too long ago I was listening to Air America when a caller to the
religious right of war supporter/evangelist Pat Robertson said it
didn't bother him that George Bush doesn't follow the law of our land
because when we have a man who is a "Christian" in office, we don't
need the rule of law! The caller and, I am afraid too many more people
in America, are saved from the responsibility of democracy because they
believe that George follows a higher law than our constitution. The
person who called in really meant that. I found that call disturbing
for several reasons, but to think that a man who kills his pretend
enemies and is a warmaker with wanton disregard to the teachings of
Jesus Christ, is a Christian flies in the face of everything that I was
taught about Jesus of Nazareth and about the Christian faith.
about how unloving, punitive and unjust the brand of Christianity that
George Bush practices is reminded me of an experience that I had in
Assisi the first time I visited Italy in January of this year. The
Franciscan model of Christianity is totally opposite of Bushianity.
that sunny, but cold, January day, when I awakened in the back seat of
the silver BMW that picked me up from the airport in Rome, I was in a
charming plaza in front of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. The
Basilica was heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1997 but is now almost
hotel room overlooked the same magnificent view of Italy's "Green
Heart" in Umbria as the plaza of the Basilica. In the distance I could
see all the way to the hills is Perugia, where I would visit next.
Breathtaking is merely a word that cannot adequately describe the
cleaning up from a 15 hour trip, my traveling companion and fellow Gold
Star Families for Peace member, Beatriz Saldivar (nephew, Daniel
Torres, KIA in Iraq in 2005) and I were taken to lunch by the peace
coalition which invited us to Italy. After lunch we toured the
through the Basilica and looking at the amazing architecture and
medieval icons and appreciating the historocity of the building,
reminded me that in my pre-April 2004 life, I used to be a faithful,
practicing Roman Catholic who went to mass every Sunday and worked for
the church as a Catholic Youth Minister.
entire time I was in Assisi, I was also reminded that before Casey went
into the Army and was killed in George's immoral war, he had traveled
to Assisi as part of the World Youth Day, 2000, celebrations. Every
step I took, I wondered if Casey's feet had walked those steps. I know
that Casey would have been filled with reverence and love when he was
there and, in fact, he spoke very respectfully and reverently about his
trip to Italy, but especially Assisi.
people who knew Casey well always said that he reminded them of a young
St. Francis who said: "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use
words." That was how sweet Casey lived his life and that is why it is
so ironic that George in his exploitation of the Gospels and of the
religious right claims that God tells him to invade innocent countries
while he is using wedge issues like abortion rights and gay marriage to
energize the base when anyone who really cares about a right to life
knows he is an amazing hypocrite who could care less about preserving
life or insuring a basic standard of living for the born.
W. the self-proclaimed born again Christian has said in reaction to
being accused of breaking the FISA law: "That's an old law, it was made
back in 1978, and the world is a different place now." Well, similarly,
I guess he believes that the 5 th Commandment of "Thou shalt not kill,"
is also a quaint law that was made a long time ago when the world was a
far different place. One that he can disregard while claiming to be
"pro-life." The Bush regime tramples and makes a mockery of the
commandments, but what is more important as a secular leader of a
country founded on religious freedom, he shreds the constitution to
tiny pieces and calls it "an old piece of paper" He is not a pope,
bishop, priest, prelate, minister, deacon, or even an acolyte. He is a
president who is bound by our country's rule of law and is not above
left the Roman Catholic Church permanently after the 2004 elections
when many Roman Catholic Bishops and priests encouraged their flocks to
vote for George W. Bush because he is "pro-life." I am disappointed
with many Christian traditions and other institutional religions that
don't loudly and with great moral authority based on the teachings of
Jesus Christ and the saints about peace, love, and forgiveness,
denounce George W. and his immoral war against humanity. People don't
see the hypocrisy of George killing tens of thousands of innocent
people in the Middle East and executing a record number of people in
Texas (including minors and mentally challenged people) and then voting
for him because he is "pro-life!" What about Casey's life? What about
Daniel's life? What about the lives of the babies and innocent citizens
of Iraq and Afghanistan? George is definitely not "pro-life," he is
"pro-birth." Anyway, I digress.
was starting to recall my Roman Catholic roots more and more while in
the Basilica, when those same roots were brought back sharply into
focus when I came to the "Tomba di San Francesco" the Tomb of St.
