As I prepare to surrender myself to the United States Marshal's Service on Monday, I read of more deaths.
I remember the powerless feeling I felt while in jail in the days leading up to the Gulf War. I was released 4 days before the Gulf War started. I remember sitting on a curb in Lafayette Park on January 14th next to Dick Gregory who had been fasting since Thanksgiving. I said to him that he did all he could to prevent the war...He looked at me and said, no not everything, but we all are doing what our heart tells us, and with that he got up and went into the street to get arrested with a group of students. A few minutes later 15,000 people arrived carrying candles during a march from the National Cathedral. It was by far the most powerful march during that period...They were either silent or singing, there were no angry chants, the message of peace was clear.
As we walked towards the military police at Vandenberg singing and holding a banner that read "Sacred Earth and Sacred Space" I felt that same peace. The next 90 days will not be easy but the knowledge that more actions for peace will be happening will be comforting to me.
At Griffith Park in September, I felt that same feeling as we sang together asking to give peace a chance.
That is the spirit the movement for peace must recapture. Angry marches will not help us bring peace to people's hearts. Many good people are angry as a result of the tragedy of September 11th. Their anger is justified, If we are to change their angry calls for vengeance to a call for peace we must be peaceful. We must approach them with love and not our own anger at our Government.
As the death toll rises many people who now support the war will pause to consider its true impact. If we approach them with themes like "killing is the problem" "No more Innocent lives" they may join us. If we approach them with "We don't want your racist war" we will rekindle their anger and lose their support. I see racism in this war, but I am not who we are reaching out to. If we are going to be peacemakers then we must put our agendas aside and meet people where they are at.
These are not easy times for any of us, our faith in our work is tested ... We wonder if we are making a difference. We are.... A young Marine who was a CO during the gulf war, Erik Larson credited the writings of Oscar Romero for making him question our government's military. If it wasn't for the campus activists that handed out literature he may have gone to the gulf war. Activists may have saved his life.
During the next 90 days I will be thinking of all of you out on the front lines working for peace...what you will be doing is much harder than what I will be doing. The hardest part for me will be not being able to join you and feel peace while doing peacemaking. I will do what I can, which brings me to another story from people who influenced my life. The late Homeless Activist Mitch Snyder may never have become an activist if he didn't share a cell with Phillip Berrigan. Without Mitch there would be no 1500 bed shelter in Washington DC with an infirmary, drug treatment program etc...Without Mitch many pieces of legislation that funded programs for the Homeless may have never passed Congress. Without Mitch there wouldn't have been a law in the District of Columbia that said there had to be a bed for every homeless person in Washington and a shelter in every ward of the city.
So remember when you hand a flier to someone you may be reaching a future activist that could make great accomplishments for peace and justice.