We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Waging Nonviolence

Message from Eric Stoner of Kairos NYC:

"I've started a new blog with a couple close friends of mine in the last week, that I'd love for you to check out. It's called Waging Nonviolence, and aims to serve as a resource for news, analysis and discussion on the many ways that ordinary people around the globe are using nonviolence every day, often under the most difficult circumstances. Here is the link: http://wagingnonviolence.org/. As additional writers join us there will be more content and posts every day, so keep an eye on it. One nice feature that we've created is called 'Experiments with truth,' which is a phrase Gandhi often used to describe nonviolence, that gives a recap of 5 or 10 of the top stories about nonviolent campaigns or movements around the world that day. Please check it out and spread the word."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waiting for the Fearmongers

The blogs and online news sites are all over Obama's recent speech regarding the closing of Guantanamo and the proposal for prolonged indefinite detention. Rachel Maddow offered a healthy reflection on the Obama schizophrenia and Glenn Greenwald and Andy Worthington break down the legal implications and moral consequences of the Obama position.

Yet for all the hoopla regarding indefinite detention as a policy, the practice of prolonged detention is a reality that far too many suffer at Guantanamo, Bagram, and in countless ICE detention centers in cities and towns all over this country. We live in a broken system that is rooted in fear and anxiety, as is seen by the pundits and politicians recoiling at Obama's asking for money to shut down Guantanamo. While legal analysis and political commentary have their place in democracy, there is a noticable lack of public discourse about the morality of our nation and its actions. The religious leaders are silent in the face of grave injustice. Univerisities and public intellectuals have succumbed to tit-for-tat conferences on subjective ethics in postmodernity. Let us never forget that just because something is legal does not make it the right thing to do. And while we can argue over the best course of action for how to close Guantanamo, the fact remains that we are morally culpable for failing to protect human rights and for failing to recognize the full dignity of a human person, even if we decided to call him an enemy. Enough of this banter, the stalwarts are winning the day. We are in a precarious position and one that each of us bears responsibility for creating and for changing the system of violence and fear we live in. We cannot get lost in the conversation about what is our responsibility or wait with patience for a better time to act: now is the time. If Congress is going to continue on with fearmongering and pride, let us be the mirror that reflects the humanity that remains at Guantanamo and in our enemies.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The State of the Uighurs

There has been plenty of Guantanamo news coverage this week, and yet, we must remember that nothing has changed for the detainees. (Only 2 have been released since Obama's inauguration.) Even while President Obama holds firm to his commitment to close the detention center, the scare tactics continue. Its latest perpetrators and victims: 90 U.S. Senators (thanks for the email, Cassie) who voted to block funding to close Guantanamo and to ensure that no detainees will be released or transferred into the United States. You might ask, "What about the 17 Uighurs who are not 'enemy combatants' and were ordered released years ago?" The Financial Times reports that the Guantanamo panel recommends their prompt release into the U.S., while AFP reports that two Massachusetts Congressmen continue to advocate on their behalf. Meanwhile, the Uighur community in Virginia prepares for their arrival (see this short video from Al-Jazeera news).

If you're interesting in keeping up with the news on Guantanamo, I suggest following Andy Worthington's blog. He'll alert you to major news stories, and he'll provide insightful context and commentary.

Let's continue to pray and fast for "the release of those bound unjustly" (Isaiah 58:6) and for a quick end to the fear-mongering and misinformation that continues to proliferate so many news sources. May God give us the grace to respond to Jesus, who invites us to "be not afraid" and to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Women in the Church and the Massacre at the Sumpul River

A friend writes:
no puedo olvidarme de la fecha 14 de mayo y la masacre del sumpul....
"I'll never forget the 14th of May, neither the date nor the massacre at Sumpul. I will never forget this day when year after year so many good people of all parts convene at the shores of the Sumpul to commemorate the people who have given their lives to reach a better life. Still we continue in the same fight. God willing those of the DHP will achieve it for the people of Chalatenango." --Don Bahlinger, SJ

He refers to the massacre at River Sumpul in El Salvador. The US Institute of Peace reports:
"On 14 May 1990, units of Military Detachment No. 1, the National Guard and the paramilitary Organización Nacional Democrática (ORDEN) deliberately killed at least 300 non-combatants, including women and children, who were trying to flee to Honduras across the Sumpul river beside the hamlet of Las Aradas, Department of Chalatenango. The massacre was made possible by the cooperation of the Honduran armed forces, who prevented the Salvadorian villagers from landing on the other side.

