This blog post is taken from the speech that Sharon gave at a Tour de Peace event with Cindy Sheehan in Nevada City, California, on Palm/Passion Sunday, March 24, 2013.
Hi friends. It’s good to be here with all of you. I’m so glad to be part of a community of people who are passionate about peace.
The first peace group I ever attended was the Nevada County Anti-draft Coalition. Our kids were young teenagers, and the government had just re-instituted draft registration. It was 1979. Not long after that, I became involved in the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. I was motivated to work for peace out of concern for my children.
I was also motivated by my faith. The first time I was arrested for peace was over 30 years ago, at the Nevada Test Site, on Good Friday. We prayed and sang under a rustic cross, then held the barbed wire for each other and stepped through onto the test site. I felt connected to Jesus, who had engaged in nonviolent direct action against Empire so many years before.
Today is Palm/Passion Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, the first day of Holy Week. This morning all the children were marching around the church singing “hosannah” and waving palm branches, because that’s what the people of Jerusalem did so long ago when Jesus came into the city riding on a donkey. Then we went downstairs and played “Pin the Jesus on the Donkey.”
On that first Palm Sunday, the people shouted “Hosannah.” Many wanted to make Jesus king, like his ancestor David. They wanted him to defeat the Romans, who were occupying their country, to drive them out and set up their own kingdom through military might. They gave Jesus a hero’s welcome. But the story quickly devolves from there.
Jesus stops and looks out over Jerusalem, and he begins to weep. He weeps over Jerusalem, saying to the people, “Would that you, even you, had known this day the things that make for peace, but they are hidden from your eyes.” He warns that they and their children and their children’s children face disaster if they don’t turn around. Jesus weeps.
I feel like that sometimes. I look at how the future will be for my grandchildren and for their grandchildren, and I can see that they’ll face disaster if we don’t turn around as a people. I weep.
From there Jesus, a faithful Jew, goes to the Temple and engages in nonviolent direct action. He overthrows the tables of the money-changers there. He always challenged unjust laws, but for the ruling authorities, both political and religious, this was the last straw. This symbolic action went to the heart of an economic system that oppressed the people, a system upon which Jewish collaboration with Rome had been built. This infuriated the elite religious leaders who benefited from cooperating with the Roman occupation. Within days Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of treason, tortured and executed on a cross, the Roman Empire’s preferred method for doing away with subversives and traitors. Just 30 years before the Romans crucified over 2000 people because there had been a revolt in Galilee.
From there Jesus goes to the Temple and engages in nonviolent direct action. He overthrows the tables of the money-changers there. He always challenged unjust laws, but this was the last straw. This symbolic action went to the heart of an economic system that oppressed the people, a system upon which Jewish collaboration with Rome had been built. This infuriated the elite religious leaders who benefited from cooperating with the Roman occupation. Within days Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of treason, tortured and executed on a cross, the Roman Empire’s preferred method for doing away with subversives and traitors. Just 30 years before the Romans crucified over 2000 people because there had been a revolt in Galilee.
Empire requires the willingness to use massive and overwhelming force. It was true in the time of the Roman Empire, and it’s true in today’s global Empire.
There’s a new book out called “The Passion of Bradley Manning.” This book is a comprehensive look at the case of Bradley Manning, who released classified information to get the truth out about the Iraq War. The book tells about his passion, the sufferings he has endured-solitary confinement and mistreatment. He’s being charged with aiding the enemy–that’s treason. The government is making an example of Bradley Manning in order to prevent other soldiers from also becoming whistleblowers.
What does this say about our values as a nation? What values are we teaching our children? Our children are being sacrificed on the altars of money and military power. As a culture, we do not know the things that make for peace.
This is part of the passion of our time. It’s a time when international law is ignored, kill lists are created, war crimes are covered up, whistleblowers are punished. It’s a time when drone “pilots” sit at computer terminals and kill people by remote control thousands of miles away, a time when we talk of supporting our troops while so many veterans suffer from PTSD, or are disabled, or homeless, or suicidal. It’s a time when there are seven times as many empty houses, many of them foreclosed, than there are homeless people. It’s a time when health care, schools, the post office, libraries, and vital services are cut rather than raising the taxes on the 1%. It’s a time when corporations regulate governments rather than the other way around.
We live at a time of global empire, held together by an interconnected global economy, dominated by huge corporations, supported by an ideology of unrestrained free market capitalism, dependent upon a permanent war economy, and enforced by militarized police forces and home and the most powerful military industrial complex in history.
The world desperately needs people who are passionate and willing to take action for peace.
Cindy Sheehan has gone through her own passion. She has suffered, of course. What can be worse than the death of your child? So many families have lost loved ones in these endless wars, military families here and also families in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. But Cindy also has a passionate commitment to work for peace, so that the insanity and evil that took her child will end. That’s the point of the Tour de Peace… to revitalize the Peace Movement, so that the death, and destruction, and torture, and endless war, and war on nature will cease.
Since my name went up on the poster saying that I’d be speaking at the Cindy Sheehan event, several people have shared their thoughts with me. Some people react with passion. One mother told me, “I can’t go there. My son is in Afghanistan. All I can do is visualize him safe until he comes home. I can’t go any further than that.”
Another mother said to me, “Some people bad-mouth Cindy Sheehan. But I totally support what she’s doing. If that was my child who was killed, I’d be doing the same thing.” Then she said, “I’m Cindy Sheehan.”
I get that. I care about the children. I care about the future. I care about the things that make for peace. I know you do, too. Each of us could say “I’m Cindy Sheehan.” But instead we need to
ask ourselves what we can do, what gifts do we have to bring to this struggle, what are we uniquely able to contribute. Our challenge is to go deep within ourselves, to find the spiritual resources that will enable us to bring our whole selves to this struggle to help create the “other world” that is possible. There are many things that we can do:
Support the Tour de Peace through donations and in other ways–Cindy will tell you how. Support the Peace Center, which does so much in this community. Support our local Move to Amend Coalition, working with national groups to enact a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and make it clear that money is not speech. Check out the Earth Justice Ministries display, buy my book, follow my blog. Prepare yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically so you’ll be ready when the next right action for you to take comes along–maybe even nonviolent direct action.
Today is Palm/Passion Sunday, but Easter is coming–a celebration of new life, of resurrection. Take it literally or take it as Archbishop Oscar Romero put it when he called on the soldiers of El Salvador to lay down their arms, just days before he was killed while serving Holy Communion. He said, “If you kill me, I will rise in the Salvadoran people.” We don’t need to fear. We can take strong and passionate action for peace. We the people will rise. We are rising.