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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Essay on Friendship

1 Sm 18:6-9, 19:1-7; Mk 3:7-12

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.—Anais Nin

Friendship is one theme that rises out of today’s readings. We remember the story in the book of Samuel that tells of Saul’s jealous hatred of David. Jonathon assuages his father’s ego and assures Saul of David’s respect. Without such a friend, David might have been executed.

Just what do we expect of friendship? Good manners, levity, encouragement, a listening ear, someone to play with and escape, someone to confide in, someone to make believe with. And if friendship like this is rarefied, how do we tend the flame of our few close friendships? Always complications arise, obscuring the possibility that a new acquaintance could become a friend. Once beyond the passage of the first tests of parity and good times, convenience aside, one begins to wonder: would I go out of my way to hold fast to this friendship? And then come along the motives for friendship, the subtle evils of attraction and purpose that draw people together for a course. Up surface ulterior motives, insidious affairs of the dark side of our heart, maybe an unspoken longing is aroused with selfishness, greed. Purity will prevail, when sometimes an affinity for action one day blossoms into something more. Or else the innocence is lost; the crush of a first frost between differences kills the growth of human love and imperils the intimate harvest. Wiser commentators have warned us already. Nora Ephron says, “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” But then, “Great friendship is never peaceful,” says Marie de Rabutin-Chantal.

Somewhat stagnant in my relationship with God lately, I’ve had to ask myself a reorientation question. How is my friend Jesus? With the help of some spiritual reading by William Barry, S.J. I’ve noticed Jesus at work. He’s been very busy, happily. I’m struck with how close he is to me, showing himself in relationship with people I care about. A few of them I’ll tell you of, beginning with Andy Worthington and Deborah Sweet. I met them both in Washington D.C. at a screening of Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. Four days later we crossed paths again here in Chicago. Both appeared upbeat but I could see the trip was wearing them down. Andy explained that he had four hours of sleep the night before and awaited the tour’s end, thinking of his fourteen year old son at home. In the meantime, it was evident that Jesus was fueling him with purpose and passion to share the stories of the men detained wrongfully at Guantánamo. When I asked him how he continued on, he recalled the inspiration from fellow advocate and Habeas attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, who said, “What gets me up in the morning every day is the satisfaction of spreading the truth.” Meanwhile, another breath to his flame was obviously Deborah Sweet, director of World Can’t Wait, sponsor of Andy’s U.S. tour. She explained that between the time I last saw them they had already visited San Francisco. Jesus had given her the steadfast assurance of meaning. Her promotion of the messenger was faith-filled, trumpeting Andy as “the man who knows more about the men in Guantánamo than anyone in the world.” True, Andy has dedicated himself to overturning the spurious lie told by President Bush that Guantánamo Bay held only “the worst of the worst.”

In the film Outside the Law Moazzam Begg speaks of his confinement in Guantánamo. Considered a member of Al-Qaeda, he had in fact been a devout Muslim. He put his beliefs into action by opening a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, leaving the comfort of his home in England and resettling his whole family. He acted with the zeal of a missionary committed to sustainable development. He also acted with the assurances of his friend Shakur Aamer, who likewise transplanted his whole family. Today Shakur Aamer remains in Guantanamo having never seen his ten year old son.

Those held without charge or trial have needed intercessors like Jonathan. Some have seen their special place in relation to the jealous warrior-king, including journalists like Andy Worthington and organizers like Deborah Sweet. The analogy is worth probing. To what extent is the Saul of yesterday today’s holder of the office of President?

It was at Busboys and Poets Café after talking with Deborah and Andy that I met Todd. He excited easily when I asked whether it was appropriate to use the flammable rhetoric of “treason” in reference to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He gave me a three-page document he had been holding in his hand saying, “This will be published tomorrow in a law journal. I think you should have it.”

Major JAG Todd E. Pierce writes: “…as a member of the military, I took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I did not take an oath of allegiance to the ‘Leader,’ or to the ‘State,’ as required in some other nations. Thus, it came as something of a shock to me when Alberto Gonzalez, John Yoo, and Robert Delahunty began issuing legal opinions that the Geneva Conventions, a treaty incorporated into our law, were quaint, did not apply, or that the President could, at his or her sole discretion, suspend them.”