"The Salvadorian military operation had begun the previous day as an anti-guerrilla operation. Troops advanced from various points, gradually converging on the hamlet of Las Aradas on the banks of the Sumpul river. In the course of the operation, there had been a number of encounters with the guerrillas.

"There is sufficient evidence that, as they advanced, Government forces committed acts of violence against the population, and this caused numerous people to flee, many of whom congregated in the hamlet, consisting of some dozen houses.

"Troops attacked the hamlet with artillery and fire from two helicopters. The villagers and other people displaced by the operation attempted to cross the Sumpul river to take refuge in Honduras. Honduran troops deployed on the opposite bank of the river barred their way. They were then killed by Salvadorian troops who fired on them in cold blood."

The oppression continues. Today untold numbers flee the oppression of the Roman Catholic Church, even as others take up the battle from within. These are surrounded by both secular and Church forces of exploitation, and the body count of these continues to soar. One of these asked me about how to live life faithfully in todays climes, how to live simply, act justly, and carry on collectively with our God. She admires the pattern of Jesuit formation; she understands herself oriented to family life and yet her horizon includes a vision that fuses the values together in a witness of the Kingdom. I am gratefully awed by her desire yet at the time admit responding reflexively. With regret I sought counsel from two beloved friends.

One spoke from his years as a college campus minister and counselor. He mentioned two encourage my friend in two ways. First, to pursue individual formation via personal enrichment, further education, retreats, spiritual direction (Charis ministries would be a starting point). Many scholarships are available to this end. For instance, I am reminded of a female artist from China who was sponsored to master the craft of stain glass making under Europe's giants. She has since led the creation of Beijing's renovation efforts for its Cathedral.

Second, he mentioned social enrichment such as group connection, a need I hope Kairos Chicago fulfills.

To this second, another spoke from his years of work with a Jesuit work. He said that the desire is enacted in a multiplicity of ways. For instance, some former Jesuit volunteers [JVs] network to form settlement patterns in the vicinity of a neighborhood. They get together to pray, to share a meal. Personally, I know this network helped to raise me in Seattle. My family had a "families group" event once a month.

I was reminded of two things. First, that the very reason our education centers developed was on the basis of local demands from those who admired the Jesuit formation. I gather that same demand can have a powerful impact to influence the Society. Second, that one group of lay wooed a Wisconsin provincial to accept their vows. This was something like twenty years ago and yet he reports they remain cohesive. People responded in a backlash and the experiment ended, but it proves the power of collective persuasion. 

Finally, a word to set my own agitation in context. Many Jesuits will react to this reflexively based on having become jaded by decades of persistent effort on the part of those encouraging women ordinations. A veil of ignorance clouds clear judgment and obfuscates honest exploration, all dialogue continues to be muffled by superiors. In my experience, I was guided not to join women standing at Maria de la Strada, and cautiously given permission to attend a meeting to discuss the standing. Though distinct, the desire to living as Jesuits do picks open this same wound. 

Do not shy away. As Dr. King said in Why We Can't Wait, "the tension is like a boil that must be uncovered to be healed by the air of public opinion" (85). Continue to dream the dream, to ask the question and--to quote a Kairos Chicago member--"use civil disobedience against the Church." This is no open invitation to senseless take-over, for Gandhi spoke of such action in terms of an offering. As you know, the true aim of such resistance aims at the heart of a lover. But neither is this a passafire--as Ignatius said "Go Light the World on Fire!" Likewise, follow the words of our least Society's second founder, Pedro Arrupe, "Fall in love, stay in love, and it will change everything." Best wishes in the struggle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama's Guantanamo: A Tortured Legacy

In spite of promising signs that President Obama was reversing the Bush Administration's illegal and short-sighted policies that made up the "war on terror," recent news from Washington suggests Mr. Obama's legacy is not that different from Mr. Bush's: impunity and indefinite detention continue to be the way of the White House. When Mr. Obama signed the executive orders closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the CIA's secret prisons, it seemed to be a signal that America would again respect the rule of international law and human rights, but the latest annoucements that the U.S. may revive Guantánamo military courts and that Obama seeks to block release of Abu Ghraib photos indicates otherwise.

