Hearts and Ashes

Progressive Christian Social Action

Hearts and Ashes

Today is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  I usually observe both.  My mother Ruth’s birthday was on February 14, so I’ll be carrying her with me all day (as I often do). This evening, I’ll go with two of my granddaughters while they hand out hand-made valentines at a residence for seniors.  Then tonight, Guari and I will celebrate our love by going out Salsa dancing, for the first time in a long while.

Ash Wednesday is a whole different kind of observation.  I’ll jog to town for the noon service, which includes the imposition of ashes, and I’ll hear again the biblical call to repentance and the reminder of our mortality: “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

I am grateful for the love that blesses my life and for the divine love which surrounds and enlivens us.  At the same time, I grieve for the ways that I participate in and am complicit in institutions and systems that cause harm.  The “Powers that be” are corrupted by money, dominated by corporations, supported by hierarchical religions and ideologies, and enforced by violence, with the ultimate sanction being death. Current harm includes: immigration policies that scapegoat our young (the Dreamers) and  separate families, a tax bill that gives tax breaks to the wealthy and to  corporations while cutting benefits for poor and working class people, a proposal to cut SNAP (food stamps) benefits, the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and the locking in of a future of ever-accelerating climate change, using the shock of Hurricane Maria to privatize Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, developing more useable nuclear weapons along with a doctrine that makes them more likely to be used, destroying cities in Iraq in the fight against ISIS while refusing to rebuild or give aid to repair the damage because “We’re not in the business of nation-building,” and the current popularity of a form of Christianity that seems to be the antithesis of what Jesus lived and taught.  These are just a few.  The list goes on.

Ash Wednesday and the whole forty days of Lent give me an opportunity to repent for my participation, to resist the dehumanizing influence of the Powers, to renounce their bribes, to rebuke them by calling them to repentance, and to recall the Love in which we “live and move and have our being.”

Love is what motivates me to observe this day and this season. My understanding of the “good news” proclaimed and demonstrated by Jesus is that “God is love.”  This means to me that love is the ultimate Reality, the power that brought the universe into being, the Ground of Being, the Source and End of all things.  If this is true (and I stake my life on it), then living out of that love is the purpose and meaning of life.  And, as Jesus demonstrated, this means acting in solidarity with those who are marginalized, nonviolently resisting the Powers that threaten us (or those who are most vulnerable), and creating an alternative community of inclusion, based on love.

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It’s a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon

I pulled out this old “historic” poster and put it up on our refrigerator today, after the false alarm went out to Hawaiians that an incoming (presumably nuclear) missile was on its way.  My grown children will recognize the poster, because it was on our refrigerator for years.  I began my career as an activist in 1979, when I realized the extent of the very real danger of nuclear war. I was engaged in the peace and anti-nuclear movement the whole time they were growing up.  They remember carrying candles and walking from Pioneer Park to the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City each year on August 6, Hiroshima Day.  During the election year of 1984, I was a paid organizer for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign’s Political Action Committee (PAC), Freeze Voter ’84, which I worked on here in Nevada County.  (Read here about  The Nuclear Freeze and its Impact.)

One morning, I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldicott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha. Listening to their stories about what they 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 and prepare for each other.

When the Cold War finally ended, people around the world heaved a sigh of relief, believing that it signaled the end of the nuclear arms race and the possibility of world peace. Instead, the danger of nuclear war, while less visible in the public eye than during the Cold War, continues to threaten humanity.  In recent years, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the time on its “Doomsday Clock” closer and closer to midnight, that is, “doomsday.”  They warn of a “Second Nuclear Age,”with increasing vulnerability to global catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and other harmful emerging technologies.  In January 2017, soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Scientists moved the time on the Doomsday Clock to 2 1/2 minutes to midnight.  In addition to unchecked climate change, growing disputes among nuclear-armed nations, nuclear weapons modernization programs, and lack of serious arms-control negotiations, they cited Donald Trump’s statements about using nuclear weapons and about doubting the scientific consensus on climate change.

Now the Trump Administration is planning to take actions that will make the world even more vulnerable to nuclear war.  The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review includes plans to develop new, more usable nuclear weapons and to “expand the circumstances in which the U.S. might use its nuclear arsenal,” even in response to a non-nuclear attack.  (See Rising Concerns about Nuclear War as Trump Prepares to Loosen Constraints on Weapons.) This plan heightens global tensions and raises the dangers of a deliberate or accidental nuclear war.

