Voice of God, Voice of the Earth

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Yesterday I played on the trampoline with two of my little granddaughters.  We laughed so much.  We spent part of the time lying on our backs watching the little cedar helicopter seeds spin slowly down on us as the wind blew.

Fall is arriving.  Today is the Autumn Equinox.  And right on schedule, the rain started last night and will continue, at least through today.  It’s reassuring, especially given the changes in local weather patterns due to climate change.

I didn’t let the rain deter me this morning from my usual practice of praying outside.  I set up a blanket and my meditation pillow out on the deck under the eaves, and all my senses immediately engaged in the drama taking place all around.  The wind, rain, trees, a few birds that weren’t hunkered down, even a single burst of lightning and a rumble of thunder–they all played their parts.

For me, prayer is more listening than talking to God.  Prayer can mean being at peace in the present while eagerly open to divine communication.  God’s communication sometimes comes to me as call, clarity, insight, comfort, or assurance of God’s love.  But often the “message” is simply silence, spaciousness, that paradoxical “emptiness” that the Buddhists talk about, full of what Christians call the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I heard God’s voice in the laughter of my grandchildren, and in my own laughter.  This morning I heard God’s voice in the voice of the Earth.  There is no separation.  The voice is one and the same.

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Beale 5 Statements: Shirley

Shirley making a peace sign, with other RAFTT members

Shirley making a peace sign, with other RAFTT members

For the past few days I have posted the statements that Janie Kesselman, David Hartsough, and Jan Hartsough gave in court last Monday before we were sentenced for civil disobedience at Beale.  Today I am posting  Shirley’s article which appears on the Radical Art for These Times (RAFTT) website.  Shirley did not write a statement but she spoke passionately in court, as she explains below:

“The other four had prepared statements, and they spoke eloquently of their histories, drone warfare, and their reasons for being there. I had not written a statement, though I had general ideas floating in my head. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something about being a grandmother, my grandchildren being children of the world, just like the children on the drone panels, who have been killed in Yemen and Pakistan. And something about our fragile little planet, and how war does not support its healing.” 

Please take the time to read Shirley’s article, which gives the background on our action at Beale and the whole case.  Plus, it has wonderful pictures.

I am privileged to have spent these months with such wonderful people.  Nonviolent direct action can be a deeply bonding experience, in addition to being a powerful, empowering, and potentially effective form of direct democracy.

 

Beale 5 Statements: Jan

Before trial

Jan Hartsough outside courtroom

Below is the statement Jan Hartsough gave on September 9 at our sentencing hearing for our nonviolent protest against drones at Beale Air Force Base. For background on the Beale 5 case and on drone warfare, see my past blog postings on drones.

Jan Hartsough’s Statement

By standing at the gates of Beale Air Force Base I was joining with others to say that drone warfare is wrong. I do not believe that killing is the solution to anything.  I believe that if Americans really knew the lethal danger of drones, more people would speak out against them.  Beale is the closest base where I could stand in opposition.

Back in the mid-sixties I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Pakistan, helping to develop educational and economic resources there.  After living and working there for two years, Pakistan is a part of me. I have followed with great pain and sadness the drone attacks on Pakistanis.  I have learned from Pakistani victims of drone strikes that they are experiencing psychological trauma – never knowing when a drone might strike again.  Kids are afraid to go to school; adults are afraid to gather for a funeral or a wedding celebration for fear of becoming a “target.”  I have also read that 75% of Pakistanis now view the U.S. more as an enemy than an ally.

Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs) can drop bombs on targets on the ground anywhere in the world, based on information from surveillance cameras mounted on another drone.  This remote technical warfare removes the human dimension from war.  People are not meeting face to face.  It’s much more like a computer war game.  The battlefield is often in a country that we have not declared war with.  Are these drone attacks making America safer?  I believe they are just creating more enemies.

A person becomes a drone target based on their “suspicious” activities, and their associates appearing “suspicious.”  These are often called “signature strikes” when there is not a specific target – very different from the specific people whose names appear on kill lists (who are also killed by drones).  Often in drone strikes innocent bystanders are also killed, including women and children.  Is it moral to kill multiple innocent bystanders in order to kill a particular person/target?  I say unequivocally NO – killing is wrong.

So what have we accomplished with our drone attacks?  When will we wake up and see that there are much better ways to win the respect of the world’s people?

What if we spent the money currently going to develop drone warfare (and maintenance of over 800 military bases around the world) on effective economic development projects in other countries, and expanded the number of people serving in the Peace Corps?  I am sure it would do more to end the violence against the U.S. than our targeted killings by drone strikes ever could.  Each innocent killed as “collateral damage” makes us MORE enemies, not LESS – and makes us less secure as a people and a nation.

As a mother and grandmother I seek to find ways to help create a more peaceful world for future generations.  Ending drone warfare is a concrete step we can and must take.  I feel I must speak out against this new form of warfare before it’s too late.  That’s why I stood in front of Beale Air Force Base last October.

