Easter and Guantanamo

Guantanamo action

“Remember those who are in prison as if you are in prison with them.”  Hebrews 13:3

Every Thursday afternoon, for years now, a group of Women in Black and their male allies gather at the freeway overpass in Nevada City.  Women in Black is a “world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.”

Yesterday we joined these friends with our “Torture is a Moral Issue” banner and our signs to “Close Guantanamo.”  This local action was one of many taking place around the country on the National Day of Action to Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention, sponsored by Witness Against Torture  and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.  This is the third month of a hunger strike among Guantanamo prisoners.  Some are being force-fed.

It’s the season of Easter, but Christ continues to be crucified as our neighbors in Guantanamo (and elsewhere) suffer the cruelty and injustice of indefinite detention.  Some of the men at Guantanamo have been imprisoned for over ten years, without trial.  Some were arrested as children.  Some were subjected to torture.  They have all been separated from their families, ignored by the media, and all but forgotten.  Human rights campaigners and Interfaith groups have persistently tried to publicize their fate and gain justice for all who are imprisoned there.

As we stood there yesterday with our signs, most people driving by gave us a “thumbs up” or flashed a peace sign.  One young man walking by asked me, “What’s this all about?”  I briefly explained about Guantanamo.  His response:  “But this is Nevada City.”  Then he walked away.

Those of us who live freely here in the United States may not realize how connected we are to the prisoners in Guantanamo.  Their pain and their struggles may seem to have nothing to do with us.  But we are connected to them, and to the people killed by U.S. drone strikes and other victims of our country’s foreign policy.  I am a citizen.  I pay taxes.  I vote.  I remain silent or I speak out.  Our government can only take such actions through the active participation or the silent complicity of the people.

“But this is Nevada City.”  Even if we do feel bad about what our country is doing, we may feel that there’s nothing we can do to bring change.  This sense of fatalism is a spiritual sickness and a fruit of the Domination System, which benefits when a majority of people believe “there’s nothing we can do about it anyway.”  My book, Shaking the Gates of Hell, describes this system, it’s outer and well as inner effects, and how to regain hope that can motivate action for change.

Signs of the Reign of Death are all around.  It might be easy to give up and think that nothing I  do can make a difference in the larger patterns of history.  But my faith tells me otherwise, and my faith compels me to act.  Love calls.

It’s not too late to take action on behalf of these men.  To find out more about the hunger strikers or to make a phone call on their behalf, go to Witness Against Torture.

Whatever your faith, believe the unbelievable.  Love conquers hate.  Life conquers death.

Christ is risen.  There is hope.  Even for the people in Guantanamo.

God Bless the Grass: Two Easter Songs

Grass in Our Yard

Having gone through the winter of Lent we are now in the springtime of Easter.  I’ve been singing two songs lately.  They both use images of the earth to carry a message of hope in the face of despair.  The first song is “Now the Green Blade Rises,” a traditional Easter hymn.  The second song, “God Bless the Grass,” is by singer-songwriter and social justice activist Malivina Reynolds.  Both songs present the key message of Easter:  life overcomes death.

Listen to this version of “Now the Green Blade Rises” by the Smoke Fairies.  

Now the Green Blade Rises

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

(John M.C. Crum, 1928, 15th Century French Melody)

I also hear the message of life conquering death in this wonderful song by Malvina Reynolds.  You can hear her sing it here:  God Bless the Grass .

 God Bless the Grass

God bless the grass that grows thru the crack.
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the truth that fights toward the sun,
They roll the lies over it and think that it is done.
It moves through the ground and reaches for the air,
And after a while it is growing everywhere,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that grows through cement.
It’s green and it’s tender and it’s easily bent.
But after a while it lifts up its head,
For the grass is living and the stone is dead,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that’s gentle and low,
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow.
And God bless the truth, the friend of the poor,
And the wild grass growing at the poor man’s door,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass, which demonstrates the power of life to overcome death, and to bring about both personal and social transformation.  May we all have renewed confidence, courage, and hope during this Easter season.

Easter Renewal

Ike’s Cherry Tree(c) Andrew Wright LightHawk Photo

When I look at the major problems in our world–climate change, predatory capitalism, war, injustice of every kind–or even the small problems of family and friends, I want to do everything I can to help.  But that impulse can get me into trouble.  Doing “everything I can” takes me on a track that gets more busy and confusing as I go.  I end up feeling anxious, discouraged, and just plain tired.  As Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.

I’ve learned that instead of rushing off to do more, I can recommit myself to prayer and meditation, which allows me to rest in the loving arms of God.  I know from experience that this is a more direct route to effective action than multiplying my activities.  As I open to Spirit, I can count on getting the guidance and energy I need for the next right action to take.

This practice parallels the spiritual journey through Lent and Easter:  1) facing the disappointment, pain, and suffering of life; 2) accepting death and the annihilation of hope; and 3) experiencing a renewal of spiritual energy, hope, and joy.  This does not negate any other spiritual tradition, and in fact letting go into emptiness and coming out on the other side is part of Eastern religious practice as well.

For today, instead of trying to get everything done, I embrace the spaciousness and timelessness of Spirit.  And I entrust myself, my family and friends, and the world to “the One who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish immeasurably more than all we can ask or even imagine.”  (Ephesians 3:20)

A Moment’s Indulgence

by Rabindranath Tagore

I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.

Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.

Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.