimate truth of things and new energies for exploring unknown and dangerous paths. At the very moment of giving, they find themselves expressing gratitude for something new and better that they had been given." - Jon Sobrino, El
Salvadoran liberation theologian who survived the Jesuit massacre in 1989 only because he was out of the country at the time.

There was a nice article in this morning's Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Faith and Spirit section; front page, right column with a continuation and a three column picture from Day 0 on page two. Overall, it was reasonably accurate, very friendly, and just plain nice to see. There was one glaring and one less glaring inaccuracy, though, about which I e-mailed the reporter and the editor:

"(The reporter, Religion Editor) Allison Kennedy quotes me as saying that "...The vision is to close the school, or see it transferred." What I actually said was, "...or see it transformed."

"In truth, I'd like to see it become the Western Hemisphere Institute for Service and Compassion, (WHISC) stationed at the former-Fort Benning, the southeastern United States branch of an international World Peace, Justice, Freedom, Equality, and Reconciliation Institute.

But please, don't let the impression stand that all I want to do is see it moved out of Georgia. I keep having this lurking suspicion in the middle of the night that if Congress were to stop funding the WHISC/SOA, it would simply be outsourced (to, say, Colombia), and funded via black-budget processes. Or, they may just move it to Puerto Rico, where the US Army Southern Command's forward control elements are located (having re-located from Panama). I used to sleep a lot better before I knew so much.

"Also, I didn't wonder if Jesus would "teach people how to load an M-16"; I wondered if he would teach people how to USE an M-16, and if he would use one himself."

It takes about 15 minutes to haul everything out from the SOA Watch media office and get it set up at The Gate. I bring six crosses (with country names on them.Colombia, Mexico, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), four sandwich boards, 1 large display board (a Charlie Liteky created Memorial to Victims of SOA Grads), plus personal gear. I feel like one of those street vendors I saw in marketplaces in Chiapas and Oaxaca.

The diversity of drive-bys: "Get a Job!!!. Go home! F-- Yoooouuuuuuuuu!!!!" "See where you made the paper? Someone bring you a copy? Take care." (this last from a young fellow who stopped after giving a huge rebel yell; he had jump wings decaled to the back window of his shiny, jet black pick-up truck).

Looking forward to Kevin, Bernadette, and Henri from Pax Christi New Orleans coming in late, late tonite to spend a couple of days. It is always good to be in community. Father Roy will be saying mass again in the morning, at The Gate. Not many better places for doing that, eh?

Peace, Good, Joy, and Love.

NEWS FLASHES FROM THE GATE

ITEM 1: Bread Not Stones (Thanks Be to God). At approximately 8:04 this morning, the voice of the people was most definitely heard as we cranked up Day 12 of the 42-Day Fast And Prayer Vigil at the Fort Benning Road Gate. Next to the sign showing the number of Day of the Fast is a board carrying the Message of the Day. It is, and has been, for several days now, ".BREAD NOT STONES."

This is intended to provide a down-and-dirty explanation as to why the WHISC/SOA is evil, irrelevant, unnecessary, and ignorant. The message is that the oppressed, marginalized, impoverished, forgotten, crucified masses of the peoples of Latin America (and Africa and Asia and Oceania and Europe, and North America, while we're at it) do not need Stones; they need Bread.

They don't need soldiers trained in the art and science of low intensity conflict or counterinsurgency, or counter-drug or commando operations. They need teachers and nurses and doctors and sanitation engineers and carpenters and plumbers and clean water and food and land to grow it on and.well, you get my drift.

At any rate, at approximately 8:04, somebody responded to the message. As the in-coming traffic onto to Fort Benning barreled by, somebody tossed a loaf of Nature's Own 100% Whole Bread at the sign (or me, I guess). And sped on by.

As far as Hobo and Ginger are concerned, it was manna from the heavens.

As far as I'm concerned, it makes me re-think changing out my message board. I was considering going to ".PLOWS NOT SWORDS."

ITEM 2: We Have Pictures (Almost). Just back the four rolls of film for Days 0-6. I addition to hard copy prints in hand, they are also, at present, on the Net (in the Kodak Picture Center, or some such place).

ITEM 3: Time Changes (Including Rosary Recitation). CPD has approved the request for a change of activity time at The Gate. Beginning tomorrow, April 25, we'll be on station from 7:30 to 11:30 in the morning, and from 3:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon. This'll get us more exposure to the morning rush hour going in to base and a little less exposed to the dead (deadly) mid-afternoon Georgia sun.

Accordingly, starting tomorrow, Rosary recitation will begin at 5:30 pm, CDT. I hope this will not deter folks from reciting with us in place; the energies being manifested during Rosary are very real and very enabling. We need to keep the web spinning and humming and growing.
Thanks.

Day 10
Second Sunday of Easter, 2001.

Kevin, Bernadette, and Henri made it in from New Orleans safe and sound at 12:45 am and by 8 am, they were with me at The Gate, helping to welcome yet another beautiful Georgia spring morning.

