Friday, May 08, 2015

Glimmers of justice in the justice system

Does the US justice system work? Yes, if you are in the one percent. Yes, if you are a white cop. Yes, if you are white and your adversary is not. But that is not the story we hear from elites. They control the government. They control corporate media. It's not a conspiracy; it's simple self-aggrandizement, self-interest, self-absorption by people who have been getting away with a great deal for a long time. It's time to stop letting them control our minds.

For us to keep faith, they have to appear to give us one now and then. They did today, May 8, 2015, at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, when the three-judge Appellate Panel reversed the lower court's conviction of 85-year-old Megan Rice, a nonviolent nun, and two of her nonviolent co-defendants, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, all three of whom have been incarcerated since they spraypainted messages of peace on a nuclear weapons facility 28 July 2012, nearly three years ago, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Michael, Sr. Megan, Greg just before prison
The Sixth Circuit ordered resentencing on a lesser charge--depredation of government property--which will almost certainly mean the three will be free to go just as soon as that resentencing happens.

Lions 500, Christians 1. Yay!

I'm a long-time friend of Greg, and his amazing wife Michele Naar-Obed. They are amongst the most dedicated, peaceful, faithful people I've ever known. I will be so happy when they are reunited. They have been separated by their resistance to war and nuclear bombs for much of their married life, with one or another in prison for nonviolent resistance or Michele off to work for peace in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams, where she was very nearly killed. They shared the raising of their daughter Rachel with the peace community, Sister Carol Gilbert more than any of the rest of us. I met Rachel when she was a curly-headed four-year-old, mom Michele just out of prison for hammering on a nuclear missile. We went canoeing. I got her a little Barney dinosaur life jacket.

I've been honored to host Sister Megan Rice a little bit in my peace house. She is a driving peaceforce of nature, gentle as the stream that rounds and polishes the jagged rocks of militarism. We are pen pals now.

One of the best observations I've seen on a justice system was in the film A Dry White Season, a tough one to watch about apartheid, made when apartheid was at its most furious worst, in the 1980s, starring Donald Sutherland and Marlon Brando. Watch this scene and then, if you want some sense of how elated I feel at this rare indeed court ruling, pay attention at about 3:20 in this 1980 Peter Gabriel song. "You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. Once the wind begins to catch, the flames just go up higher." Another great version (with the best lines at about 3:35), also from during apartheid, making it urgent, not just nostalgic. Perhaps the candle of resistance is approaching inextinguishable flame. I'm not sure how many hundreds of years of prison we who have spit in the eye of the nuclear beast have collectively served, but we are ready for more victories. We want nukes to go the way of apartheid. Gone.

My own history is that I have done two of these acts of direct disarmament, in my case dismantling a portion of a thermonuclear command facility. The first time it took the jury 13 minutes to convict me. I learned. I went out again and this time got some of the greatest lawyers possible. My co-defendant and I faced 15 years in prison and our amazing legal team worked for four months while we sat in jail awaiting trial. They beat the major charge--sabotage--for exactly the same reasons the Sixth Circuit just vacated the conviction for that charge, which is that none of us interfered with the defense of the nation. We addressed the most unsoldierly weapons ever invented--weapons that are far far far more destructive to civilians than to the military--and the courts had to recognize that if the lawyers manage to get the evidence actually admitted.

Congratulations, Sister Megan, Michael, and Greg!

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