Francis. I walked into the chapel and stood in front of the Saint's
remains and was struck by the fact that I was in a holy place. A sacred
spot that has been sanctified not by the sprinkling of holy water or
the sometimes empty chanting of the faithful, but by the life of one
person who preached a message of simplicity, peace, love, hope, joy,
faith, forgiveness and the light of goodness. Good people have followed
in the tradition of St. Francis and one does not have to be a
practicing Catholic, or a practicing anything, to appreciate the words
of St. Francis. I think the Peace Community who takes Martin Luther
King, Jr., Gandhi, and Henry David Thoreau rightly as its icons can
also look to St. Francis for guidance and inspiration.
of St. Francis's most simple, yet important and meaningful works is the
"Peace Prayer of St. Francis"ůwhich I assume wasn't his title for it,
because he wasn't yet a Saint when he wrote it. The first stanza reads:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy!
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
an instrument of peace is immensely more important than working for
peace. Our entire lives must radiate this peace. We must be peace to
have peace. I am coming into an understanding of this as I strive for
true and lasting peace. Being anti-war is not enough. If we are solely
anti-war, when the war is over the movement will be over. While we are
congratulating ourselves on our victories for bringing the troops home,
our government in cahoots with the war machine (I am also beginning to
understand that the war machine and the government are two different
sides of the same worthless coin) is already planning the next war and
the next way to kill our children and spread death and destruction for
Non-violence should always be the means we use to solve problems, from
our nuclear family life all the way up to the office of the most
powerful person in the world. Peace is not an absence of conflict, but
resolving conflict non-violently.
Where there is hatred let me show love.
and frustration are the fuels of violence and terrorism. Our
mis-leaders exploited the tragedy and devastation of 9/11 to attack two
innocent countries that didn't attack the US. After 9/11, if our
so-called President had taken a course of action that reflected what he
claims to believe in, he would have evaluated our policies towards the
people of the Middle East and seen how he could have solved them
intelligently and non-violently. Of course, we needed to bring the
perpetrators of the 9/11 crimes against humanity to justice, but not
commit crimes against humanity of our own. Jesus said: "It is written,
an eye for an eye, but I say, turn the other cheek." I have never
believed that Jesus meant for us to let ourselves be slapped silly for
peace, but I believe that he meant for us to put on an attitude of
understanding and compassion for the slapper that transcends our
humanness and forces us to look inwards and pull out of us all of our
humanity and love that solves problems non-violently and with courage
also am convinced that religious fundamentalism is the root and cause
of much of the violence throughout history and even up until today. The
leaders of our world know and exploit the fact that humans will blindly
and brainlessly follow a religious symbol into war more quickly and
readily than we will follow a flag or standard. If we espouse or claim
a doctrine, then we must also deeply know in our minds and hearts the
teachings of the prophets of that religion: Whether the prophet was
Jesus, Mohammed or Moses. We should never allow ourselves to follow
false prophets to doom: Especially false prophets who claim that the
Universal Creator has told him to ravage a country and kill its people.
Where there is injury, pardon.
always wondered how I would handle a situation regarding pardon and
forgiveness if one of my children was murdered. I can never sit in
judgment of anyone until I have walked in their shoes, but I sure hoped
that if one of my children was murdered that I would not call for the
death of his/her murderer to attain some measure of "closure" or
vengeance. I didn't know how I would handle that, though, until I was
forced to walk in those shoes by the murderous policies of the
neo-cons. Am I angry that the neo-cons lied us into this war and that
Casey and countless others are dead for their lies? Yes! Do I want to
see the people responsible for his murder held accountable for that
murder? Yes! Do I want the killers executed for it? No! I believe that
capital punishment is as barbaric as war. Have I forgiven his killers
for murdering Casey and so many more of our brothers and sisters in the
world? I can't say I am fully there yet, but I know I will be there
eventually because I don't hate his killers. Hate is a wasted emotion
that just hurts the hater, not the hatee. For the person that actually
pulled the trigger that killed Casey, I have nothing but compassion and
I would like to tell the people of Iraq that I am sorry that my country
is destroying their country and murdering so many innocents.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
and faith are the truths that get me out of bed in the morning. People
always ask me, "Cindy will your campaign for peace be successful?" My
answer is: "Of course!" If I didn't truly believe that the efforts of
the progressive peace movement would not prevail over the darkness of
the blatant disregard for truth, justice, and all human life that
George and his fellow criminals spread, I would lie in bed all day
staring at the walls in grief and depression!
I am sad. I am always sad and I will always be sad. I thought one of
the lights of my life was extinguished on 04/04/04. We also know from
the teachings of Jesus Christ that darkness can never overcome the
light. But with the sadness of eternal loss and pain comes the joy of
knowing that Casey's sacrifice for his buddies blossomed into a
movement of light against the darkness that is and will save many more
of his buddies and innocent Iraqis. I am filled with joy that my son's
death will not be wasted and used to justify more violence and death.
The second stanza is self-explanatory:
Oh master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Casey's light will shine always as long as there are people working for peace.