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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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.

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