Donald Trump, however, did not bring us to this pass.  The United States has never pledged to refrain from launching a nuclear first strike, and it is the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons against another nation.  Although President Obama spoke early in his presidency about eventually ridding the world of the nuclear threat, his administration initiated a trillion-dollar program to upgrade and modernize the US nuclear arsenal.  The plan called for creating modernized nuclear weapons that will be smaller, stealthy, maneuverable, and highly accurate.  These features will make them more likely to be used, but there is no coherent strategy for avoiding escalation if they are launched.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has been the only remaining superpower.  Why, then, has this country not led a major diplomatic effort toward disarmament, peacemaking, and sustainable development in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere? Would this not create a far more secure world? Why do we continue developing increasingly accurate and usable first-strike nuclear weapons, and why are our nuclear weapons still on high alert? Why are we selling advanced war-fighting weapons on the open market and opposing treaties that limit the global arms trade? Why are we launching drone attacks that kill civilians, fuel hatred, and provide a recruiting tool for terrorists?  Why not instead institute a Global Marshall Plan to alleviate suffering and create international goodwill?  Such a policy would go a long way toward creating security for the United States and for the world.

It’s time for a renewal of the peace movement!  I hope that the many people who are actively resisting the harms caused by the Trump Administration will include the challenging work of peacemaking as a priority.  This is certainly a practical issue, for the sake of the world, but it is also a spiritual issue.  I am complicit if I don’t speak out and take action to resist the violent, unjust, and yes, sinful actions of my government.  God weeps at the harm we do and prepare for each other.  “It’s a sin to build a nuclear weapon.”  Another world is possible.

 

This post includes an excerpt from Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado.   An updated Second Edition will be released by Fortress Press in the fall of 2018.

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War is Not the Answer

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Arrested at Beale

Today I was arrested for peace with my dear friend Shirley Osgood at Beale Air Force Base, supported by several Veterans for Peace and other peacemakers.  Beale is home of Global Hawk surveillance drones, which identify targets in countries around the world for U.S. killer drones.

Shirley and I walked through the main gate to sprinkle ashes on the base in an act of resistance to our government’s endless wars. The ashes symbolize the innocent people incinerated by our government in faraway lands by drones via remote control.  I think especially of the children.

As movements of resistance multiply around the country and around the world, it’s important to include a critique of the permanent war economy and a call to international cooperation and peace.  The Trump Administration’s approach to foreign and military policy is exemplified by attempts to ban Muslims and other immigrants, alienation of allies, threats to revive torture, promises to raise military spending (again), and the recent Navy Seals raid in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of at least fourteen civilians, including nine children.  The stories told by witnesses of the raid are horrendous.

At Beale today we commemorated the deaths of these people.  Demonstrators will be there again tomorrow.  But we are also mourning the deaths of the fifteen Afghan civilians who were killed by a U.S. drone strike while sleeping in their beds last September.  While Barak Obama was president, he authorized drone strikes in seven countries.  U.S. drones have killed thousands of people, mostly civilians, including hundreds of children.  These extrajudicial killings ignite hate, fuel terror, and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

How has this nightmare come to be reality?  As divided as Congress appears, the Washington Consensus still holds in Deep State matters of finance and national security.  The “experts” that guide the Ship of State in these areas have been there for decades, even as presidents come and go.  The power of the “imperial presidency” has grown under both Republican and Democratic administrations, while the reach and secrecy of the national security/surveillance state has grown, consuming an ever-greater share of the economy.

Now we have a right-wing ideologue in the office of the presidency who is, evidently, uneducated in matters of State, irrational, and unpredictable.  Obama’s drone “kill list” is now in the hands of Donald Trump, as is the authority to use the new generation of “useable” nuclear weapons approved by Obama.  The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports that the hands of the Doomsday Clock have now been moved to two and a half minutes to midnight.

I am so happy to see people rising up, finally!  In times of tyranny, the only way to maintain our humanity is to resist.  But the answer is not a matter of simply getting Democrats back into power.  If we continue to accept the unacceptable actions of our government, deep systemic change will be impossible.

I chose to sprinkle ashes on Beale Air Force Base because the day after tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a day for repentance and reflection on our mortality.  I chose to kneel and pray for mercy for the people my government is targeting, and to plead for the transformation of the hearts and minds of people in my country who accept and perpetuate these atrocities.  War is not the answer.  God help us all.

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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.  

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

Go to Occupy Beale Air Force Base Facebook page to find out more.  