He concludes with a note of grave concern. After an ample discussion comparing the above mentioned opinions to the legal theories expounded by Carl Schmitt, the Nazi Crown Jurist of the 1930’s, Pierce surveys the threat to individual liberties:

“We have used the vague and overbroad charge of Material Support for Terrorism as cause to investigate anti-war groups in Chicago and Minneapolis, predictably chilling speech and dissent. Critics have suggested that recent legislation passed would now require the military to detain such dissidents. Or what about gun store owners, gun manufacturers, and the NRA, all of whom could be accused of having a hand directly or with propaganda in providing firearms downstream to drug cartels in Mexico, alleged to have ties with Mideast terrorist groups. Military detention for them?”

While not obvious, we might come to identify some political leaders with the imperious Saul. Our government worries over the power of the Occupy movement. Hearsay spread on D.C. radio tells us that “President Obama is scared to shit of Occupy.” Closer to home Obama’s hatchet man Mayor Rahm Emanuel managed to pass what organizers are calling the “Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance” allowing the ceiling for fines levied on protesters to reach $1000, up from $250. A vague standard of “resisting a police officer” could amount to a fine of over $2000. When Occupiers reflected after being kicked out of the Council Meeting yesterday, angry not to have their voices heard, and distraught with the news that all fifty aldermen voted to pass the ordinance, some spoke of this as evidence of their allegiance to the 1%. One said, “It is because they do not fear us. They still fear Rahm more than they fear us.” Another saw reason to reject current government and supply government among ourselves: “Some will tell you to respect the vote. They will assure you that we can try again, that we can vote these aldermen out and replace them with those who will represent us. But the vote has never accomplished anything… We have cause to make government ourselves.”

As I understand it, the reflection of occupiers was something like the internal dialogue that Jonathon might have had as he considered the position of Saul. Jonathan might have said, “What is my father saying; he wants to kill David! How can I obey him! Is my father a murderer? This cannot be; I love my friend David. He is a hero. Look at what God helped him to do in his victory over the Philistine. God must be with David. I would rather serve David than my own father, what is happening? I must reason with my father and bring him to his senses. I know that he is a good man, but he grows old and is envious of the glory David now has that he tasted in his former days. I will not abandon my father to his self-deception.”

We are fortunate as Chicagoans not to be alone. Many accompany us in our shock at such an ordinance. Earlier this week organizers of protest against the coming NATO-G8 meeting received an open letter addressed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel from Germany, affixed below. The letter calls the Mayor back to his senses, urging him that he must put off his obstinacy and welcome protest rather than stifle it. The citizens of the free world are many; we are united; we can never be defeated.

From Dorothy Day:

“We cannot even see our brothers in need without first stripping ourselves. It is the only way we have of showing our love.”

-May 1952

“We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God—please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”

-June 1946

Barry, William A. Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer


An Open Letter From Germany to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

The Honorable Rahm Emanuel

Mayor of Chicago

City Hall

121 N La Salle St # 507

Chicago, IL 60602-1208

Dear Mayor Emanuel:

You agreed that Chicago will host the G8 and NATO summits next May. The G8 and NATO represent the core of the very forces that people around the world have come to despise during the current economic meltdown: NATO’s ballooning military expenditures come at the expense of funding for education, housing and jobs programs; and the G8 continues to advance an agenda of austerity that includes bailouts, tax write-offs and tax holidays for big corporations and banks at the expense of the rest of us.

During the May 2012 G8 and NATO summits in Chicago, many people, with good reason, will want to exercise their rights to protest against NATO’s wars and against the G8 agenda to only serve the richest one percent of society, not only in the US, but around the world.

We, the members of the Berlin Peace Coordination ( Berliner Friedenskoordination), have long

Opposed NATO. Some of our members plan to come to Chicago in May, and we will also voice our opposition to NATO/G8 in other ways here in Europe.

Your representatives have stonewalled repeated attempts by Chicago community organizers to meet with the City to discuss reasonable accommodations of protesters” rights. Our demands are simple:

1) That the City publicly commit to provide protest organizers with permits that meet the court-sanctioned standard for such protests—that we be “within sight and sound” of the summits; and

2) That representatives of the City, including Police Superintendent McCarthy, refrain from making threats against protesters.

Chicago has a disgraceful history of repression and police brutality, from the attacks on protesters and journalists at the 1968 Democratic National Convention to the widespread torture of Black Chicagoans by former police commander Jon Burge and other officers. Chicago should not reinforce that reputation by denying us our legitimate right to gather and protest next May against NATO/G8 policies that are detrimental to people not only in the US, but also in Europe.

We demand that, in accordance with internationally accepted principles, you grant the requested




Laura von Wimmersperg, Chair

Berliner Friedenskoordination

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