Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blogswarm against the war: hope in the rain

There were perhaps thirty of us, in the rain and wind, standing at a corner. Some held signs, others made peace signs with their fingers, others simply stood.

Several were from my congregation; its oldest members, in fact. A few were students. One was a little girl in a pink slicker, standing under the protective arm of her mother. She was the only child out on this night. Two photographers snapped pictures. At least four, maybe five of those in attendance were clergy; not young ones, but the young ones were tending to Holy Week duties and perhaps families; the retired ones were there in the rain, in clerical collars and raincoats and wrinkles.

After one of the MoveOn local coordinators spoke (one coordinator is a retired clergy friend, another his spouse), we cheered for the families of veterans in attendance. A mother spoke. She wore a clear plastic bag as a poncho and had a warm round face and curly hair. Her son, she said, had joined the Reserves against her warning. It was at least two years before 9/11, she remembered. Don't do it, she said to him. There's going to be a war. And it will be in the Middle East. "I just had a feeling," she said, "and I was paying attention." She read, she listened. She knew. Her son dismissed her prediction. A medical doctor, he shipped off the day the war began. She said goodbye to him at the airport, and four hours later she watched bombs begin to fall on Baghdad on the television. She was one of the fortunate ones, she said. Her son came back, six months later. But the war changed him, even though he was not in combat. Bullets whizzed by his head. He saw things, she said, that none of us should see. He is still in the Reserves. Thank you, she said, thank you for coming, in this rain, which is nothing next to what the soldiers endure, and which we endured tonight because we simply could not stay home.

We were a tiny group. Did we do any good? Did we make a difference?

Dorothee Soelle (1929-2003), one of my favorite theologians, writes in Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian:

.... for the first time I found myself attracted by a tiny group of people who were taking to the streets. I had a long conversation with my mother about the older peace movement. She was passionately opposed to war, and I have rarely seen her cry so terribly as in the summer of 1938 during the Czech crisis. .... Our conversation now in the fifties focused on re-armament [in Germany] and what could be done to stop it. I said, "I'm going down to have a look at those people," to which my mother replied, "Go ahead, but you must know that it won't achieve one little bit." In light of two different considerations, I thought long and hard about that remark --especially later, when we blockaded the nuclear rocket sites at Mutlangen and elsewhere. I had no doubt that Mother was right. At the same time, I knew that I belonged "there," and belonged with those "crazies." I sensed even then that the label "success" is not one of ultimate value, that as Martin Buber said, "Success is not one of God's names."

In her book of poems Revolutionary Patience, published in the U.S. in 1977 (the poems were first published in German in the late 1960s and early 1970s), Soelle writes:

*****He gave answers to questions they didn't ask
*****sometimes they didn't dare
*****open their mouths anymore
*****not because they hadn't understood
*****he was taking from them
*****everything sacred and safe
*****he offered no guarantees

*****Fire was not sacred to him or neon
*****not singing or silence
*****not fornication or chastity
*****in his speech foxes breaddough
*****and much mended nets became sacred
*****the down and out were his proof
*****and actually he has as much assurance
*****of victory as we in these parts do




Paul said...

Thanks, Jane. For standing in solidarity. For writing. For witnessing.

johnieb said...

A fine post, Jane; I, too, thank you for standing in solidarity.