Day 1: Sixty-five arrested. Locals were released by 8 p.m. Out-of-towners held in D.C. jail until Monday morning arraignment. The D.C. police seem to want to make an example of the first group in order to discourage the next 13 days of sustained protest.
What we know is that the small but real sacrifice of these few to be held over the weekend will be joined by hundreds of others. In determined peaceableness, we will flood the streets. We will raise the banners. We will fill the jails. Because we can not do otherwise. The cost of inaction is simply too high.
Some highlights from Saturday: Jim Antal, former head of Fellowship of Reconciliation and now president of the Massachussetts Conference of the United Church of Christ was arrested. Kristy Powell, originator of the One Dress Protest, was arrested. Lt. Dan Choi, leader of the protest against the former military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, was arrested. Fr. Jim Noonan, Maryknoll Catholic priest, who spent years in Cambodia under Pol Pot serving AIDS patients was arrested.
While Japan begins yet another multi-generational nuclear nightmare as a result of the nuclear power plant meltdown at Fukushima, here on the home front two grandmothers, two priests, and a nun go to jail for protecting you and me against a similar fate.
In Tacoma, Washington, on Monday, March 28, 2011, 5 of our elders were sentenced in federal court for calling to account the hundreds of U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiled for use by our Trident submarines. The Trident base at Bangor is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal.
For years there has been a concerted effort by the nuclear and defense industry to distance nuclear weapons production from nuclear power. In reality, it is all one industry that produces all one result: a deadly toxin with no known cure that kills everything it encounters either immediately or slowly over generations through cancer and genetic mutation. Whether used offensively in weaponized form or “passively” to boil water and turn on lights, nuclear fission–as an industry–must be dismantled.
(Note: Nuclear medicine accounts for a tiny percentage of radioactive material in the U.S. and can continue with proper regulation.)
Nuclear weapons and nuclear energy are all part of the same death cycle. It’s time to stop nuclear weapons production, research, upgrades, and extended contracts. It’s time to dismantle existing nuclear weapons.
It’s time to suspend licensing for all nuclear power plants. It’s time to end subsidies to the nuclear power industry. If we transferred the nuclear power industry’s subsidy money toward renewable resources, then within 5 years we could be well on our way to carbon-free energy independence.
So who are the grandparents out defending you against a radioactive future? Sentenced were:
*Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York, who was ordered to serve 2 months in federal prison and 4 months electronic home confinement
*Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington, ordered to serve 3 months in prison and 6 months electronic home confinement
*Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland, ordered to serve 15 months in federal prison
*Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington, ordered to serve 6 months in federal prison
*Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California, ordered to serve 15 months in federal prison
They were also ordered to pay $5300 each and serve an additional year in supervised probation. To consider whether you might join them, contact Disarm Now Plowshares or support them through your prayers, financial aid, and letters.
Just a reminder about the scale of nuclear weapons we are talking about at this one nuclear base in Bangor, Washington. In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 20 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.
The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system. Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb.) The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead. The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted this week that the Fukushima disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing “several deaths from radiation” due to “severe damage to reactor core and release of large quantities of radioactive material within an installation with a high probability of significant public exposure,” according to the UN International Atomic Energy Commission.
However, the U.S. and Europe have put the Japan nuclear crisis at Level 6: Serious impact on people and environment with significant release of radioactive material. Usually, when it reaches this level, governments begin classifying the research on how it affected civilian and environmental populations. So it’s not known how many deaths, birth defects, genetic damage, or long-term cancers were caused by previous Level 6 disasters.
Orthodox Christian Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said recently, “Our Creator has given us the sun, wind, waves, from which energy can be extracted for our needs. An ecological science has the ability to invent tools for the production of renewable energy that is not harmful. Why, then, spread the use of energy production that is so dangerous to the integrity of the human race? Is it not an insult and a provocation of nature, which in turn then turns her back on human beings? From this our humble home, along with our prayers for the sorely tried people of the Land of the Rising Sun, we take the opportunity to make an appeal to States to reconsider their policy on nuclear energy.”
I’ve been doing what I can to support Laura Amico Norton and her work as founder of the blog Homicide Watch D.C. Its mission: Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case. As Laura says, “Their deaths needs to be marked if we are living consciously in this city.”
She’s a 28-year-old former newspaper reporter whose web site chronicles every murder in Washington D.C. Laura supports her work out of her own pocket and is hoping to get grant funding.