Under the Obama Administration, the Departmet of Justice continues to remain stagnate and look to other countries to resolve the legal and political quagmire that is Guantanamo. There remains over 50 men who were cleared for release by the Bush Administration and the current review of evidence by the Obama Administration affirms the freedom these men should have. But instead of expediating the release of these men, the hostility and trumped up fears by the likes of Dick Cheney, conservative talk show hosts and most of Congress has this nation in a frenzy. Instead of putting time and energy into ensuring justice is met, the debate about the effectiveness of torture rolls on, continuing to taint America's commitment to human rights and democracy. The impunity granted to U.S. policy makers and government officials who legitimized torture continues to be a dark shadow in our recent past. Mr. Obama seeking to reinstate the controversial, inneffective, and unjust military tribunals is a betrayal of American ideals of habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial. With regards to the photos that the DOJ is seeking to block the release of on grounds of being a threat to national security, Mr. Obama continues to play the worn-out game of exploiting the American public from the depravity and inhumanity of our tortured foreign policy in the name of decorum.

Spoiled Faith

Ann Soetoro was a remarkable mother. While she stayed behind in Indonesia she sent her beloved son to live with her the United States where he would have opportunity. The separation must have hurt, yet she was right, her son Barack Obama would come to define opportunity. Unfortunately, he just robbed Americans of the same privilege.

Today, the Obama Administration reversed its decision to account for his predecessor's infamy, continuing the cover-up of documenting photos detailing the extent of torture at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. 

In contrast, today marks the day twenty years ago when student activists launched a hunger-strike for Democracy saying "We were beaten by police when we marched, though we hungered only for truth." See the May 13 Hunger Strike Declaration.

The hunger for truth continues in the U.S. and around the world. As of last week, 50-100 carried forth a hunger-strike at the Port Isabel, U.S. Immigration detention facility seeking better medical conditions (See Democracy Now). In Taiwan, attention turns to its fasting former-president, while the tactic heightens political conflict in Belarus.

 Underlying the hunger-striker's tactic is a remarkable faith. I first met such faith in 2005, during a trip to El Salvador I took to stabilize me right before I entered the Jesuits. A dozen or so camped in front of the Cathedral engaged in a hunger-strike to defend the bargaining power of their trade union. I was so moved that I too fasted for nearly a week. Liberation theologian, Roberto S. Goizueta, explains the loving power of the poor to transmit faith in an essay found in The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology. "[It is] precisely a supreme confidence in God's gratuitous love for us, as that love is revealed in our lies and in God's Word, that above all characterizes the faith of the poor" (298). Unfortunately, President Obama has lost the confidence Goizueta says 'characterizes the faith of the poor'.
Originally, he had announced earlier this month his intention to release the photos. In this he concurred with Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union defended the importance of releasing the photos:  "it will lead to a transparent government...as painful as it might be." Now Obama has taken the perspective that such images could incite aggression and endanger our U.S. troops. 

Is this the God of the poor or the god of the Pentagon? You will remember that back on Feb. 11, a federal judge named Gladys Kessler sided with the Pentagon's argument that the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo met with the Geneva Conventions: "Respondents are acting out of a need to preserve the life of the petitioners rather than letting them die from their hunger strikes." Today's news reflects reasoning that resembles the "humane" legitimation of the Guantanamo policies, will he similarly renege on his proposed closure of the off-shore halls of shame?

If he now forecloses on the deal to restore American Democracy, what will follow for families? Today four million U.S. citizens are separated from their parents by deportation orders. Can we expect more of the same, more separation without review? 

Like the historic movement in China that we mark, today the case of the hunger-strikers at Port-Isabel gives us a beacon of the hope characterized by the faith of the poor.  

Obama's decision reminds me that in El Salvador a tepid attempt at land reform was abandoned in 1976 under pressure from wealthy landowners. One of my heroes, Ignacio Ellacuria wrote an editorial titled, "A tus ordenes, mi capital" (At your service, my capital). In other words, is Obama truly concerned about troops or merely concerned with maintaining economic empire? 

