Martha Prison Reflection Feb. 11, 2021
Robert Ellsberg inspired me today with his writing of A. J. Muste in All Saints and “Blessed Among Us” in Give Us This Day. “Nonconformity, Holy Disobedience, becomes a virtue…to go along is used as an instrument to subject men to totalitarian rule and involved them in permanent war.” The nuclear sword has been wielded for 75 years, time to put it to rest. The Nuclear Ban Treaty (TPNW) now in legal effect, has put the nine nuclear states and their umbrella states on notice. Nuclear weapons are a stigma on these nation-states operating under the delusion that use of force brings security, that threats of nuclear holocaust bring deterrence. A. J. Muste is quoted as saying, I don’t do this to change the world (protest), I do it keep the world from changing me.” Dorothy shared the podium with him all those years of speaking out against U.S. military aggression.
In reading Nancy McLean’s documentation of the destruction of the efforts at a democratic government in “Democracy in Chains,” the evidence is clear on how human corruption is capable of undermining any system or ideal we can come up with. Charles Koch believed in “a vision of what a society might become if the entrepreneurs were freed from both interference and government –granted favors: a paradise of individual freedom, world peace and social progress.” Imagine Ammon Hennacy’s anarchistic response to this flimsy cover for raw, personal ambition. Will the rugged individual, receiving the best education, food, housing take care of someone else’s family member who is vulnerable, incapable of self-care, unable to get rich? Even Jesus is tested in today’s Mark 7: 24-30 when “He could not escape notice” and a mother begs for her daughter’s healing. She must challenge Him, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Was Jesus tired or being a bit cynical about “insider” sentiments? God help us to be cured of our nuclear demons. In her book Nancy Mclean dares to conclude, “ In the view of the libertarian economist, Jesus was mistaken. “ The parable of the Good Samaritan is turned on its head, it takes courage to not “go soft” and see the suffering of another not of one’s tribe and respond out of human love. The libertarian ideology brings us smashed congressional doors and threats of lynching. The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 sit in prison as a means to not have our hearts hardened, changed by the world and it’s machinations.
The practice of institutionalized dehumanization is a sight to behold. The Bureau of Prisons mission is that of accountability and safety. As one of the oldest inmates here I was taken off the snow shoveling crew. A blow to my ego, I love working outside as I’ve done most of my life. The community here, both inmates and staff, share a strange dance in our efforts to remain human in a world of retribution. Both sides work to care for one another, finding ourselves in convoluted positions, in our status as inmates and for the staff as well. It is an exercise of how to keep in our hearts despite the dystopic conditions we have created for ourselves and even each other. The ivory guilded tower of extreme wealth, had by full-on extraction of the human being and the of the natural resources for profit, still cannot kill all love in the hearts of these occupants. I have to hold on to this belief. In the prison system no shoddy goods can be bad enough for the prisoners. Textiles that bleed dye and remain rough after washing, food that is raised by petrochemical means, pencils that are impossible to sharpen, clothing that stains and holds smells and wears out in a matter of weeks – the list is long. There is a tale in the Catholic Worker community of Dorothy sitting on a chair, it breaks and collapses, she comments that now it is ready to donate to the poor. Reading in the New York Times there is a story about the “needle towers,” the super deluxe apartments for the super rich, sold at dizzying prices to go with their height. The water pressure is problematic causing floods. They sway and shriek in the wind. The cost and services are not what buyers expected with their investments. Icarus has flown too high, the inevitable tumble is upon us. Lying on a lumpy mattress with polyester sheets in an underground cubicle is an apt position to be in, all funded by our federal government, the taxpayers that is. As one dear KBP7 co-defendant puts it, “ironies abound.”
Subtle signs of spring are noticeable. The call of the blue jay has a different cadence to it, the morning and afternoon light lengthens, we are nine days beyond the pagan Imbolc date of February 2, midway between winter solstice and spring equinox. The homeostasis, the balance of our Garden of Eden, our paradise delight, hangs on a thread. Vandana Shiva’s work in Oneness is the 1% spells out what we have done. From Charles Dicken’s description of the onset of the Industrial Revolution fed with the mangled and exhausted bodies of women and children in 18th century England, to the die-back of biodiversity and the use of “realistic science” and technology to exploit at every level of life – the mounting evidence is stunning. Oh the bitter cup we have forced upon the vast majority of people, now and into the future, all for a select few who wish to drink from a golden chalice encrusted with precious gems and containing the most expensive wines. Why is the sparkling glass of pure, life giving water not enough? We will be left to sit and mourn, watching so many beloved bodies pass through writhing withdrawal, in agony, a veritable struggle with death, suffering from either too much or too little of what sustains us. The corporal works of mercy, the Sermon on the Mount is our test. The hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, imprisoned all call out to us. Love is the only answer, the only solution. Our afflictions can not leave us as long as we blame the poor and oppressed.
Sitting in the prison chapel my eyes wander to the long icicles hanging from the eaves, heat loss in a building that consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels. They are so pretty, slanted by the wind, sparkling and dripping in the sun, coming to graceful, slender tips. A bald eagle crosses the hilltop frequently in the early morning. God help us in our shining achievements and asinine failures.