Direct Action Protest Demands prepared for Beale AFB Commander  10/30/2013

  1. An immediate ban on the use of all drones for extrajudicial killing.
  1. Halt all drone surveillance that assaults basic freedoms and inalienable rights, and terrorizes domestic life in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.
  1. Prohibit the sale and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries in order to prevent the proliferation of this menacing threat to world peace, freedom and security.

4.  The U.S. must immediately stop this lawless behavior of drone warfare that violates many international laws and treaties.

Beale 5 Statements: David

beale

David Hartsough

Below is the statement David Hartsough gave on September 9 at our sentencing hearing for our nonviolent protest against drones at Beale Air Force Base. For background on the Beale 5 case and on drone warfare, see my past blog postings on drones.

David Hartsough’s statement 

Drones have killed thousands of innocent civilians and are immoral and illegal under US and international law. They also recruit many more people into Al Qaeda.

We are one human family. All people in the world are children of God and are our brothers and sisters. If someone attacks our blood brother or sister, we would do everything in our power to stop them. This is the way we feel about innocent civilians being killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

One hundred and seventy-eight children and thousands of other civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Does this strengthen our national security? Is this making the world a safer place?

Drones are totally immoral and are against everything we have been taught in our religious Faiths: Love one another, Love your enemy and Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is a question of religious freedom. I am a Quaker and my religious Faith requires me to try to stop the killing of innocent people.

How would we feel if Russians or Chinese or Afghanis or Pakistanis were flying drones over the US and killing American people?

It is illegal under international law to go into another country and drop bombs on people our government doesn’t like. The Nuremberg Principles require citizens to attempt to stop crimes against humanity and killing innocent civilians is a crime against humanity. Doing nothing or remaining silent is complicity in these crimes. In protesting at Beale AFB, I was trying to uphold international law.

The United States is making decisions to kill people without them ever coming before a court or found guilty. The US government is playing Judge, Jury and Executioner. Is this what we call the rule of law?

Using drones and killing many innocent people is creating more and more enemies of the US. Every person we kill has at least 50 family members and friends who will mourn the loss of their loved ones.  Many will seek revenge on the people and nation that has killed their loved one or friend.

Instead of drones and dropping bombs on people we need to send Peace Corps people to build schools and medical clinics and help people in these countries recover from the wounds of war. We could be the most loved country on earth rather than the most hated.

By our silence we condone this senseless killing. We must speak out and act to stop this madness. By our nonviolent protest at Beale AFB, we were acting to uphold God’s law, US law, the Nuremberg Principles and international law.

We call on our fellow Americans, people in churches and synagogues and mosques, students, all people of conscience to join us in stopping Drones before they kill more innocent people and recruit more people into Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, our “war on terror” is a receipe for perpetual wars and endless suffering and death for people around the world.

Judge Carolyn Delaney, at a time when our country is preparing to reign down missiles and bombs on Syria which could start a much larger war in the Middle East killing thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps the best place for people of conscience is behind bars.

I am at peace with whatever you sentence me to.  I cannot pay a fine or accept probation for a nonviolent action in which I was trying to uphold God’s law, US law and international law. Judge, if you so decide, I am ready to do community service or spend time in prison.

David Hartsough

Beale 5 Statements: Janie

Sharon, Janie, and Cres from the National Lawyers Guild

Sharon, Janie, and Cres from the National Lawyers Guild

For the next few days I’m going to post the statements that my co-defendants gave in court before we were sentenced.  I am grateful to have shared this experience with them.  For details about the trial of the Beale 5, the first trial of anti-drone activists in California, and about the harm caused by drone warfare, see my past blogs about drones.  Here is my good friend Janie’s statement:

Jane Kesselman’s Statement at Sentencing in Federal Court

I was too preoccupied with a death in the family to be able to organize my thoughts to be read in absentia at our trial last month, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak today.

Although I was found guilty, I don’t believe I have done anything wrong by my action.  Indeed, I believe that NOT acting to bring attention to the immoral and illegal use of drone warfare would’ve been a far worse offense.

As I understand it, in a so-called “signature strike” the military targets a supposed enemy based on profiling a particular set of movements and activities that are deemed likely to be that of a “terrorist.”  This profile is tracked using surveillance drones such as the ones at Beale AFB.  Drone strikes are then ordered for those who match the profile.  Using this protocol, many innocent people are killed by US drones, in countries with whom we aren’t even at war!

With every drone strike, with every death of an innocent child or adult, our country generates more and more hatred, exponentially boosting the number of terrorists driven to act against us.  This is such a sad and dangerous strategy!

Imagine if we used just a fraction of the money spent on drone strikes to help repair the educational, health, and economic infrastructure of the countries whose populations we’ve been terrorizing…  I believe that by acting as a humane rather than a disciplinary force in the world, the US could replace fear and hatred by our so-called enemies with respect and even gratitude.

Judge Delaney:  I am thankful to be here today with my co-defendant comrades to speak from my heart and conscience against the grievous offenses of the US military.  I am ready to be sentenced for my own offense: my civil disobedience.  If you deem it necessary, I will go to prison, but I hope you will afford me the opportunity to do community service in lieu of any fines, probation, or prison time.  Thank you for hearing me.

Jane Kesselman