The reason the decision so smacks of economy appears in the emphasis on backlash. Rather than admit the lack of authority for occupation in Iraq, the administration pretends to protect troops from harm. Yet according to the AP nearly 32,000 U.S. troops have suffered casualties and as of February 2007 Congressional hearings discussed the forfeiture of $10 billion dollars,  (See Jeff Leys' analysis of current budget proposal at Voices.) 

Perhaps Obama should avoid dissimulating his motives and read William T Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, Eerdmans, 2008. In it he would learn, "What marks consumerism is its tendency to reduce everything, both the material and the spiritual, to a commodity able to be exchanged." The reduction simplifies the decision for Obama: he can pretend to conceal documentary truth in earnest. But the equation reduces to yet another justification for troop levels in Iraq, estimated by the Associated Press as 140,000

 Barack has learned from history. His mother Ann sent him to Hawaii in order to discover opportunity; indeed there he learned well the imposition of colonialism under the protectionist ruse of Monroe's Doctrine. Finally, we are not talking about the exchange of photos but the exchange of who manages the spoils of Mesopotamia. The British could not afford their puppet, the young King Feisal, to broadcast anti-imperial ideas from a radio station in his palace. Likewise, the U.S. could not tolerate Saddam's exchange of the dollar to the Euro for trade of his oil reserves. Today, even though the U.S. Empire growers have inflated Iraqi troop levels to 600,000, President Obama cannot afford to destabilize its elite mastery. The release of photos would risk stirring discontentment among the Iraqi ranks. 

And as for American justice, it might spoil their faith.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

On Graduation

Bob Dylan once sung, "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose."

It may not be the first song lyric to come to mind while families cheer their beloved graduates. No, it may not come to mind as warm-hearted children bring breakfast in bed to their moms on Mother's Day. But still, it seems appropriate for the mood Kristen Holm may be in as she marks her final day in prison.

She has served two months for committing civil disobedience at Ft. Benning, GA last November 23. On day 59, could she be comparing her friends graduation at the Lutheran School of Theology with the graduation of so many from the School of Assassins?

She has placed herself amidst the bent-over, broken down of America's Prison system. In the cracks, in the interstices of reality, the view of the chosen people comes clear. Afterall, it is the prisoner who Jesus has blessed, the meek, the discomfited, they shall be made free. How? By God taking the form of a slave.

Some logic. Not exactly extracurricular entertainment. Not exactly a spring break to Cancun. No, serving time with the oppressed takes a mind with a different song lyric, that is, quite definitely the discovery: "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." No jail time can take away Kristen's divine obedience, nor any government stifle such love.

The cry of the poor cannot be quelled by a passafire, but a danger remains. For the engines of capitalism have their own alluring sirens. A great competition for our ears ensues. We who attend the banquets of our masters should never pretend that we have more capacity than the millions before. Those who went mad with lust for honors and greed, first became enchanted at the good that they could do. So I implore us, please, let us stop our ears with bees wax. Or if we trust our communities, then let us be bound by stiff ropes to the center mast so that we can still hear the beauty of the siren, yet not be moved to its machination and death. We must sail on.

We have a purpose, a mission, a destination--it is to graduate from small mindedness and proclaim the Gospel of Jubilee. Like Kristen, we can do no better than attend to the cry of the poor.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Mountaintop" by Brothers Frantzich

This song was performed by Brothers Frantzich at the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq event on April 29 at the National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. The song follows the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's famous "mountaintop speech" the night before he died.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Articles - the 100th day

Anti-torture activists arrested at White House
By Nafeesa Syeed, The Associated Press

Catholic activists protest torture practice
By Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, National Catholic Reporter

Human rights protestors gather at White House
By Alan Wirzbicki, The Boston Globe

"Justice delayed is justice denied"
100 Days Campaign Statement
Witness Against Torture Press Release

DC action photos and video

Click here for photos.

Other videos can be found at: The Huffington Post or William Hughes.

Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

April 29, 2009
National City Christian Church
Washington, D.C.

Liz McAlister

Text, Audio, and Photos

Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo

Russia Today: Anti-torture rally hits Washington

Friday, May 1, 2009

An Echo from D.C.

From an interview with J. Bambrick

"We kind of got two or three experiences. Jake, me, Anna, and Jerica went to the Temple vigil, so we got to experience that again. Wednesday we went to the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq event when they got arrested and then Thursday when we did. So there were a number things together; it was very powerful.