Recently, BBC reporter Jane O’Brien met Laura at a Bloomingdale neighborhood prayer vigil for Billy Mitchell. Mitchell was murdered when he, allegedly, tried to intervene in a street altercation between a man and a woman. You can listen to O’Brien’s excellent interview with Laura on BBC Outlook (starts at minute 16).
“I think those people who don’t even get a funeral announcement are just as important as the ones who do get the coverage,” says Laura. “Who they were and how they died say as much about our city as the one’s who do get a news write up.”
By being online, the web site provides a place to form community for the family and friends of murder victims. It becomes a place of solace; a place that meets the need for the victim’s community to get concrete information about the legal aspects of the case and as a place to meet others who knew their loved one, but whom the family might not have met.
As one neighbor put it, “She’s putting a face on every victim who is murdered in DC.”
Pacifica radio is playing speeches from Dr. King all day. It’s the best tribute I can think of. It’s like an all day seminar on the very best of American history and religious nonviolence.
The earliest recorded speech in the Pacifica archives is from June 4, 1957, when Dr. King delivered a speech to students at the University of California at Berkeley at the invitation of the Young Men’s Christian Association and Young Women’s Christian Association. His topic was “The Power of Nonviolence”, and in relatively few words King movingly described the principle of nonviolent resistance and the ideals he sought to uphold by using it in his movement. The speech’s conclusion has a famous section on the biblical prophets and “maladjustment.” He says:
Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word “maladjusted.” Now we all should seek to live a well—adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generation, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
My community e-list today for the Columbia Heights neighborhood has a reflection by one of our local heroes, Kenneth Barnes, founder of ROOT Inc,dedicated to ending gun violence, recalling segregated D.C. He writes:
I was born and raised in northeast Washington, DC, in a section known as Trinidad. I grew up on Owen Place, a street between Montello Ave and Trinidad Ave, NE. My family moved to Owen Place in 1945, and, ironically, was the first African American family to move onto the block.
I attended Wilson elementary school on the corner of 6th and K St, NE. Wheatley Elementary is on the corner of Neal St. and Montello Ave, NE, within two blocks walking distance of my family home. Yet I had to catch a bus to go to Wilson Elementary over a mile from home and by pass Wheatley every morning.
As a child, I would wonder why but it was one of those mysteries not clearly defined by my family to me and it seemed as a child to be no big deal. My family was from the south and shielded the inequities of segregation and the evils of racism from my brother, my sister, and me. Racism and segregation was a part of everyday life accepted by families like mine from the south as part of their existence.
I remember being in the first integrated class of Wheatley when I entered the 5th grade and still was not totally aware of the segregated society that I had been a part of. I remember studying history and not really seeing or being able to identify with Black people, because all history at that time being taught consisted of the history of western civilization and culture or American (White) history. We learned about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Davey Crockett and Wyatt Earp were big frontier heroes. Even God was a white man with a flowing white beard and hair to match, and Jesus Christ was a younger white man with a darker beard and long hair down to his shoulders.
I succinctly remember one black person being taught as being a hero during the American Revolution, and his name was Crispus Attacks. I remember wondering at the time what made him a hero and why was he singled out. He happened to be in a crowd of people that were shot by English soldiers and he happened to be black. I never could figure out what was heroic about that nor, at the time, did I understand the significance of why he, of all the heroic Black people throughout history, was singled out and given to us (Black children) as being a hero.
This naivete of thinking remained with me up until my high school years. I remember about a black lady refusing to give up her seat on a bus. I remember about sit-ins and protests, about Medgar Evars being murdered, about a bombing of a church, and civil rights workers being killed. Even with all that atrocity my most vivid memory is of a remarkable man, a preacher, who began to become prominent as a spokesperson against all of the evils entwined with bigotry, segregation, and racism. He spoke eloquently yet forcefully and firmly. He spoke with a gentleness of conviction, and his powerful message of non violent confrontation as a means of battling racism began to resonate throughout America.
He stood up for us as African Americans perhaps as no other before him. He was, to me, our savior, our Christ. He led marches and protests against racist and segregation against some of the vilest and most ruthless people in this county. He was beaten, stabbed, locked up, attacked by dogs, and water hosed. Yet he seemed to rise, larger than life, above it all.
And he became my first hero. He opened my eyes like no one before me had. I began to listen to his speeches, enthralled by his every word.
I remember this great man being able to call a march on Washington and give perhaps the most magnificent speech ever delivered in the history of mankind, with the entire nation as well as the entire world enthralled. …
I encourage you to spend some time today being discipled by the essays and speeches of Dr. King. Listen to just one today and let the words take root in your mind and heart.
