Fast for Justice 2013: Day 3
Beth B. opened our first circle of the day reminding us to take care of ourselves during this fast that challenges our bodies and our spirits. “In taking care of ourselves, we take care of the rest of the world. Our own suffering is linked to the suffering of all. Our own liberation is linked to the liberation of all.” Her words encouraged us not only to self-care, but to remembering again the interconnectedness of all lives. And her words were echoed in the lines of a poem by Abdulla Majid al Noaimi, “The tears of someone else’s longing are affecting me; my chest cannot take the vastness of emotion.” So we were reminded too of the suffering that can arise from connection, and from connections severed, as the two poems by detainees that we read over the course of the day speak of longing for loved ones far away:
“When you pass by life’s familiar objects –
…I say hello to Shwayman,
and to everyone whom I love,
And to everyone who misses me.” (Abdulla)
“When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed…
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.” (Sami al Haj)
These words carried a special poignancy as several of us here were reunited with our own families—spouses and children—from whom we had been separated these past few days. And we are joined too by more friends, not only here in D.C. but also across the states and abroad. There are over 150 fasters now, and others supporting through varying means, including a former Guantanamo detainee who posted the Day 1 update on his facebook wall!
Today we did our best to honor the awareness of our connection to the men who continue to be hidden away at Guantanamo Bay by making our own presence known throughout the city; first at the Supreme Court and Congress, later at the Newseum for the VIP Premier of Zero Dark Thirty (no, we weren’t invited, we stood outside – and projected in: instagr.am/p/UPeqBII4-A/), and now to you, with this humble compilation of reflections and reports.
Witness Against Torture
Fasters’ Conference Call
we will facilitate a faster’s reflection call tonight on Wednesday, January 9 at 8pm (DC time). Please e-mail if you would like to participate.
Our UPDATED DC schedule can be found here.
If you are coming to DC for January 11th, and are open to risking arrest, please let us know.
In this Update:
1) Witness Against Torture in today’s NYTimes (photo on A3)
2) Supreme Court/Congress Vigil Report by Molly Kafka
3) Morning Reflection Revisited by Chrissy Nesbitt
4) Zero Dark Thirty Vigil by Ted Nee Walker
5) Sami Al-Hajj Interview Democracy Now
6) “Zero Conscience in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’” Jane Meyer for The NewYorker
7) Letter to CIA Director Morrell from Senators Feinstein, McCain, and Levin about Zero
Dark Thirty Dec. 31, 2012
8) “3 Things You Should Know About ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and Torture,” Amnesty
International (please see especially “fact sheet” halfway down page)
Supreme Court/Congress Vigil Report
by Molly Kafka
Today marked our second day of walking and vigiling on the streets of Washington, D.C. The “action” committee orchestrated a special formation for the WAT folks. Standing on Constitution Avenue, across from the fenced-off United States Capitol, WAT protestors held signs that composed the following statement when read together: “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Cements Indefinite Detention.” The target audience for this particular vigil were the drivers on Constitution Avenue. According to the Capitol Police, who approached us even before WAT took its place on Constitution Avenue, a group of more than 20 could not stand on the sidewalk without a permit. We did not have a permit and we had about 27 people. We continued to set up as planned. After about five minutes, the police again approached us, warning us that we were not allowed to stand with our numbers. About 7 WAT members then left the group to begin vigiling around the corner at the Supreme Court. The rest of the group maintained their position across from the Capitol. After thirty minutes of great visibility on Constitution Avenue, leafleting to pedestrians and drivers, the large group joined the smaller group at the Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, the line of WAT members, in their orange jumpsuits and black hoods, walked across the street from the Supreme Court and onto Capitol grounds. The group rarely goes onto Capitol grounds because the Capitol police are typically very strict about demonstrators coming onto the grounds. However, today we made a simple loop about 20 yards onto the grounds before instruction to turn around. Returning to the Supreme Court, WAT unfurled the large “Close Guantánamo” banner. Although the Supreme Court police increased its forces because of our presence, the vigil ended without the use of the megaphone suddenly appearing in a high-ranking police officer’s hand. Instead, we joined hands, read a poem by Sami Al Hajj, and sang “Courage, Muslim Brother.”
Morning Reflection Revisited
by Chrissy Nesbitt
This morning Tom Casey led us in reflection. We centered ourselves together in quiet, then we had an opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings that were at once very personal, and at the same time integral to our public witness here in Washington D.C.
Tom started our reflection by leading us through a Welcoming Prayer:
Welcome all that is present in you, all your emotions good and bad.
Next, let go of your need for security; your need for approval and acclaim; your need for control; your need to change situations, people, and yourself.
Finally, welcome the Spirit, the Universe, the Higher Power, to heal all the brokenness that you welcomed in yourself.
The prayer and the reading that followed challenged us to accept, and even embrace, the ugly side of ourselves and our world. They challenged us to believe that this embrace is part of our work to further the cause of justice.
An accepting embrace requires us to be honest with ourselves. In the reading Tom shared with us, Mary Lou Kownacki wrote that “Bread-and-water fasts, rubbing shoulders with the poor, even prison cells are easy. A vow of nonviolence makes tougher demands. It forces the vow taker to stand in front of a mirror.” In groups of four or five, we shared with each other our struggles towards honesty, what we see when we look in the mirror, and how well we’re able to love what we see.
We brought the fruits of this reflection — a sense of honesty, empathy, and mutual accountability — to our second day of public witness and fasting.
Zero Dark Thirty Vigil
by Ted Nee Walker
Reporter: “Why is torture a moral issue?”
Chrissy: “Because the only purpose of torture is to break a human being, and that is never right.”
Reporter: “What about when we get useful information from torture?”
Chrissy: “Senator john McCain voices what most of us believe here, torture is not an effective means of gaining accurate information.”
In the midst of the buzzing spectacle of this evening’s Washington DC debut of Kathryn Bigelow’s new film “Zero Dark Thirty” at the Newseum, we hoped our silent presence in the orange jump suits and black hoods in the fore of the red carpet was a sobering reminder that a movie never presents neutrally an issue or event, and that torture is illegal and immoral. We were not there to critique the movie any further. We were not there to enter into a debate of the veracity of the film’s semi-documentary form depicting a series of CIA actions – beginning with the torture of a man – that lead up to the assassination of Osama bin Laden (for this objection to the film, please see above link Senator Dianne Feinstein’s letter to the Acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morrell). No, as the moviegoers weaved their way through news media and other vocal protestors to check in at the registration desk and enter the museum for the film debut, we wanted to simply portray what they will not see in the film – a shadow of the 166 men still held at Guantánamo. And as the moviegoers stood on the red carpet before the press photo background for the film, we were momentarily able to project from the sidewalk the words, “TORTURE IS WRONG.”