Waging Peace

Hartsough_flyer_shot

The new book, Waging Peace:  Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist by veteran peace activist David Hartsough, is part autobiography, part recent history, and part call to action.  The book shows how a commitment to active nonviolence can plant the seeds and provide the impetus for significant social transformation.

In 2012 I was arrested with David and Jan Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, and Janie Kesselman at a demonstration at Beale Air Force Base, near my home in Northern California.  We were the first of many to be arrested at anti-drone protests at Beale, home of the Global Hawk drone, a surveillance drone that helps identify targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.  Our arrests resulted in a trial that generated significant publicity. I believe that our case and others like it at bases around the country got people discussing and questioning the morality of killing people by remote control.

Throughout the trial, David urged our lawyers to focus on the Nuremburg Principles and International Law, although the judge refused to consider these factors as a defense.  We were found “guilty” of trespassing onto base property.  Before being sentenced we each gave a statement to the court.  David’s complete sentencing statement, available here, is printed as an addendum in Waging Peace.

The judge could have sentenced us to six months in jail.  After hearing our statements, she acknowledged that we were motivated by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs” and sentenced us to just ten hours of community service.  We continue to demonstrate at Beale on an ongoing basis.  As David says, “Sustained resistance brings transformation.”

David is Executive Director of Peaceworkers, based in San Francisco, and co-founder with Mel Duncan of the Nonviolent Peace Force.  In Waging Peace, David shares some of his many adventures in active nonviolence, as well as his strong faith and the spiritual beliefs that motivate his action, as a Quaker and as a Christian.  This book engages the reader every step of the way.

Waging Peace is a compelling autobiography that beings with the story of a life-threatening encounter David had at age twenty while sitting with a number of African American students at a “whites only” lunch counter in Arlington, Virginia.  A man held a knife to his heart and threatened to kill him.  Fortunately for David, he had already incorporated a deep inner commitment to nonviolence, and was able to respond in a way that diffused the anger of his would-be killer.

What brought David to this historic event, and how did he handle this threatening situation?  He explains all this as he tells the story of his childhood and how he came to live out the principles of nonviolence at an early age.  He describes how the seeds of peace were sown by his remarkable parents, how he came to understand what Jesus meant when he said to love your enemies, how he began early experiments with nonviolence, and how he came to dedicate himself to living a life consistent with his values.  He was strongly influenced by friends and colleagues of his father, a Congregational minister who worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), especially Martin Luther King, Jr.  David was organizing demonstrations against nuclear weapons by the age of fifteen.

In addition to being an autobiography, this book is a modern-day history of nonviolent social movements, written from the perspective of a committed activist. As an agent for nonviolent social change, David seems to have always been at the right place at the right time.

During the Cold War, David traveled to Russia and organized peace demonstrations there.  As the United States and Soviet Union were threatening nuclear war over the divided city of Berlin, David lived in West Berlin just a few blocks from Checkpoint Charlie.  He traveled back and forth to East Berlin, learning as much as he could and speaking out against both communist and capitalist propaganda.  Ten years later the FBI issued a warrant for his arrest and questioned him about his activities there.

He and Jan, his beloved wife and partner in nonviolent action, stopped paying “war taxes” early on.  David claimed conscientious objector status and was an outspoken critic during the Vietnam War.  He was protesting with his friend Brian Willson on the day that Brian was run over and his legs were severed by a train carrying munitions to Central America.  He writes about the trauma of that event, but also about how many people continued to block the trains.  A short time later his elderly mother and father joined him and others on the tracks.

David and Jan traveled in Central American war zones during the 1980s, when U.S. financial support to corrupt regimes and death squads made such travel and life for people who lived there extremely dangerous.  He worked in the United States with Cesar Chavez in the struggles for the rights of farm workers.  In the 1990s, David was part of a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation for peace in Bosnia-Hertzegovnia.  He has travelled extensively in his peacemaking work, including to Iran and Palestine.  His peacemaking work continues, including through Peaceworkers and the Nonviolent Peaceforce.

For those who are aware of these various historical events, and for those who are not, this book brings them to life.  It is written not only by an observer, but from the perspective of one who is committed to the good—to compassion, justice, and peace.

In addition to being an autobiography and a first-hand history of social movements, Waging Peace is an inspiring call to action.  Every page expresses David’s hope for lasting social transformation based on his faith and his experience.  By reading about David’s adventures as a skilled practitioner of active nonviolence in key historical events of our time, the reader gains hope and confidence that significant change is possible.

Waging Peace is a “how to” book for transforming our society and the world.  It encourages us to start where we are, by learning and practicing nonviolence in all areas of our lives—in our personal relationships, in the workplace, and in social movements.  It includes a wealth of suggestions and resources for would-be activists.  This book not only gives practical direction but shows us the strong foundation built by others upon which we can stand, in solidarity with other people of faith and conscience around the world.

