Facing Charges–Again

 

Making Peace at Beale

Arrested on Good Friday

I am facing charges again.  I will be arraigned with at least fifteen other anti-drone demonstrators in federal court on September 9 in Sacramento.  I consider it a privilege to be part of a sustained movement of nonviolent resistance to the current unjust global system, which is violent to the core.

Beale Air Force Base is just forty-five minutes from my home, so Guari and I go there regularly for anti-drone protests.  Beale is an integral part of the U.S. drone warfare program.  Beale is where Global Hawk surveillance drones identify targets for attacks by armed Predator and Reaper drones.

It has been four months since Good Friday, April 18, when I was last arrested for crossing the line onto base property.  We had a prayer service at Beale’s main gate that included over fifty people.  International peace activist Kathy Kelly spoke out on behalf of people harmed by US drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and other countries.  Following prayers, songs, and Holy Communion, eleven of us, including four clergy, attempted to deliver a letter with statements from the religious community about moral objections to drone warfare.

Some of the people being arraigned on September 9 were arrested at Beale on a different date, April 29, at a Veterans Unite against Drones action.  Thirteen demonstrators, including six veterans, temporarily blocked traffic at the two busiest gates entering Beale. Protesters were arrested at the Wheatland Gate and at the Main Gate after reading and trying to deliver an indictment charging President Obama, the Beale base commander, drone pilots and others with “crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.”

There have been other arrests:  On March 5, Ash Wednesday, five of us were arrested after sprinkling ashes that symbolized our repentance and the ashes of children killed by U.S. drones.  On April 1, at a “No Drones, No Fooling” demonstration, Elliot Adams, national Chair of the Veterans for Peace, was arrested with Richard Gilchrist, another veteran.

In all, over thirty people were arrested for trespassing onto base property at Beale last March and April.  At all of the above protests, we were arrested, processed, and released, but fewer than twenty of us are being arraigned.  No one knows why.

What I do know is that it’s a privilege to be part of a community of nonviolent resistance to the merchants of death represented by the military-industrial complex and to the whole US project of global domination through the threat and use of massive force.  US drone warfare will never bring peace.  If it continues it can only produce an escalating cycle of violence that will unleash hatred that may last for generations.

I plan to plead “not guilty,” because I was acting to stop and prevent atrocities from being carried out in my name.  My silence signals my consent, so I will speak out:  on behalf of the victims of US drones; on behalf of compassionate, sane, and moral foreign and military policies; and on behalf of the rule of law in international affairs.

Please join us if you can on September 9 at the Federal Courthouse at 5th and I Streets in Sacramento.  At 8 a.m. there will be a demonstration of opposition to drone warfare and support for the protesters.  At 9 a.m. you are invited to come into the courtroom during the arraignment.  Better yet, join us at Beale on September 29 and 30.  Let’s keep the momentum going.

I’m going to court to face charges for interfering with my government’s immoral actions.  There’s no place I’d rather be.

 

Keep informed and updated.  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.  Go to the Occupy Beale Air Force Base Facebook page or Occupy Beale website for updates on this court case, background information, and announcements about upcoming Beale demonstrations and direct actions.

 

 

Words of Sorrow, Words of Hope

The darkest hour--just before dawn, on my deck this morning

The darkest hour–just before dawn, on my deck this morning

Leonard Cohen has a song called The Faith, which asks again and again, “O love aren’t you tired yet?”  One verse goes like this: “A cross on every hill, a star, a minaret, so many graves to fill. O love, aren’t you tired yet?”

Sometimes I feel tired–discouraged by the struggles and suffering of people I love, the unrelenting violence of world events.  Words from the news create a litany of woes:  Gaza, Ferguson, drones, climate change, ISIS, human trafficking, cutbacks, melting ice sheets, Fukushima, militarized police forces, Iraq, NSA, solitary confinement, Liberia, Ebola, drought, fracking… There seems to be no end to the disasters that are upon us.

Sometimes I need to take a break.  Sometimes it’s enough to make me weep.  But I’m in good company.  Even Jesus wept, as he considered the fate of Jerusalem.  He warned them that they faced disaster if they kept going the way they were headed.   The same is true for us today.