"I would echo [what Luke was saying about the Wednesday Speaker at the CPT event, Tony Campolo, who was preaching away" and "basically sharing the mantra that 'it's Friday but Sunday's coming'. We're living in the darkness but the week does not end with Friday."]. The more we learn about torture and government, the Empire of the United States, the more it's like it is Friday, we're crucified. With the environment and things that get worse and worse it's tough to see that it is Sunday. But being there was an experience of both Friday and Sunday.

"To be with hundreds of people, to pray together and say 'I will put my life on the line [for this], giving up...power and control for love of these men in Guantanamo or in Iraq, to enter into solidarity with these people; it was very powerful and moving.

"Often we don't see a lot of people [doing this]. A lot [of people] might be against it, but how many would give up [what they're doing], and that's a judgment, but it is a small number of people [with such] a sense of courage. Seeing the witness of all these people...the age bracket, seeing the 80 year-old man taken away in hand cuffs; people in their fifties, sixties and seventies [saying] 'No, this is not okay. I'm going to risk myself in doing this.'

"Personally risking arrest for the first time, it was an experience of being a real big deal and a small deal [at the same time], thinking about ] 'What will people say' [like, 'O that] horrible person' and 'your future'.... [Yet] the amount of time to enter in and do it was not a long time.

"The training and then doing it was uncomfortable, emotionally, physically, spiritually. [Sure,] my wrists behind the back start to hurt and the muscles start to hurt, but it's not so big that I can't do it, or that all of us can't do these kind of things more often. [It's like,] 'Yeah, I could do more of this' 'It's not that hard.'

"The experience of being on the bus was, 'I'm pretty sure that I am f*'d, ruined for life; my path is going this way, totally screwed over, just another step of my life...turned, willing, entering prison, giving up power and control...and [the sense that] my life is going to mean very different things. [At the same time I had] a grin on my face. So it was "Wow, I'm f*'d, but in a good way."

This is what democracy looks like!

Clouds gathered over Chicago and soft tears fell from the sky. It's May Day and we recall the tragedy of our fallen proletariat. When it's a Methodist pastor who opens the rally wearing a red arm band, it seems this country has come along way. But the Red scare of yesterday has become the immigrant epidemic of today.

"Its about not having papers" the explained one of the men wearing masks.  These spectres had the retro comedy of masks from Mexican luchalibre. The fight continues. Indeed as FOX news lays the blame of swine flu upon the immigrant, dozens wore medical masks to mock the thinly veiled racism. Today marchers recalled that past agent provocateur cannot defeat the united worker. 

 Mourning Haymarkets since 1886, Unite Now held stop signs. Meanwhile, blue-coated Teamsters, and Purple-coated SEIU stood proud of accomplishments like the 8 hour work day and the weekend. Raising one question, another union marched with a gargantuan globe: have we broken ourselves from the chains of our borders? Indeed, a spectre of community has made itself known:

Black T'd Anarchists formed a drum circle and Native Traditionalists danced in a ring. Wobblies waved red while white T'd IMAN Muslims prayed the Friday prayers at the Federal plaza.

Chants echoed.  Some familiar, "Si se puede, yes we can; ...united we'll never be defeated; Others edgy: "no justice, no peace, f**# the police!" and others...well, you just had to be there to hear si se puede--in chinese. In comparison to the classic "This is what democracy looks like" and the Anarchist CHARGE, the delinquent Latino youth treated us to the infectious, moshpit inducing, "quien no se brinca es migra!" whoever doesn't jump is [an immigration officer] ICE! 

The messages coalesced like a green, white and red flag and a Guadalupe image: Halt Raids, stop separating families; pass the Dream Act and pass the fair [and full] employment act; allow legalization, and stunningly, Immigration isn't the problem, the problem is capitalism.   

 Amidst the shouting the crowd parted and there appeared a Buddha of gentleness, an organizer who stood over a pothole for our protection. In his green shirt, he beamed and said, "This is the road to Hell!" So, Watch it, 

and Keep on keeping on. 

