Repenting for Drone Warfare

 

Charges have been dropped against those of us who have been demonstrating against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base.  I had been summoned to appear in federal court on March 8 with thirteen others for crossing onto Beale in an act of nonviolent resistance to US drone attacks.  Here is a video of me speaking about the links between the US military and climate change after crossing the line onto the base last December.

Beale is in Northern California, just 45 minutes from my front door.  It is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones, which maim and kill thousands of civilians, including children, thousands of miles away.  Meanwhile, our “pilots” sit in their air-conditioned computer rooms, in safety.  This is the perfect metaphor for US imperialism today.

How does this look to people around the world?  Drones help terrorists recruit more terrorists, creating an unending cycle of violence.

How does it look to God?  Surely God weeps–for the drone victims and for the drone pilots with PTSD.  “Surely God has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

I weep, too, for the children and families and for this country that largely supports drone warfare, in spite of its immorality.  As a follower of the Prince of Peace, I must publicly decry such violence, or stand as complicit myself.

In this season of Lent, I repent for my participation in the system of global domination, from which I benefit as a US citizen.  I repent for the extraordinary harm caused by our drones and other advanced weapons.  I relinquish all claims of privilege and cast my lot with the poor, oppressed, and vulnerable of the earth, as Jesus did.

We’ll be back at Beale on Monday and Tuesday, on March 7 and 8, this time with Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.  Go to the Occupy Beale Facebook page event for details.

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See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

Peace for the World, Healing for the Climate

My dear friends,

Yesterday I was arrested once again at Beale Air Force Base, along with seven others, and charged with trespassing.  This video was filmed after we crossed the line onto the base.  In it I begin to explain the connections between US military policy and climate change.  The letter that we attempted to deliver to the base commander gives a more detailed explanation of our concerns and our reasons for demonstrating.

As many of you know, I have been arrested at Beale several times for protesting against the Global Hawk drones that are operated from Beale and against the U.S. drone warfare program.  Far more civilians than terrorists are killed by U.S. drones, including many children.  Terrorists use anti-drone sentiment to recruit more terrorists, creating an escalating cycle of violence and the rationale for endless war.  There have been regular anti-drone protests at Beale and at drone bases around the country for several years now, and we aren’t going away.  Seven more arrests were made today.

The demonstrations yesterday and today were timed to coincide with the conclusion of the Paris Climate talks.  These past few days there have been “red line actions” in Paris and around the world, demonstrating that our leaders must not cross the many red lines that will lead to climate chaos and that people will continue to demand action for climate justice.

I am a person of faith and a follower of Jesus.  I pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and I am sure that the divine will is for peace, for justice, and for the flourishing of creation.  I know that the Spirit, called by so many names, is at work in the world even now, in people who haven’t succumbed to the greed, violence, and despair of our times.  I have hope that the world can change, that another world is possible.  But for that to happen, we the people will have to rise up and work together fearlessly, regardless of our spiritual or philosophical beliefs, to make real what is possible.

Rise up.  Live in hope.

Sharon

 

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See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version. 

Light in this Present Darkness-Reposted

I am reposting “Light in this Present Darkness,” which I posted three years ago.  It is just as relevant today, as mass shootings continue.

No Evil for Evil

In the midst of winter darkness, people of various spiritual traditions are preparing to celebrate the return of the light.  For me, this year’s Christmas pageant was especially poignant, as the children acted out the story of the birth of a special child.  Following the killings at Shady Hook Elementary, a shroud of darkness has settled across our land.  How can we celebrate in the midst of such unspeakable tragedy?  Where is God, where is the light?

The only light I see is the light of Love, which brings us into being, nurtures us and works through us to nurture others, and leads us in the direction of hope for a more peaceful, just, and compassionate world.  This Love, which is the only God I know, enables us to keep going, caring for the children, enduring hardship and even suffering to make their days bright.  It was this day-to-day Love that motivated Shady Hook’s principal and teachers to try to protect the children in their care.

This Love, “in which we live and move and have our being,” is the light in the midst of this present darkness.  This Love is our only hope.  It points toward a brighter future.  But we can’t see the way Love is pointing if we can’t see where we are.  We must awaken to where we are as a people if we are to see the direction we need to go.

Many of us think of ourselves as spiritual, but we live in and tolerate a society that is violent to the core.  We can see the outward evidence:  bullying of children and others, child and spousal abuse, hate-filled rhetoric in the media, violent movies and video games, military-style weapons available on the open market, gun violence.  We are outraged and frightened by the most shocking incidents, but we don’t know what to do.   Start carrying guns, as suggested by the gun lobby?  Will more people with more guns make us safer?  I don’t think so.

The problem is that there is also an inner dimension to the violence that we see all around us, and even within us.  The violent milieu of our society is supported by a world view that is largely unquestioned by politicians, by the media, or by religious institutions.  US society glorifies domination and violence.  We see ourselves as the Number One nation and promote the “American way of life” as better than other ways of life.   We take for granted our right to use any means at our disposal, including drone warfare, to enforce our will.  Our criminal justice system, which is racially biased and unfair to the poor, is based not on restoration, but on retribution.  Our foreign policy is based on a view of global Empire and is supported by a military-industrial complex that seeks to dominate the world.