The news from Quebec weighs on the heart and the mind. Unlike Seattle, where the protesters were able to impact - even if only ever so slightly -- what happened inside in the meetings, there was virtually zero impact in Quebec. The necessary documents have been signed and strategies have been established and accepted to ensure implementation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by 2005.

The vision articulated by President William Taft in 1912 thus moves closer to realization: "The day is not far distant when three Stars and Strips at three equidistant points will mark our territory, one at the North Pole, one at the Panama Canal, and one at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally." Taft went on to describe the imperative of US foreign policy in the rest of the hemisphere as "including active intervention to secure for our merchandise and our capitalists opportunity for profitable investment." If you've not read it, please, please, please read Eduardo Galeano's OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

I believe that the most important single task confronting the faith-based peace and justice community at this very moment is to ensure that the President is not given what is called "fast track" authority to create the final form of the agreement that will spell out the terms of the FTAA so that the US Congress can not vote to change those terms before voting on it. If you don't know what "fast track" is and what it means and what has happened with it in the past, please educate yourself. This is not something that lends itself to 30 second sound bytes on the evening news, or single page summarizations in Time and Newsweek, or quick and easy explication from a self-appointed expert pontificating from outside the Main Gate of Fort Benning. This requires research and study and learning and getting smart enough to be able to articulate to the Congress and Senate exactly why FTAA "fast track" is dangerous not only to the future of this country, but to the future of life on this planet, as well.

And so what does all this have to do with a Fast and Prayer Vigil at Fort Benning? The SOA/WHINSEC is a symptom, of which globalization -- as manifested hemispherically by the FTAA -- is the disease. It is simply one more tool in the kit by which is being crafted this obscenity called the tri-headed new world order of globalization, corporatization, and privatization, all of which will be, must be protected and enforced by global militarization.

It is important to remember that the Fourth World War started on January 1,1994, the day that NAFTA went into effect and the day that the EZLN, the Zapatista Liberation Army, rose in rebellion in Chiapas and declared war not only on the government (as opposed to the people) of Mexico, but on the entire First World and the Domination Paradigm. It is equally important to remember that unlike the previous three World Wars, this one will be the war to end all war because after this one, man will learn war no more forever, or man will simply be no more forever.

What the Fast and Prayer Vigil is all about is the continuation of the beginning of the beginning of the unfolding of a strategy and a tactic to subvert the Domination Paradigm.one heart, one mind, and one soul at a time. It is low intensity spiritual conflict directed at the highest institution for learning low intensity military conflict in the world.

These are extremely grim times. All the more reason for love, hope, and
above all, joy.

Day 11
Monday of the Second Week of Easter, 2001.

Again, yet, and still I am considering the question raised by virtually every soldier who stops to ask what this whole effort is all about: "Why are you doing this here, at Fort Benning? Why don't you do it where the decision makers and policy makers are, in Washington, DC?" The SOA/WHISC is but a symptom of everything that is wrong in the relationship that exists between the United States and the rest of the planet, in this case, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean Basin. But DC is the Seat of Empire.

One reason that we are at Benning is because of a basic principle of low intensity conflict: the best way to defeat an insurgency is to wage war against those who support the causative agents of that insurgency. In Latin America, we wage war against the insurgent by exterminating those who support him. With his support gone, he cannot survive, he cannot insurrect. It is easier to wage terror against unarmed civilians than it is against armed and trained guerrillas. Much more cost effective, as well.

In this low intensity spiritual conflict against Empire, we engage those who support and keep the Empire solvent and safe: the soldiers. If, through the effort here, we could get even one Latin American or US soldier (or one of the civilians employed here) to re-think his (or her) profession and how she or he is being used as a cog in a vast, monstrous machine, we will have taken a step toward victory. It's really just a matter of conscientization - consciousness raising, no? For everybody. Especially those nowhere near this place.

But, once again, DC IS the seat of Empire. Thoughts and images keep swirling into and out of focus. A crucified campesino, crucified on a cross constructed of a shovel and a hoe, a crown of barbed wire on his head.

Adorning the huge sign announcing that you are entering Fort Benning is the emblem of The Infantry Center, a blue shield with a vertical (point up) bayonet emblazoned on it and the words "FOLLOW ME" arcing above the blade. For 11 days now I've been staring at that and wondering why it bothers me so. Suddenly, it hit me.

I have one of those Bibles-on-a-CD that lets you do word searches. Punching in "follow me," I found what I thought I remembered: Jesus had used that exact phrase on no less than 18 occasions during his public ministry as recorded in the Gospels. This is another reason to be here at Benning: to offer a countervailing tendency to all those hearts and minds being filled with the idea that "Follow Me" is a war cry, a summons to advance into the teeth of combat and to close with and kill the enemy.

In point of fact, "Follow Me" is a peace song, a summons to advance into the teeth of a world gone mad in the pursuit of and service to idols, and to close with and transform, through revolutionary nonviolent love, thy enemy. Being here may help one or two of these young soldiers recognize, or realize, or, better yet, remember this simple fact. But, finally, DC is the seat o

 

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