Thursday, November 25, 2010

The School of the Américas Watch

On November 17th I traveled to Georgia to participate in this year's vigil, and came back disturbed by the repressive over-presence of the police and soldier apparatus, the obvious 'overkill' as in the arrest of passersby and the dubious harsh treatment of these individuals by the local judge and authorities, but every year I travel there I also come back renewed by the bravery and courage of so many of our 'victims' who come here to witness to the struggle, taking a chance that when they return they will be detained, tortured, murdered... sometimes with their families at risk as well. I remember particularly the brave Honduras lawyer who has been working in resistance of the US sponsored coup, and who has been getting phone calls about his family, and his family as well getting phone calls about his own safety... the brave young man from Honduras who told us about the death of students for the simple act of speaking out against repression... This year I got to spend time with a priest from my beloved República Dominicana, which I've always considered my second homeland (I have many... there are Puerto Rico and México too), who is now working with Haitian victims of the many terrible events, of which the presence of the UN's MINUSTAH and US soldiers is not the least of these events. He told me about the wonderful work Cuban's doctors, hand-in-hand with Venezuela, have been doing there, even before the first earthquake...

I have always said that loyalty is one of the highest virtues, but I have written songs and poems about solidarity, solidaridad, and the SOAW and meeting people such as the tireless fighters for a new world are about solidaridad, which is the first virtue, because all it means is love, love and the willingness to put your body in front of your ideals.

Father Louis Vitale again crossed the gates and pleaded nolo contendere, for which he was once again sentenced to six months in jail... He is an inspiration, and I hope I have his strength when I become a prisoner of conscience.

Here in his own words, an excerpt of a letter he wrote when he was sentenced to jail from October 2007 to March 2008 for prayerfully and nonviolently protesting torture training at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona.

The cell door clangs shut. Now I am alone. But instead of trying to escape this solitude, I enter it deeply: This is where I am. Here in this empty cell I have begun to experience prison in the way James W. Douglass in Resistance and Contemplation describes it: not as “an interlude in a white middle class existence, but as a stage of the way redefining the nature of my life.” (James W. Douglass, Resistance and Contemplation: The Way of Liberation, p. 172). I have sensed this transformation, little by little. These days are a journey into a new freedom and a slow transformation of being and identity: an invitation to enter one’s truest self, and to follow the road of prayer and nonviolent witness wherever it will lead.

I am in this little hermitage in the presence of God, in the presence of the Christ who gave his life for the healing and well-being of all. I am also in the presence of the vast cloud of witnesses, some of whom are represented in the icons that have multiplied in this cell, gifts sent to me from people everywhere: Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Steven Biko, the martyrs of El Salvador, John XXIII. All those who have given their lives to fashion a more human world. At the same time I experience a deep connection with my fellow prisoners and with those outside these prison walls, including those who have sent me many letters and expressions of prayer and support.

In my little, empty cell, I experience a growing awareness of the communion of saints — and of the possibility of a world where the vast chasm of violence and injustice enforced by torture and war is bridged and transformed.

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