Linking Struggles

In 1913, suffragist Alice Paul officially started the National Woman’s Party, NWP, an organization with one goal in mind, the passing of a Constitutional Amendment allowing every American woman the right to vote. Paul began her work as a close associate to the National American Women’s Suffrage Association; however, by 1913 Paul realized that the tactics used by NAWSA were not militant or radical enough to push the amendment through. Paul knew that civil disobedience, picketing the White House and the hunger strike were necessary and appropriate actions to meet their objectives.

I have been thinking about Alice Paul a lot this week. Paul became one of my heroes when I chose to write my senior thesis on her triumph for my history degree in undergrad. Her use of non-violent tactics such as picketing the White House, the civil disobedience that followed, and the hunger strikes performed in prison, serves to inspire the work that I do today. I see the things happening this week (and throughout the 100 Days Campaign) as following closely and beautifully in the spirit of the work done by Alice Paul and her suffragist sisters at the turn of the century.

It began by Defying Authority. On January 10, 1917, twelve women wearing sashes of purple and gold (1) and carrying banners took up their post in front of the White House gates. The banner the held read “MR PRESIDENT HOW LONG MUST WOMEN WAIT FOR LIBERTY?" The women remained dedicated to continuous picketing through January, February, and March; they stood in front of the White House in good and bad weather, in fact during this first phase of picketing the women’s greatest challenge was, “a winter so bitingly cold that hands ached and feet felt like bricks of ice."(2)

Much like these women, men and women have stood outside the White House for the past 100 days holding signs that read (among others): “Those Who Have a Voice Must Speak for the Voiceless.” The presence has endured a frigid winter, high winds, rain, and snow (and according to the blog, on day 92 they experienced hail!).

Paul continued her non-violent militancy by Resisting Authority. Despite the increasing blatancy of the signs Alice Paul remained faithful to her Quaker roots and refused to use violence. Unlike her early teachers, the Pankhurst’s (violent suffragists in England), Paul did not believe in using violent force of the destruction of property to convey her point. “They would instead use their own bodies, sacrificing themselves – their health, their jobs, and their reputations – for women’s rights.” (3)

This passive approach would be tested, to a near breaking point, on June 21, 1917 when the picketers were attacked by an angry mob. Prior to World War I the picketers were referred to as foolish or undignified. However, after war broke out these words changed to unpatriotic, some were even called traitors (4). There are many reasons for this. In his book Aliens and Dissenters, William Preston explains that in times of political, military, or economic unrest there tends to be much less tolerance for dissenters. Perhaps the passion expressed by the angry mob was a result of elevated patriotism due to World War I (5). Regardless of the reasons, an angry crowd of onlookers attacked Lucy Burns, Katharine Morey and Hazel Hunkins. On that day Hunkins was carrying a sign that stated “Democracy Should Begin at Home.” According to the first Secret Service (FBI) report ever written about the NWP, Agent W.W. Grimes saw a Mrs. D. Richardson charge at Hazel Hunkins while that police cheered on Richardson. Richardson left Hunkins and made her way to the western gate where she resumed her attack on the other picketers. A letter was written to President Wilson by a member of the mob. This excerpt from a letter, written by either Mrs. Richardson or another female onlooker, in June 1917, gives some insight into the minds of the angry crowd.

"[W]ith the assistance of a little group of ‘real men’, [I] tore down all the banners which had been placed in front of the White House. Colonel Bryan was leaving at the time and smiled. I love this country and the American flag, and in the name of the group of men who helped me defend your good name, I appeal to you to put an end to their offensive and outrageous doings. A distinguished Russian congratulated me and informed me that if the women in Russia would do such a thing, they would immediately be ‘spanked’ in the street. Now, millions of young men must leave for France and die for their county’s honor. Is it right, is it justice to them that at the same time females, who are no women, are permitted to disgrace and insult the government and the manhood of this country?" (6)

It is clear from this letter that it was a combination of the “unpatriotic” messages on the signs, total disgust that a group of ladies would participate in such an action, and fear that the masculinity of this country could be stripped away if these feminists were allowed to continue, that drove the mob to attack the picketers. Regardless of the reasons, on June 21, 1917 police action against the NWP was taken for the first time since its founding. The next day Alice Paul informed the Police Chief that the picketing would not stop. For the next four days women continued to picket and the Washington D.C. police continued to arrest them. Nine were arrested on June 26, six of whom were put on trial (7). On June 27, 1917, six women appeared before a Washington D.C. judge, their crime was "obstructing traffic" (sound familiar?). These women were convicted of this crime and given a $25.00 fine or three days in jail. Paying the fine would be a sign of defeat, and they knew that going to jail would be seen as additional protest. Katharine Morey, Mabel Vernon, Virginia Arnold, Lavina Dock, and Maud Jamison served their jail sentence. These women were the first ever to serve jail time for advocating women’s rights (8).

