Far be it from me to ask the government to take money it needs to wage war and enrich the arms industry to track down yet one more peace activist. Therefore, I consider it my civic duty to say, "Here I am, George. Come and get me." No need to squander cash that could be spent on refining the techniques of torture on costly surveillance projects and electronic wiretaps to track the likes of me.
That overweight middle-aged woman in bifocals standing on the street corner and marching in demonstrations would be me.
Age 48, married, mother of four, high school religion teacher, Catholic, garden-variety activist.
Yes, George, I was the one standing outside the doors of recruitment stations quoting Oscar Romero, who said, "Godís law must prevail. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God." Not terribly original, I know, but that great cloud of witnesses that goads me on to do this work included people who were so much more articulate than I. At one recruitment center, I even quoted Pope John Paul II who told young people: "Do not listen to voices which speak the language of hatred, revenge, retaliation. Do not follow any leaders who train you in the way of inflicting death."
The woman wearing a Pax Christi tee shirt and a green bandana at the gates of a nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee is none other than yours truly. Yes, I confess to standing in the street when ordered by police to move and, yes, I did lock the gates of the plant in violation of the law, but how could I have done otherwise? I openly admit to praying at this death site that our nation might turn away from the idolatrous belief that this nationís stockpile of weapons can bring security. Besides, Iím a mom and a teacher and nuclear weapons are not child-friendly.
When brought before the judge, I own up to carrying a stuffed body representing the children who are dying from this nationís use of depleted uranium in Iraq as well as the impoverished children in our own nationís cities who are bearing the brunt of this countryís bloated Pentagon budget.
I confess, George, that I was the one whose microphone was turned off by a judge who did not want to hear about international law or the beatitudes in his court of law. While Iím coming clean here, George, I also confess to making toilet paper peace cranes with the women in the county jail and leading a recovery meeting for inmates who are offered little in the way of rehabilitation in a for-profit prison system.
Now, for those overseas phone calls that you have been illegally monitoring. In my fumbling effort to follow the instruction of Pope Paul VI who said, "If you want peace, work for justice," my peace activism has taken me to the Occupied Territories where I have served on peace teams working for an end to the occupation and for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Since so much of my tax money is being sent to this part of the world, I consider it my duty to see for myself what the newest high-tech weaponry purchased in my pacifist name looks like.
Please tell your agents that the static they picked up had nothing to do with a bad connection. What they were hearing was the explosion of sound grenades being hurled at nonviolent demonstrators and the noise of bulldozers erecting walls and tearing down homes. Not to mention the cries of children - Palestinian and Israeli - entreating the adults of this world to put an end to the violence.
As one of those quaint Catholics who takes Jesus at His word when he tells us to put up the sword and love our enemies, I also joined an international delegation of similarly naive activists who gathered in the desert in the shadow of Israelís Dimona nuclear plant to pray for disarmament.
As a woman of conscience who believes in telling the truth, I also feel I owe it to you, George, to explain my book-borrowing habits in order to spare some "radical, militant librarian" the trouble of having to retrieve the list of books that I have read these past few years. Regrettably, since you have seized power I have had little time for fiction. With the exception of a brief sojourn through the pages of 1984 to make sense of the strange turn this country has taken, I have spent most of my time reading books on the Middle East, cultural trends, and the worldís religions.
Yes, I confess that I have been reading Edward Said, Arundhati Roy, Thich Nhat Hanh, and, for spiritual edification, the poetry of Daniel Berrigan and the sermons of M.L. King, Jr. As one look at the pictures taken by your agents who have nothing better to do than monitor peace vigils will show, the books I borrowed on exercise and vegan cooking went largely unread.
Regarding the films I have borrowed from my local library, allow me to recommend Control Room, a clear-headed look at the complicity of the U.S. media in selling an unjust and immoral war. And all those musicals? No subversive intent there, just a peculiar affection for tap dancing and big sets. As for Gandhi and Pay It Forward . . . arrest me, if you must.
And just to save you time, Iíll tell you exactly where to look in my bible if you want to know what Iíve been reading. Start with those lines that Iíve highlighted from the Hebrew Scripture that talk about beating swords into plowshares and then turn to the Gospel sections that talk about the preferential option for poor, loving oneís enemies, and dying rather than killing. Donít overlook Maryís Magnificat or the story of Jesus overturning tables in the Temple. I will save you time and tell you that Iím partial to Isaiah and Luke.
Finally, George, if you insist on subverting the law and choose to violate the Constitution by paying my home a visit, know that "Mi casa es tu casa," but do not expect dinner. If you should to drop in while Iím not at home, please overlook the dirty dishes and do not allow the cat to go near the turtleís aquarium. You may want to check the bookcase in the living room where I have a great collection of books on peace and justice, including the Holy Bible.
Of yeah, I forgot. Readingís not your thing.
At any rate, on this cold winter night, children across this country go without because we are spending money to kill children in faraway lands. How can I, in good conscience, allow my government to spend more money that it doesnít have to monitor yet one more peace activist?
We all know that the cost of monitoring those crazy Quakers and Catholic Workers is bleeding this country dry. I must do my part to preserve the national budget by stepping up and saying, "Here I am, George."
Call out your agents and surveillance squads and spies. Look for the matronly woman bearing a sign that reads, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and remember what I said about keeping the cat away from the turtle.
Kim Redigan is an activist, writer, and teacher from Detroit. E-mail Kim at: firstname.lastname@example.org.