A Day at Oceti Sakowin Camp

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We started today (as every day) with a council that began and ended with prayer in the big geodesic dome. We affirmed our agreements, received updates on the pipeline, and heard offers and requests for help in the camp, especially with the winterizing efforts–a huge job.  It was emphasized that no drugs or alcohol are to be “on or in” anyone at the camp, since the goal is to hold a prayerful and peaceful space. People referred to the election of Donald Trump and their concerns about its implications for this struggle and for Indigenous people and others. We also learned that within a few days the Justice Department should issue a ruling about whether construction of the pipeline needs to stop while a proper Environmental Impact Report is created.  Meanwhile the pipeline is almost to the banks of the Missouri River.  Right here.

There is also a newcomers’ orientation each day, where individuals are given basic orientation and can ask questions. Four hundred newcomers to camp have been oriented since we arrived three days ago, and they keep coming. Thousands of people are here.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have put out a call and people have responded. This means that many people are arriving at camp who are not familiar with Indigenous ways and who may think and act in ways that express “white settler mentality.” We are encouraged to have respect for the elders and for the people who live here and to remember that we are guests. They thank us for being here and for responding to the call.

I have met people from all over the world, including a Canadian man names Yves who brought the Mongolian yurts that have been set up over the past few days. (Sold at cost and paid for by people like you who have donated to the camp.  To make direct donations go to paypal.me/OcetiSakowinCamp) I have also met people from Alaska, Hawaii, and all over the United States and from countries that include France, Russia, Canada, Colombia, and Australia.

Today an Indigenous women’s group from Alaska entered the camp, and we listened to them about the damage to their ecosystems and why they had come to be in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock in the struggle to protect the waters of the Missouri River. I was in tears, listening to their stories and hearing their commitment to protect the air, land, and waters, and as they sang and prayed and as we walked through the line greeting each of them personally.

People here are encouraged to get involved with necessary chores, and there are cooperative tasks going on all over the camp. I spent time today with my friends Shirley and Jill hauling and stacking wood for the sacred fire, then washing dishes. There are seven kitchens that each serve two or three meals a day. Teams of people are erecting yurts and other buildings. Large winterized meeting spaces are being created that will also be available for people to gather to sleep in when temperatures drop, which is expected to happen soon. Composting toilets are being planned for, as well as many other projects.

There was a discussion and planning meeting at 4 p.m. related to upcoming nonviolent actions. We’re meeting early tomorrow morning for a possible action. We’ll see. I will keep you informed. Again, I can’t take photographs in the camp at all, and even the pictures I share from our media people are strictly limited in what they can portray, for the protection and privacy of the people.

I have received many messages of support, and I thank you.  Keep the faith.  We must continue the struggle for a peaceful, just, and ecologically sustainable world.

Love and blessings to you all.

Campaign Nonviolence Action at Beale

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Sharon, Chris, Toby, Shirley, Barry, and Cathy.  All but Barry crossed onto the base.

This morning I was arrested with four other women at Beale Air Force Base after crossing onto base property.   We were taken by military bus to a building on base, given citations, and released.  We may be given an arraignment date and we may go to trial, although in recent months all charges for peace activists have been dismissed.

We were wearing blue scarves and we had #enough written on our hands because we took this action in solidarity the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their blog Our Journey to Smile.  Afghan Peace Volunteers is a group of young people working for peace in Afghanistan.   I became aware of them when peace activist Kathy Kelly came with us to Beale a couple of years ago.  Our blue scarves and the #enough banners and words written on our hands are a response to their invitation “Join us to say #enough.”

Before we were arrested, each of us explained what we have had enough of.  I explained that I have had enough of drone warfare.  (Beale is the home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.)  I have also had enough of the U.S. Air Force Vision for 2020, which is geared toward “full spectrum dominance” for the purpose of “protecting U.S. interests and investments” as “the globalization of the world economy… continues, with a widening between “haves” and “have-nots.”  I have had enough of the U.S. military enforcing a global order that is enriching the already wealthy, protecting the privileged, exploiting those who are vulnerable, causing massive suffering, and destroying this beautiful earth.  #Enough war. #Enough “accidental” (or incidental) killing of children.  #Enough suffering.  #Enough extrajudicial killing.  #Enough.

We also took this action in coordination with the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions.  Over 700 separate Campaign Nonviolence Actions have taken place in recent days.

If you want to know more about drones or past demonstrations and trials related to Beale, see my past blogs on drones.   Follow my blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.