Please keep in your prayers the fasters who are in prayer at the U.S. capitol between January 11-21 keeping vigil for the closing of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo. As an opening to their prayer vigil yesterday, they engaged in a little prophetic street theater in front of the Justice Department.
In August 2007, candidate Obama promised to close Guantanamo, saying “As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”
In January 2009, one of President Obama’s first official acts was to sign an executive order promising to close Guantanamo within one year. “This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard,” he said.
Christians and others are taking the lead in holding President Obama accountable for his pledge.
A group of 173 human rights activists, each wearing an orange jumpsuit and a black hood and representing the remaining 173 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rallied in front of the White House on Tuesday to mark the ninth anniversary of the detention center’s opening and to protest the Obama administration’s inability to close it.
“Detainees, halt!” yelled Carmen Trotta, a volunteer with the group Witness Against Torture, who wore military fatigues as he gathered the protesters in Lafayette Park. “Turn left. Face the home of your captor.”
The rally and street theater were organized by a coalition of groups – including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows – that are calling on the administration to either try Guantanamo Bay detainees in federal court or release them.
“We believe in and promote the rule of law,” said Valerie Lucznikowska, whose nephew was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and who described the military detention center in Cuba as a “living stain on America.”
Last January 2010 passed and we now move into a second year of with 173 men and boys still held in an extrajudicial setting. Obama has learned that the issue “is complicated.” Indeed it is. But it must be done. America’s democracy requires that we “observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”
I’ve had the honor of knowing Catholic Worker Art Laffin at Dorothy Day House in D.C. for more than 20 years. We’ve worshiped together, sung together, been arrested together, eaten together, and cried together. All the things that Christians do. Lest I ever forget the amazing people of faith who surround me, here is the note that Art sent out today:
Eleven years ago today, my brother Paul was killed by Dennis Soutar. I still can’t believe what happened. Although eleven years has passed, all who know and loved Paul still feel a sorrow and grief that defies words. We can take consolation in knowing that Paul is home with God and is interceding for us, together with the cloud of witnesses and all our beloved departed. We give thanks for Paul’s life of extraordinary service to the poor, and for all the laughter and love he gave us. Paul, you will always have a special place in my/our hearts!
Let us also pray today for healing for Dennis Soutar. I pray that Dennis will experience God’s forgiving love. I also pray for Dennis’ sister-in-law, Vernetta Soutar, and the rest of the Soutar family. Mom and I met and prayed with Vernetta several weeks after Paul’s death at St. Francis Hospital where she worked. We also prayed with Vernetta, Dennis’ brother and their children at a Mass at St. Michael’s church where they are parishioners.
Finally, let us hold each other in prayer and heart on this special anniversary day. I want to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for the prayers and loving support you have offered me and my family in the aftermath of this horrific tragedy. I am forever grateful to you. With love and gratitude, Art
This is what being a Christian looks like. It’s hard. It’s glorious.
I’m fascinated with honey bees. I’m thrilled by the recent rise in urban beekeeping and glad to see that Washington, D.C’s, local beekeeping laws are finally becoming more amenable to this venerable tradition.
One of the earliest extensive treatises on beekeeping was written by Virgil in 29 BC (Virgil’s Georgic IV):
Of air-born honey, gift of heaven, I now
Take up the tale….
The others shine forth and flash with lightning-gleam,
Their backs all blazoned with bright drops of gold
Symmetric: this the likelier breed; from these,
When heaven brings round the season, thou shalt strain
Sweet honey, nor yet so sweet as passing clear,
And mellowing on the tongue the wine-god’s fire.
And the bee as Christian symbol was well-known in Europe. The honey bee has historically been a symbol of Christ’s attributes due to its honey and sting. The honey symbolizes gentleness and charity, and sting symbolizes justice and the cross. Bees are also a symbol of the resurrection. The three winter months when bees hibernate reminds Christians of the three days Christ spent in the tomb before rising.
The organization of life in the bees community, with perfectly delineated relationships and its dependence upon and service to the queen bee, also came to reflect an ideal of Christian virtues. Additionally, bees and beehives symbolize eloquence, and are represented with the three known holy orators called doctores melliflui (scholars sweet as honey): St. Ambrosius, St. Bernard of Clariveaux, and St. John Chrysostom. (See more on ancient Christian symbols.)
There’s also St. Gobnait of County Cork in Ireland who is the patron saint of bees. There’s even a contemporary Christian mission group in Uganda called Beekeepers for Christ.