Today, April 30, 2009, the 100th Day of the Obama Administration, 60 men and women will risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience at the White House. While this action is perhaps more methodical or strategic than that of the suffragists in 1917, it is still incredibly profound. The willingness to freely give up ones liberty to draw attention to the liberty and freedom stripped from the prisoners in Guantanamo and the unconscionable conditions under which they are forced to live is immensely important.

The final step was Radicalization. If the women thought that being publically beaten by angry mobs in front of the White House was humiliating, it was nothing compared to the miserable conditions in which they would be forced to live in at the workhouse (9). Forced into solitary confinement, the women had little or no access to the outside world. The food was rotten, rancid meat, mold covered cornbread, worms in the grits, and dead flies and rat droppings everywhere. On October 30, 1917, Alice Paul began a hunger strike (10). “In the face of public, government-sponsored male violence, the NWP countered with the most potent weapon of their ‘womanly,’ nonviolent, ‘passive’ resistance – the hunger strike" (11). As Paul continued her hunger strike, Lucy Burns, who was also imprisoned in the workhouse, worked to achieve political prisoner status for the suffragists. The women felt that using the hunger strike it made them political, rather than criminal, offenders. After three days of the hunger strike, Paul was removed from the workhouse and take to the psychiatric ward in the district prison; there she was force fed three times a day. Alice Paul recalls the force feedings, "I was seized and laid on my back, where five people held me, [one] leaping upon my knees ... Dr. Gannon then forced the tube my lips and down my throat, I was gasping and suffocating from the agony of it. I didn't know where to breathe from, and everything turned black ..."

We know that the hunger strike as been a “tactic” used widely in Guantanamo. Prisoners have entered into strategic striking to draw attention to the terrible conditions they are forced to live in. In 2005, as many as 128 detainees participated in a hunger strike. While military personal referred to this strike as a “fast” and simply an act to “get attention,” we know otherwise. These men were participating a radical and dangerous action to draw attention to the horrible, degrading conditions that they were forced to live in without any criminal charges brought against them. The first strike began in 2002 after guards threw a Koran on the ground and stepped on it. Like Paul, these prisoners were taking political action, for many an action of last resort.

As many of you know, I have been participating in a 6 day fast as part of the end of the 100 Days Campaign. This act seems so trivial compared to getting arrested or participating in a hunger strike. However, I am doing this as an act of solidarity with my friends, Jake, Jerica, Anna, Luke, Cassie, Meghan, and Zach who have traveled to Washington DC to participate in the actions of this week. I am also fasting to acknowledge the fact that, despite the fact that President Obama signed an executive order closing Guantanamo, 251 men remain detained, 60 of whom have been cleared for release. I had far more anxiety about this fast than I anticipated. In fact, I spent much of Sunday night tossing and turning dreading the week. At the root of this anxiety was a voice in my head that said, “Abby, you’re not going to make it through the week, you’re going to fail and give up.” This is a voice I hear often and struggle with daily. I realized quickly that this isn’t a game; it’s not something at which I can win or loose, succeed or fail. I am participating in this fast in order to physically and spiritually link my body to my brothers and sisters participating in the actions this week and to my brothers and sisters suffering as a result of places like Guantanamo and the actions and policies done in my name. It is opportunity to be connected to the rich history of struggle imbedded in this county’s foundation.

1) Gold and Purple were the official colors of the American suffrage movement.
2) WIlliam and Mary Lavender, "Suffragists' Storm over Washington." American History, October 2003, vol. 38 Is. 4 p. 32.
3) LInda Ford, p. 145
4) William and Mary Lavender, p. 10
5) Linda Ford, p. 146
6) Linda Ford, p. 147
7) Linda Ford, p. 148
8) William and Mary Lavender, p.
9) Appendix A takes a took at the variety within the women who were incarcerated for this cause.
10) Christine A. Lunardini, p. 132.
11) Linda Ford, p. 169