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Here I am, George . . . Come and Get Me

Far be it from me to ask the government to spend money it needs to wage war and enrich the arms industry to hunt down yet another 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 torture techniques 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, God’s 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 inspires me to do this work includes 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 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 our obscene stockpile of weapons can bring security. Besides, I’m a mom and a teacher and nuclear weapons are not child-friendly.

I own up to carrying into the courtroom a stuffed body representing the children who are dying from this nation’s use of depleted uranium in Iraq as well as the impoverished children in our own nation’s cities who are bearing the brunt of this country’s bloated Pentagon budget. And I confess, George, that I was the one whose microphone was turned off by a judge who deemed the mention of international law and the beatitudes inappropriate and irrelevant in his court of law.

While I’m 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 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 Israel’s 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 world’s 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 agents who have nothing better to do than monitor peace vigils will show, the books I checked out 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 movie that offers 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, I’ll tell you exactly where to look in my bible if you want to know what I’ve been reading before bedtime. Start with those lines that I’ve 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 one’s enemies, and dying rather than killing. Don’t overlook Mary’s Magnificat and the story of Jesus overturning tables in the Temple. I will save you time and tell you that I’m partial to Isaiah and Luke.

Finally, George, if you insist on subverting the law 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 I’m not at home, please overlook the dirty dishes and do not allow the cat to go near the turtle’s aquarium. In obedience to the biblical command to welcome the stranger, I invite you to peruse the bookcase in the living room where I have a fine collection of books on peace and justice, including the Holy Bible.

Of yeah, I forgot. Reading’s not your thing.

At any rate, on this cold winter’s night, children across this country go without because we need the money that might house and clothe them to kill children in faraway lands. How can I, in good conscience, allow my government to waste even more money that it doesn’t have to monitor yet another peace activist?

We all know that the cost of spying on 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.

Common Dreams, Dec. 20, 2005