I do not share many similarities with Sohab Mahud Mohhamed. We are about the same age. But, he was born in Iraq, I was born in Texas. He has spent the last seven years enduring torture at Guantanamo, while I have gone to school and lived amongst family and friends.
But a yearning for human connection amidst disorienting violence led me to join more than 100 others in a nine day liquids-only fast. The fast began January 11th, the seventh anniversary of the first detainees arriving at the prison camp, and will end the morning of the inauguration when Witness Against Torture launches the 100 Days Campaign to Shut down Guantanamo.
There are as many reasons for joining the fast as there are people. Voluntary fasting can be a forceful way to make a political demand. It also can be an act of solidarity with the 30 detainees currently on hunger strike at Guantanamo. Fasting has the power to morally awaken a larger community. And, just as fasting can cleanse the body; it can spiritually renew the faster. But, perhaps most importantly-- fasting is a vehicle for mourning and atoning-- in this case, for our country's crimes and our complicity.
Although each of these factors influenced me, I chose to fast for the first time in my life as an expression of my overwhelming sense of hope. Guantanamo is the product of an entire system of greed and violence that requires us to dehumanize our sisters and brothers. On the other hand, Fasting, especially in community with others, is an opportunity to reaffirm our own humanity. We become more aware of our own weaknesses, but we also gain strength from our interdependence.
As we kicked off the fast in Washington D.C. yesterday, I contemplated how the self-denial, nonviolence and re-humanization involved in fasting directly undermine the foundation of Guantanamo. By chipping away at the inhumane values that allow Guantanamos to exist, my personal fast is a celebration of hope. In the same way, our collective fast is a victory, one rooted in the hope for more victories (personal, spiritual, legal and political) needed to ensure that Obama has the grassroots support to follow through with his pledge ""I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantánamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm going to make sure that we don't torture."