Monday, December 13, 2010

Holy terrors

More religious terrorists were convicted today of multiple felonies in the US. This cell of five desperadoes comprised two priests aged 81 and 60, an 84-year-old nun, and two women--66 and 60--with criminal records. These radical Christians call their cell the Disarm Now Plowshares and they cut security fences and hiked into the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington on 2 November 2009.

I've known four of them for a few years. Sr. Anne Montgomery, 84, is the senior member of this crime ring and has many felony convictions on her record, including all those accrued from eight Plowshares actions since the original one on 9 September 1980, when she and seven others went into the General Electric nuclear warhead factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they took some of the warheads and hammered them (no, there were no radioactive nor explosive elements yet installed--none of the Plowshares actions has ever endangered anyone except those who wield hand tools to dismantle the weapons components). She has also taught children at some of the absolute worst schools in Harlem and has also spent lots of time walking Palestinian children to and from school in areas of illegal Israel settlements, where the settlers were pelting little children with stones. Anne has herself been injured doing this. It was certainly a brave and proud moment for the United States Marines who finally arrested the five elder activists. The first thing they did was to hood them. Yes, the mighty Marines hooded a then-83-year-old nun who must weigh all of 91 pounds.

I suppose the military is under the impression they are gaining in respect, being as they have all the guns to shoot unarmed camera men and laugh about it from the safety of their helicopters in Baghdad and they have the big guns that allows them to hood a skinny old priest in his 80s. Yes, I suppose they believe they deserve respect. Hmmm. I respect their humanity. I have exactly zero respect for their behavior and beliefs. Zero. It is astonishing they believe they are operating in the national security interests of the people of the US. If they can make a tiny slip of an elderly nonviolent nun into an enemy combatant, sign me up for her division.

This Plowshares movement is dedicated to reifying the Biblical mandate to "beat swords into plowshares," Isaiah 2:4. Since that 1980 beginning there have been more than 100 such actions worldwide. Anne Montgomery has participated in eight of them, and fellow defendants Steve Kelly, SJ, and Susan Crane have each done four of these highwire nonviolent actions. Fr. Bill Bichsel, 81, and Lynne Greenwald, 60, have each done other nonviolent acts of resistance to militarism.

Since the beginning of this movement the armed forces, the prosecutors and some corporate media functionaries have referred to Plowshares resisters as terrorists. This is an interesting classification, since all these actions have been done quite carefully to avoid harming anyone and in fact are done with the express purpose of slowing down the abilities of the military to kill more people.

Underneath all the other reasons to engage in extreme nonviolence in resistance to militarism is an unexpected gift of community. I saw many people today at the federal courthouse in Tacoma that I hadn't seen in years, and I made some new friends as well as finally meeting some I had only known through prison correspondence. My friend Nancy Newell drove us up there and, like the Liechtenstein army that goes out to battle with 59 troops and comes back without firing a shot with 61 because they made two new friends along the way, we came back to Portland with Sr. Megan Rice, a nun I had only known from prison correspondence when she served two hitches of a half year each for her nonviolent trespass at School of the Americas, where the US army trains Latin American troops in better methods of state terrorism. Megan was a joy to meet and spend time with. Now she's a friend of Whitefeather Peace House, where we all had a late lunch today.

So our five intrepid friends are out until March 28 sentencing. At least the long arm of the law sees the silliness of locking them up in the interim. Now if we could just see the amazing contradiction of giving a Nobel prize to Obama for making some nuclear reduction noises without a single action to achieve that, while convicting people of felonies who actually physically go out there to get the job started.


Terri said...

Thanks for sharing - glad you were able to go.

Tom H. Hastings said...

Yeah, great folks there. They've lived lives of great service, very low consumption and in direct confrontation of patriarchy and militarism for decades. They are the closest people to Gandhian lives I've ever known. They are the most radical people I know. I wish I had that much courage and faith.