After describing some of the astonishing changes that nonviolent action has brought about in recent years in places around the world, David writes:

“What other spots on our earth are waiting for such stunning change?  What corner is beckoning to your heart and spirit?  Where is God leading you to invest your life on behalf of a world where all God’s children share the abundance and live as one family in peace and harmony with the earth?”

He closes the book with this statement of faith:  “Deep in my heart, I do believe, that—togetherWe Shall Overcome!”

Order signed copies of Waging Peace from Peaceworkers or order from a local bookstore.  It is also available on online outlets. 

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.  Read here for her specific blog postings about arrests at Beale and related court cases.   Find out more at Earth Justice Ministries website and the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  More about Beale protests at the Occupy Beale Air Force Base website and Occupy Beale Facebook page. 

The Journey of the Magi

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Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Epiphany.  People in many countries choose this day instead of Christmas to give gifts, as they recall the story of the wise ones following a star and traveling a great distance to bring gifts to honor the Christ Child.

There are sinister and dark implications to this story, as I wrote about last year in Slaughter of the Innocents.  The story of Herod seeking to kill the baby Jesus symbolizes Empire’s deadly response to transformative life and foreshadows Jesus’ death.

But Epiphany is also called “the Festival of Lights.”  It’s a reminder of the “star” that can help us find our way through the violence, confusion, and distractions of our age.  As I wrote recently in The Gospel of Peace, “We can follow the path forward even if all we can see is a glimmer of light.  That’s all we need.”

I love poems about the spiritual journey.  T.S. Eliot’s poem The Journey of the Magi is one of my favorites.  I especially like the last stanza–it seems so true for me.  Today I share it with you.

The Journey Of The Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

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The Gospel of Peace

Granddaughter Malina working on a banner for peace

Granddaughter Malina working on a banner for peace

Each year during the holidays I listen to Handel’s Messiah, which contains the glorious soprano aria that includes the words, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace.”  I say “Amen.”  In this time of increasing violence and injustice against people and the planet, we need to hear again the gospel (that is, good news) of peace.  In coming days I will write about several contemporary peacemakers who have influenced me.

Clearly, there are many paths to peace, through various spiritual and philosophical traditions.  As a follower of Christ and a minister of the gospel, I need to challenge the many distortions that have allowed my tradition, Christianity, to be used as a tool for Empire (violent by definition).  I need to point in the direction of peace, healing, and wholeness that Jesus demonstrated and that God intends.

Today I’m going to write about why the message of peace is integral to the good news of God’s love, as demonstrated, taught, and proclaimed by Jesus.  This message includes inner peace, peace in relationships, and peacemaking in the world.

First, Jesus offers us inner peace:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

I’ve learned that regardless of what is going on in the world around me, I must attend to the Spirit, find the inner (and outer) resources that enable me to be at peace with myself, and to be a non-anxious presence in the lives of people around me.  Otherwise I am just adding to the confusion and chaos.

In times of conflict, whether inner conflict or conflict in relationships, we can trust that there are solutions, ask for guidance and support, then move toward solutions.  We can follow the path forward even if all we can see is a glimmer of light.  That’s all we need.  As T.S. Eliot said so poetically in his poem, Choruses from the Rock, “Be ye satisfied that you have light enough to take your step and find your foothold.”

God is that light.  Or, if it helps you can say, “The Light is God,” as Augustine did.  The light of our understanding is one of the infinite manifestations of God.

Jesus also offers, invites, and calls his followers to work for peace in the world.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

For many years now, I have known that my own health and well-being and the health and well-being of my loved ones depends upon what kind of society and world we are living in, as represented by our cultural values and our political, economic, and social structures.  That was true in Jesus’ day and it is true in ours.

Judea at the time of Jesus was plagued by the violence of occupation, economic oppression, extremes of wealth and poverty, militarism.  Crucifixion by Rome was a common occurrence.  The religious elite collaborated with the system that exploited the vulnerable, as many religious people do in our day.  (For those of us who are white, middle class, and otherwise privileged, it’s a challenge not to—just going along with things as they are is complicity.)

Jesus’ mission was peace with justice.  He articulated his mission to poor, oppressed, blind (including spiritually blind), and captive people at the outset of his ministry (Luke 4:18-19):  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  Many biblical scholars believe that this “acceptable year” referred to ancient Israel’s “Year of Jubilee, when slaves were to be set free, debts cancelled, and land left fallow and returned to its original owners.”  For the majority–the poor, oppressed, disenfranchised, and vulnerable people of Jesus’ day–this was good news indeed.