Now, beekeeping is also taking wing in urban Japan! Here’s an excerpt from a recent article:
Eleven stories above the heart of the Tokyo concrete jungle — with its beehive office partitions and swarms of suit-clad worker-bees — enthusiasts have stacked up beehives dripping with golden honey.
“Let’s enjoy the harvest, but be careful you don’t have an accident,” urban beekeeper-in-chief Kazuo Takayasu tells his fellow volunteers from behind the protective fine-mesh net covering his face.
Clad in white body suits, the crew gets to work, squeezing out the glistening syrup using a simple centrifugal machine they crank by hand as a cloud of bees breaks free from the honeycombs. …
The honey is largely organic, he said, because pesticide use has been banned in Tokyo city parks and gardens including the Imperial Palace, about one mile away, where the bees collect much of their nectar. …
Last week I watched the 2000 PBS documentary Duke Ellington’s Washington. It’s a great way to learn the history of D.C. at the turn of the century – especially the Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, and Shaw neighborhoods around where I live. I highly recommend it for viewing! Here’s a short description of the video:
“Before the Harlem Renaissance, Duke Ellington’s Washington was the social and cultural capital of Black America. From 1900 to 1920, it was this country’s largest African American community. Anchored by Howard University and federal government jobs, this community became a magnet for African American intellectuals and sent a stream of shining talents to the nation for generations. It developed a prosperous black middle class which forged a strong society of churches, newspapers, businesses and civic institutions. Its businesses were black owned and run; its buildings, designed, built and financed by blacks; its entertainment, by and for African Americans. This was a proud and elegant community that flourished despite, or perhaps even because, of Jim Crow, the oppressive segregation that forced blacks to create their own separate destiny.”
“What we could not say openly, we expressed in music,” Ellington wrote in the British magazine Rhythm, in 1931, trying to explain the Negro musical tradition that had grown up in America, music “forged from the very white heat of our sorrows.” All his life, Ellington gave the impression of having been unscathed by racism, either in his early years—color, he said, was never even mentioned in his parents’ home—or during the long professional decades when it defined almost every move he made: where he could play his music, who could come to listen to it, whether he could stay in a hotel or attend another musician’s show, and where (or whether) he could find something to eat when the show was over. The orchestra made its first Southern tour just after its return from England, in 1933, travelling (thanks to Mills) in supremely insulated style: two private Pullman cars for sleeping and dining, and a separate baggage car for the elaborate wardrobe, scenery, and lights required to present a show more dazzling than any that most of the sleepy little towns where they made their stops had ever seen. Ellington made a special effort to perform for black audiences, even when it meant that the band added a midnight show in a place where it had performed earlier that night exclusively for whites. Reports from both racial groups were that the players outdid themselves; it is difficult to know where they felt they had more to prove.
Segregation was hardly peculiar to the South, of course, any more than it was limited, in New York, to the Cotton Club and its ilk. The down-and-dirty Kentucky Club had been no different: even without thugs at the door, there was an unspoken citywide dictate about where the different races belonged. The only exceptions were the “Black and Tans,” the few Harlem clubs that permitted casual racial mixing, and to which Ellington seems to have been paying tongue-in-cheek tribute with the not-quite-meshing themes of “Black and Tan Fantasy.” This was the first number played, after “The Star-Spangled Banner,” at Ellington’s landmark Carnegie Hall concert, in January, 1943, although the piece sounded very different from his twenties hit: taken at a slower tempo, with extended solos, it was twice its original length—so deliberative it seemed a kind of statement—and showed off the burnished power of Ellington’s forties band.
In my daily prayer book, the morning antiphon for today said: “The Lord chose these holy men for their unfeigned love …” The men referred to are Saints Phillip and James, whose feast day it is today. But as I return from a writing workshop at one of Maryland’s federal men’s prisons, the phrase takes on a fresher meaning.
This week I’m the visiting humanities scholar inside the “big house.” There were about 20 men in class today. I think they are all from Washington, D.C. When the federal prison at Lorton, VA, closed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, D.C. federal prisoners were shipped all over the U.S.– sometimes very far from their families.
Hope House DC was established by Carol Fennelly in 1998 to help keep those D.C. families with someone in prison together and keep incarcerated fathers active in the lives of their kids. Hope House also works to reduce the isolation, stigma, and risk families experience when fathers and husbands are imprisoned and raises public awareness about prison issues and this at-risk population.
Carol Fennelly invited me to participate in this program – funded by the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. – and made it possible for me to come teach these classes as part of the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” program. The book that D.C. has chosen to read and that we are discussing in these workshops is Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, which takes on the question: Knowing we are going to day, how should we live?
