|Jesuit Bill (Bix) Bischel, Oblate of Mary Immaculate Carl Kabat, ARCWP Janice Sevre -Duszynska, Franciscans Jerry Zawada and Louis Vitale outside Federal Court in Knoxville in support of Transform Now Plowshares|
Who is my neighbor?
First, the facts. Greg, Megan, and Michael were found guilty today of both counts brought against them — sabotage and depredation of government property — and they were remanded from the courtroom as we sang them rounds of “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” and “Vine and Fig Tree.” The prosecution has stated that the defendants stand convicted of a “crime of violence”; if this is the case, law requires that they remain in prison until sentencing. They will spend the night in jail, and we will return to the courtroom tomorrow at 9:00 to see what the judge will decide.
In light of these heavy facts, it might seem irrelevant to share with you the evidence presented today in the courtroom. But truth-telling deserves to be celebrated — even if the jury wasn’t swayed, glimmers of truth did make their way into courtroom, thanks to the sharp minds and firm convictions of the defendants and their lawyers. Such good news should be shared.
A lot of evidence was presented today: Francis finished his questioning of Megan and the government cross-examined her. Michael, Col. Ann Wright, and Greg were also questioned and cross-examined, and lastly the judge read the jury instructions and allowed closing arguments before sending the jury out to deliberate.
Greg’s testimony came after the afternoon break, and in a way it tied together much of what had been said all day. He called to our attention the story of the Good Samaritan stopping to help an injured man on the road to Jericho. We see people on the roadside lying wounded, and our job is to do something to stop the violence and help the victims. Greg outlined the violence that we are obligated to stop in our world today: the United States is the only country to have over 700 military bases all over the world; we are the only nation that uses drones to kill people around the world; and we use nuclear weapons to threaten people around the world, weapons whose very manufacturing causes sickness and death.
Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan because someone has asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer to this question is a major point of disagreement between the defense and the prosecution. “Do you consider yourself an American?” the government prosecutor asked Sister Megan Rice. “I believe I am a citizen of the world,” answered Sister Megan. “Boundaries are arbitrary.” The prosecutor went on to ask if Sister Megan had ever protested nuclear weapons by traveling to nuclear powers other than the United States. She responded that national borders are arbitrary lines; each and every human life on the planet is threatened by the use of nuclear weapons. Michael too was asked where he considered home. “I am a citizen of heaven and I travel here and there,” he replied. We are all citizens of heaven first; this loyalty takes precedence over any national allegiance we might have.
Greg cited a second story too, after the parable: the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It was a little boy who revealed what was missing, Greg said — and he was the only one who dared speak. The emperor here is the United States DOE, and it does not have effective fences. What is more, the emperor doesn’t have real security. Greg explained, “Real security comes when we foster justice among all the nations.”
Ann Wright’s expert knowledge of U.S. security withstood all efforts of the government to discredit her testimony. She established firmly that the emperor has no clothes, insofar as Y-12 does not have effective internal security tests. If Y-12 was running internal security tests, there would never have been so much critical security apparatus that was broken or otherwise not in place. “That’s where the problem lies,” said Col. Wright. That is the key.” Col. Wright testified that Greg, Megan, and Michael’s action improved national security by pointing out this national security deficiency, even if that was not their intention.
Throughout the government’s closing arguments, the prosecutors accused the defendants of disobeying the rule of law, taking the law into their own hands, forcing their will on other people. How ironic! Disregard of the rule of law and treaties is exactly the behavior that the United States engages in, in their foreign policy, that Michael, Megan, and Greg came to Y-12 to address. The same smoke and mirrors allow the government prosecutors to accuse the defendants of “crimes of violence.” How absurd, when crimes of violence are precisely what Greg, Megan, and Michael desired to put an end to when they came to Y-12.
“The teachings of Jesus are practical, doable, worthy of emulation,” Michael said from the witness stand today. “Our role is to try to open their eyes,” Greg said, “to come out of the ways of death.” Megan said, “I believe we are all equally responsible to stop a known crime.” As we think of our friends in jail tonight, let us allow their words to echo in our hearts and minds.