However, it was bad news to those relative few who were beneficiaries of the Roman occupation.  They feared loss of privilege and social disorder; they persecuted resisters as threats to national security.  For this reason, Jesus himself was put to death.  (John 11:45-50)

So what is the good news?  His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is alive and well and motivating his followers to do the same—even today.  We are called, offered grace, forgiven (even for our complicity), reconciled, and empowered by the Spirit to work for peace with justice, in union with Christ, in solidarity with all who love humanity and the earth, supported by ancestors and martyrs, able to go forward with confidence, love, and courage, knowing that even death is not the end of the story.  “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

For more of Sharon’s writings on Jesus’ life in resistance to Empire, see Jesus, Resister, Part I, Good News to the Poor,  Jesus, Resister, Part II, Betrayal and Death, and The Revolutionary Stories of Baby Jesus.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.

Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

The nearby trail I'll be walking on again as soon as my knee heals.

The nearby trail I’ll be walking on  again with Guari as soon as my knee heals.

A glorious day- sunny, cold, beautiful.  Guari and I are here enjoying the fire, enjoying this first day of the New Year.  I’m grateful that I didn’t wake up with a hangover—from alcohol, excess food, or emotional or relationship distress.  I am at peace.  It is well with my soul.

It hasn’t always been like this, and I don’t take it for granted.  I’ve hit many “bottoms” in my life, usually because I talk myself into thinking that I’m on the right path, then I run into a dead end.  Fortunately, I know where to find help.  I have friends who lovingly help to orient me, stand me up on my feet, remind me who I am, and point me in the direction of healing and wholeness.  Ultimately that means letting go of behaviors and patterns that interfere with my well-being or with the well-being of others.  This I have never been able to do on my own strength alone.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because the ongoing transformation that I seek doesn’t always happen the way I think it should, and it’s not the result of me trying to establish control.  I’ve never been able to just whip myself (or others) into shape.  Oh, I’ve given it a good try—that used to be my solution to life’s problems—but now I have a humbler and more realistic view of my powers.  I know now that only by listening and waiting for the movement of the Spirit will I find the inner resources to enable me to change old patterns and to be deeply transformed.

I can also set my intention and pray for the willingness and the power to be able to live into the fullness of who I am and who I am called to be.  This works best for me if I renew my intention one day at a time.  This coming year I intend to enjoy my family and friends, and do what I can to make this world a more loving place.  I have lots of projects waiting.  But I have to take time to “watch and pray” so that I’m not thrown back into old, self-defeating patterns.

I’m so grateful to have shared a path of recovery with my mother, Ruth, for many years before her death.   I set my intention today by starting this day and this year with one of her favorite prayers, which I have shared in a previous post, Thoughts that Bless:

 “Morning Prayer” by Ella Syfers Schenck:

Lord, in the quiet of this morning hour

I come to Thee for peace, for wisdom, power

To view the world today through love-filled eyes;

Be patient, understanding, gentle, wise:

To see beyond what seems to be, and know

Thy children as Thou knowest them; and so

Naught but the good in anyone behold;

Make deaf my ears to slander that is told;

Silence my tongue to aught that is unkind;

Let only thoughts that bless dwell in my mind.

Let me so kindly be, so full of cheer,

That all I meet may feel Thy presence near.

O clothe me in Thy beauty, this I pray,

Let me reveal Thee, Lord, through all the day.

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The Joy of Living

A recent view from my front deck.

A recent view from my front deck.

This is my third day of recuperation from knee surgery—miniscus repair.  I’m resting and reading, getting good care from Guari, making my way around on a walker.

This “time off” couldn’t have come at a better time.  These past months I’ve been going through a transformative period in my life, and now… I’m doing one thing at a time, slowly, and following it through to the end—a great practice.  In addition to entrusting family members and the world to God’s care, my meditation and prayer have been deeply impacted, for days now, by my re-reading The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rimpoche.  He presents the basics of Buddhist teachings and relates them to the cutting edge of neuroscience in elegantly simple language.

I’m so ready for this further breakthrough that I feel myself going through—if only I can stay true to myself and to “what is”—the Absolute, Truth, the Great Mystery, the Dharma, the Tao, the Holy Spirit, the Mind of Christ, Love, God.  No, these words don’t all mean the same thing.  Each tradition offers unique insights and points to unique experiences.  But they are all ways of trying to express the Ineffable, the Ground of Being through which all things come and go.

Spaciousness.  Blessed spaciousness.  Peace.  Joy.  The joy of living.

I’m feeling profoundly grateful.  A song we sang at a recent singing circle expresses it well:

“A million tomorrows shall all pass away, ere I forget all the joy that is mine today.”

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