I do feel sorrow at times, but I still have hope.   That’s why I continue to speak out and take actions for peace, for justice, for the healing of the earth.

Hope is not passive.  Hope doesn’t mean feeling optimistic.  Hope means that we don’t give up, but keep working for the transformation of the world even if the odds seem to be overwhelmingly against us.   This requires spiritual depth, supportive community, and resistance to the institutional Powers that dominate the world.

Hope originates in prayer, meditation, self-knowledge, and spiritual surrender, but culminates in community.   It requires us to go deep within ourselves, to face our complicity with systems that produce death, to amend our ways, to join in solidarity with others, and to commit ourselves to creatively working for a transformed world, for what Jesus called “the kingdom of God.”

Yes, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, but he didn’t  just weep and go back home.  He wept and then headed into the city.  When he got there, he went directly into the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and drove them out.  This act of nonviolent resistance directly challenged the economic system upon which the religious establishment’s collaboration with Rome was built.  This was why Jesus was put to death—he was a threat to the stability of the Roman occupation in that place.

The challenges facing us today are so great that we will need to work together, along with people around the world, to create the momentum to bring about the systemic transformation that is required.  As Bill McKibben said, “If we can build a movement, then we have a chance.”

We may get tired and discouraged at times.  We may need to rest.  But love is still at work in the world, and there are many signs of hope:  Palestinians standing with signs of solidarity with the people of Ferguson, offering tips on how to deal with militarized police and pepper spray; International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members cooperating with protestors in Oakland to prevent goods from an Israeli ship from being unloaded, as a protest against the Israeli assault against Gaza; colleges and churches organizing to divest from fossil fuels; nonviolent peacemakers facing judges and sentences; and so many other signs of hope, resistance, and transformation.  The movement for a peaceful, just, and environmentally sustainable world is growing.  It’s called “globalization from below.”

I am convinced that love will not rest, but will continue to work through us in this global movement for change.  As we cooperate with this life-giving force, we embody hope.  We bring hope into the sadness of our world.  We make the world a more hopeful place.

 

See and hear a video of Leonard Cohen’s The Faith.

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.

Courage

In light of the Israeli slaughter of civilians and destruction of infrastructure in the open-air prison of occupied Gaza, the following poem is just as relevant today as when it was written. Guari wrote “Courage” on October 9, 2001, two days after the United States started bombing Afghanistan in “Operation Enduring Freedom” following the attacks of September 11. Give-peace-a-chance081214

 Courage

What courage does it take to pound the weak

what wisdom to believe the lies that are uttered

what faith to trust the god of war and greed

what skill to follow rational preachers of vengeance

 

The crucified Christ silently indicts

the politics of power, religion, and state

actions born from approved wisdom of the world

and denial of the sacred for the host of reason

 

Truth is written by grief on the faces of those

broken by the loss of loved ones

of home

of hope

 

Take the body down from the cross

carry it against the tide, against the crush

the push of the crowd, away from the arena

the mob’s rush to blood and more blood

 

To the tomb lying open, waiting deep in the soul

in the beaten heart’s distress, in the emptiness

powerless to change what has happened

there to rise and stand again

 

Guarionex, October 9, 2001

Written during “Operation Enduring Freedom”

 

Tragically, the cycle of violence continues today, fueled by the Myth of Redemptive Violence. For more about this topic, see “The Infernal Whirlwind: Violence, Terror, and War” in Chapter 7 of Shaking the Gates of Hell.

In Gaza:  Where is God?

 Child in Gaza

As the Israeli army’s wholesale killing of civilians trapped in Gaza continues, the question arises:  where is God?  Is God looking on “from a distance,” impassive and unconcerned?  Worse yet, is it God’s will, this collective punishment of the Palestinian people?  Does God side with those who dominate through massive force and military might?

Not at all.  God suffers the torments being inflicted on the Palestinians and on all who are tortured, abused, and forsaken by the Powers that rule this world.  This is the deeper meaning of the cross.

In Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, he describes a scene in a Nazi concentration camp, where a child is being executed by hanging.  The suffering goes on and on, and the prisoners are forced to watch.  Wiesel writes:  “Behind me, I heard [a man] asking:  ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’  And from within me, I heard a voice answer: ‘Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…’”  It is God who suffers the torments of human injustice, the God who is Love.