At the same time, our society glorifies the Market.  We are told that the Market can best allocate society’s resources, and that taxing the wealthy at a higher rate or putting rules on corporate behavior will drag down the economy.  This is the rationale for cutting services of every kind.  Giving “the Market” so much power means giving power to those with money.  This enables powerful corporations and wealthy individuals to consolidate their power and wealth by dominating political and economic policies.  Such policies do not support services for the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, or other vulnerable people.  They do not, for that matter, support schools, libraries, or any other public institutions that we have until now taken for granted.  Rather, they increase the gap between rich and poor, which studies show is linked to increasing levels of violence.

To prevent more mass killings, gun control laws are necessary, along with increased funding for mental health services.  But these actions alone will not bring about the social transformation that is needed.   To live into a more compassionate future will require us to face the current darkness and acknowledge that we, as a people, are on the wrong track.  We have allowed ourselves to be swept along by compelling myths and powerful institutional forces that harness money and use violence to dominate our world.

We can choose to resist complicity and join with others to work for the common good.  We can face the darkness, celebrate the light, and by our actions embody hope so we can assure the children that there are brighter days ahead.  Love will be our guide.

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Hiroshima Day

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I can’t let this Hiroshima Day go by without memorializing the people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and acknowledging the shadow that atomic (and now hydrogen) bombs have cast and continue to cast over our nation and world.   I plan to stand with others down on the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City this evening, holding my hand-made sign that says “Hiroshima, 70 years, Never Again.”

My children remember many Hiroshima Day candlelight walks from Pioneer Park and vigils on the Broad Street Bridge while they were growing up.  I first became motivated as an activist in the late 1970s, when I became aware of the very real threat that nuclear war posed to my children.   I wrote about an awakening that motivated me to action in Shaking the Gates of Hell, in the chapter on “The Iron Fist:  Enforcing Corporate Globalization:”

“I began my career as an activist in 1979 when I realized the extent of the danger of nuclear war and became involved with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  One morning I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldecott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha.  Listening to the stories about what these people had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and I began to weep.

“Suddenly, I was struck with the thought: How must God feel about all this?  How must God feel about what we human beings have done to each other, and about what we intend to do, as we stockpile nuclear weapons?  I fell to my knees, praying for forgiveness, overcome with a sense of the depth of pain that God must bear because of the horrors we human beings create for each other.  To this day, I believe that God weeps for the harm we do to each other.”

My prayer today is this:

Thank you, God, for this day, for the beauty of the earth, for the “yes” of life in the midst of the systems of anti-life, which have taken your world captive and are in process of “undoing creation.”  May we never give up on the future.  May we never hide or run away from the pain of life, except in your presence and your peace.  Protect us from denial, that friend of avoidance and enemy of truth, which pretends to shield us from fear, communal guilt, and that tug of responsibility for the world.  May the strong heart of Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem, fill us with courage to feel and respond to the suffering of our time.  Fill us with your Spirit, that the winds of truth may blow and the flames of love may burn to bring about a great awakening of people of every faith and philosophical tradition, coming together as one, each doing our part to create the new world that is possible.  For you, O God of many names, are the Great Mystery, Ground of Being, Source of life and love, in whom we live and move and have our being.  Surely your will is abundant life, even in the face of death.  Your will is the reign of mercy and compassion in this world.

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

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Goodkill… Or Not

Sharon with Janie at Beale AFB

Memorial Day seems a fitting time to review the movie Goodkill,” now playing at the Magic Theater in Nevada City.  The movie, based on actual events, portrays a morally-conflicted and psychologically-tormented operator of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”), played by Ethan Hawke.

Even though the plot includes some obvious Hollywood enhancements, it presents some basic facts about drone warfare, facts that are little known to the US public.  For instance, drone operators accidentally kill civilians, but sometimes see that civilians (including children) are present and proceed (or are ordered to proceed) anyway.  “Signature strikes” do not target individually-recognized terrorists, but groups that fit a particular profile.  A “double tap” means that after a drone attack, a second drone targets rescue workers or people attending the funeral of victims from the first attack.

The movie allows the viewer to enter into the discordant life of a drone “pilot”—wearing your flight suit even though you’re not going to fly, entering the cramped but air-conditioned “cockpit,” holding joysticks and looking at computer monitors, endlessly watching people thousands of miles away, being given the order to strike a particular target whether you think it’s right or not, calling “goodkill” when a target is obliterated, stepping out after a shift into the sunlight and driving home to your family, not being able to talk about it without breaking security clearance, silently processing what you have done.

Several drone pilots in the movie clearly believe that they are “protecting American lives” and congratulate each other when they are successful in their targeted killings.  The commander, played by Bruce Greenwood, struggles with the morality of some of the killings, but articulates the official view.  He says to the trainees:  “Do any of you think that if we stop killing them, they’ll stop killing us?  No way.  That’s not going to happen.  So we can’t stop.”  There is one lone voice of conscience, a female drone pilot, asking questions throughout:  “So we can never stop?”  “Did we just commit a war crime?”  “They are 7,000 miles away.  What immanent threat could they pose?” She also states the obvious—that we are creating more terrorists through drone attacks.

The Ethan Hawke character brings to life the studies showing that  drone operators suffer from stress disorders as much as those in combat do.  On this day of remembrance, let us resolve to do everything in our power to end the nightmare of war for military personnel, civilians, and the earth itself.  “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

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Read Sharon’s previous blogs on drone warfare here