The guys are discussing the book and writing about their own experiences. I was impressed that every single man had read the book in advance. From the depth of our discussion I think some had read it multiple times. One man quoted sections from memory and cited the page numbers.
We talked about the characters, their motivations, the setting in rural Louisiana in the 1940s. We talked about what makes a character — and whether a character always has to be a person or can it be the landscape or even an experience that looms large in the story line. The men struggled with each other over whether the main character “Jefferson” was a “victim of circumstance” or “did he make a bad choice” that ended with him on death row.
We talked about the preacher that peddles hope on Sunday mornings, but the hope fades by sunset and never leads to changing the systems of oppressions. Just how strong is hope? And how weak is optimism? We discussed how very small acts or things can be used to dismantle an overarching system — the weapons of the weak can take apart dehumanizing systems. But they only work if they force the oppressors and the oppressed to recognize their shared humanity.
At one point our conversation shifted. One man said, “We keep saying that Jefferson was simple or retarded or slow or stupid and that’s why he did those things that ended him up in jail. But WE did the same things! We made the same choices. And WE aren’t stupid or simple or slow.” Then each one began to wrestle with who he was in the story and the choices that he had made and how hard it is to build up enough strength to make new choices when the same old situations arise on the outside.
I won’t say that anyone in the workshop – myself included – is “holy” in a morally righteous sense. But instead “the Lord called these holy men” in the sense that holiness also means moving toward becoming a whole and healed human being. And even in this first day, I can stand as a witness to their “unfeigned love” – especially when they talk about their kids or show pictures of their families. Tomorrow we’ll work on a number of writing exercises and end with a reading from their work and a graduation certificate.
On another note, it turns out that “Casino Jack” Abramoff was also at this facility, on the minimum security side. He’s getting released to a half-way house this month just in time to see Alex Gibney’s newly released documentary about his life called Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Suffice it to say, the range of “bad choices” made by men in Washington, D.C., is wide-ranging.
I’m happy to say that my book Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood is finally back from the printer! For those of you who know the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., I think you’ll enjoy reading about our neighborhood’s history–not to mention Washington, D.C., during the Bush era.
For those who are interested in urban ministry, urban mission, and the Judeo-Christian understanding of cities from the Bible’s Abraham and Sarah to the contemporary era, you’ll definitely find something of interest in Who Killed Donte Manning?
Here’s a snippet from the book’s foreword:
Rose Marie Berger has written a biblical essay on the neighborhood where she lives. I know the neighborhood well, because I live there too. Her provocative discourse is a theological reflection on “place,” which is a long-standing tradition in the Christian faith—a faith that is all about incarnation, the Word becoming flesh in place and time.
The particular “place” where this story begins is in Northwest Washington, D.C., on 13th Street between Euclid and Fairmont, on the sidewalk in front of the notorious Warner Apartments where a third grade boy named Donte Manning was caught in a crossfire of bullets and killed.
In 1993, the new First Lady had come to Washington. Hillary Rodham Clinton had invited a small group of people to her office at the White House to talk about the growing tragedy of youth violence in our cities, a situation of great concern to her. It was the first time I met Hillary Clinton. The meeting had an assortment of civil rights and religious leaders, urban and community activists, and heads of national organizations that cared about children at risk. I was impressed with Clinton’s understanding of the issues, her thoughtfulness and probing questions, and her clear desire to do something that would begin to address the problem.
When the meeting was finished, I came home to my house on 13th Street NW in Columbia Heights … to lots of yellow tape. Of course, I knew what yellow tape meant: Another crime had been committed here and the scene had been cordoned off by police. I learned that during the very hour we were meeting at the White House to discuss the problems of youth homicide, a young kid had been killed across the street from my house—on the sidewalk in front of the Warner Apartments.
I recall wondering at the time how many of the other participants in that meeting came home to yellow tape. It’s not that you know all the answers more easily just because you live there. It’s just that place yields perspective.
It is that biblical insight Rose illustrates in the story Who Killed Donte Manning?, a story that begins with yet another youth homicide on the 2600 block of 13th Street NW in Washington, D.C. Her biblical reflections on her place, and mine, stretch from Genesis to Revelation, and from Washington, D.C., to the coca fields of Colombia in South America. They describe what happens at the center of “empire” and the consequences at empire’s margins, which, in our city and neighborhood, is a journey of only about 2 miles.–Jim Wallis, Foreword, Who Killed Donte Manning? by Rose Marie Berger