In Experiences of God, Jürgen Moltmann describes how he came to know the God who suffers with humanity, in an Allied prison camp as a young German prisoner of war during World War II.  He had been raised and indoctrinated during the Nazi era and was devastated to learn of his country’s crimes against humanity.  Despairing and alone, reading a copy of the New Testament and Psalms, he came to experience the presence of God in the midst of his suffering.

Popular Christianity sometimes ignores this deeper meaning of the cross—as if the crucifixion of Jesus was simply a transaction between God and sinners that God cooked up because there was no other way to set things right.  This is nonsense.  Of course, through Jesus’ death and resurrection people who follow him find forgiveness, grace, new life, and empowerment.  But the common deterministic perspective ignores the whole political, social, economic, and military context in which Jesus’ death took place.  There are many ways to understand Jesus’ death, including the way Jesus explained it in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  Read more about this in my blog post:  The Scandal of the Cross.

When we consider Jesus crucified and hanging on the cross, those who love him see God there, in solidarity with suffering humanity.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).”  Those who are attuned to a God of Love experience God in the midst of the pain.

Where is God in the midst of the slaughter taking place in Gaza?  Look into the eyes of a terrorized child.  God is there.

God is also in the prayers and determination of people of conscience, of every philosophy and faith, to stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed and to rise up nonviolently on their behalf.   We can still hold out hope for new life, hope for the future.  Like Moltmann, who went on to write The Crucified God and Theology of Hope, we can point toward the healing and reconciliation of both oppressor and oppressed, and toward mutual liberation.

God is here.

 

They’re Just like Us

 

War is not healthy

War is not healthy

 

When my grandchildren, Alex and Malina, were recognized for raising money for mosquito nets for the Imagine No Malaria Campaign, Alex explained, “They’re just like us.”    Just ten years old, and already they have empathy and can imagine how these other children must feel, even children who live halfway around the world.

This is part of what it means to be human.  We live in the midst of dehumanizing forces, with the awareness of danger and suffering all around.  Media images distract, divert, distort, and disempower so effectively that most of us believe that there is nothing we can do.  It’s tempting to withdraw our awareness of what’s going on across the globe, and to just focus on our personal lives.  But by doing so we become part of the “silent majority” that consents to the status quo through our silence and inaction.

The invasion of Gaza is at the top of the news.  I oppose all forms of violence, including the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel.  But Israel’s actions are so disproportionate and horrific that people around the world are voicing their outrage and turning out for mass demonstrations.  Israel is terrorizing the civilian population in Gaza through occupation and now invasion.  The people are suffering in ways that most of us cannot imagine. Read this Letter from Gaza by a Norwegian Doctor to get an idea of the scope of the horror.

The United States sends $3 billion of military aid to Israel every year, so we who are US citizens are complicit in this escalating violence against innocent civilians.  Even those in Gaza who want to flee have been hemmed in so that there is nowhere for them to go.  Can we really ignore their suffering without diminishing our humanity?  I don’t think so.

We are also hearing a lot about the children coming across our border from Central America, fleeing for their lives.  They are being met with intolerance, racism, xenophobia, and hatred.  This exodus is not taking place in a vacuum.  The United States has a history of overthrowing democracies throughout Latin American and establishing dictatorships that are open to US military and corporate interests.  The United States has also dominated the economies of many of these poor countries, through IMF and World Bank debt and more recently through so-called free trade agreements.  Rather than helping these countries become self-sufficient, these policies have increased corporate power, privatized and deregulated public services, and driven people off the land.  To find out more, read David Bacon’s insightful article “How U.S. policies helped create the current immigration crisis.”

Many of these children are fleeing violent gangs or political oppression.  Many may qualify as refugees.  Can we in good conscience turn our back on these children and send them back into situations of extreme danger?  How could we do that without diminishing our own humanity?  What would we do if we found ourselves in situations like theirs, where we felt there was no alternative but to flee?  What would our children do?

I’m glad that my grandchildren feel a sense of solidarity and connection with people around the world, and that they are eager to help when they can.  In this age of globalization, that is what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.