by Glenn Reed
(Swans - March 10, 2014) Let's play a little game. It's easy. It's called "Guess the Country."
Clue #1. This country is usually billed as a "democracy." In fact, many claim it is the greatest "democracy" in the world's history.
Clue #2. This supposed "democracy" has interesting applications of "justice." Consider the following examples and then try to choose who got actual jail time:
First there is a certain career politician and corporate man. While in a high office, he deliberately lied in order to begin an unnecessary war in another country that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths there, over 5,000 of his countrymen lost with tens of thousands more injured, and added trillions of dollars of debt to his home nation. This individual also secretly gave a green light to torture, encouraged no-bid contracts for corporations in which he had a vested interest, and pursued a "dirty" energy policy based on orchestrated meetings stacked with those corporations that would directly benefit from such policies.
And that's just for starters.
Now consider the second person. She is an 84-year-old, peace-activist nun who has spent decades engaging in direct, non-violent protests against a military-industrial complex that is destroying both a country and the planet.
If you guessed that the torturer/murderer/liar/cheat/thief was sentenced to prison, you've already lost the game. The correct answer is the nun. After all, she splattered human blood on a nuclear weapons facility, sang hymns, and offered bread to investigating authorities. Three years in the slammer for you, you non-violent peace activist!
Now if you did pick the nun (Sister Megan Rice) then you can pretty easily guess the country and win the game. Yes, the answer is the good old "God bless the.." U.S. of A.!!
Meanwhile, the other example -- one ex-vice president Dick Cheney -- enjoys a cushy retirement, more years to spread his hatefulness thanks to a heart transplant, and guest appearances on corporate media outlets like Fox "News" (my quotes) where he can continue to promote his totalitarian beliefs.
Sad game we just played, isn't it? Perhaps we should rename it "Game of Delusions," "Game of Thrones," or "Game of Mirrors?" Of course, it's hardly a game for people like Sister Megan Rice. Hearing about her being sentenced to three years in prison in Tennessee made me think of several similar events in the past. It reminded me that, though I was not raised as a Catholic, and despite not following any organized, monotheistic religions, I have respect and admiration for such individuals as this brave, principled nun. They epitomize the best of what such religions could be about -- peace, caring for others, love for the planet. Such individuals as Sister Rice and her equally brave co-defendants, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, are willing to sacrifice everything to fight for these values. They are willing to go to prison in order to speak directly to "the machine," and challenge the global, corporate, military-industrial forces that are destroying our entire planet.
I was similarly moved by activist nuns way back in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration was both overtly and covertly (read CIA, etc.) supporting Central America's repressive regimes in such countries as El Salvador and illegally funding the so-called "freedom fighters" in Nicaragua who were far-right, murderous thugs. These struggles for more democratic governments in Central America were supported, in part, by the "liberation theology" movement of a segment of the Catholic Church. Many nuns and priests paid with their lives for this commitment to more just and democratic nations, including four nuns who were kidnapped, raped, and murdered by US-trained "death squads" in El Salvador.
Many years later, in the midst of George W. Bush's U.S. presidency, I was similarly moved when I read about three Dominican nuns (Sisters Jackie Hudson, Carolyn Gilbert, and Ardeth Platte ) who protested at a missile silo in Colorado. As with the recent act of those arrested in Tennessee, these nuns splashed vials of blood onto the concrete structure housing a missile in what they said was a "symbolic disarmament." This was in October of 2002.
Meanwhile, over in Washington, D.C., then vice president Dick Cheney, secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other proponents of 21st century US hegemony were busy fabricating a pretext for plunging this country into an unnecessary war in Iraq. Torture and no-bid contracts for their corporate pals were all a part of their plan.
I feel, in both cases, the fact that the protesters got so far in supposedly high-security areas was the biggest factor in their being sentenced to prison. Maybe the government should, rather, be grateful for the three, because they exposed embarrassing flaws in what is considered one of the most secure facilities in the country. After all, why is "Homeland Security" getting so many billions of our tax dollars if they can't even guard a nuclear facility from three Catholics armed with blood, bread, and hymns? The three nuns in Colorado received two- to three-year sentences back in 2003. The nun in Tennessee got three years and it's noteworthy that her co-accomplices, who are Catholic but not members of the clergy, received significantly longer sentences.
So, reading about this nun and Darth....er....Dick Cheney on the same day struck me. The older I get, the less I believe in "coincidence." Thus, this article.
A stark contrast in supposed "justice" was apparent back in 2003, though few noticed the protesting nuns. Now this week, there's another story about some truly heroic individuals at the same time that the ex-presiden......I mean, vice president......reared his bitter countenance on my computer screen and bemoaned President Obama supposedly cutting the defense budget in favor of food stamps for the poor (imagine that).
Catholic or not, we can all learn something from those who truly see the big picture; who are more action and less talk. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, Wiccan, druid, undefined spiritual, or whatever, when you recognize that we all live on one, fragile planet and are part of one, living system, you can't help but understand that not taking urgent action is to surrender and die. You don't necessarily have to go to prison to do so either. At least, just begin to think outside the box that the power structure has stuck us in, prioritize caring for others and our planet, and then do something -- anything -- to challenge that mindless power from the belly of the beast.
Otherwise, the game is most assuredly up for us all.
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About the Author
Glenn Reed is a freelance writer who has worked in the non-profit world for nearly 30 years, both as paid staff and volunteer. He is also a lifelong activist for social, economic, and environmental justice. He currently resides in Fair Haven, Vermont. (back)