While speaking at a church about Afghanistan and the the lead-up to the Iraq war, one attendee asked us if we thought there was anything anyone could do to stop the war. I replied “I think that train has already left the station.” Later, when thinking about that answer, it struck me that we could have done a lot more than street protests, letters to the editor, phone calls to Congress, and faxes to the president. More of us could have, and should have, laid our bodies down on that track.

Sister Megan Rice, 84, was sentenced on February 18th to 35 months in prison for breaking into a nuclear facility, in her nonviolent act of civil disobedience, putting her body on the tracks, to bring an end to nuclear weapons.

In July 2012, Sister Megan Rice, along with two cohorts, cut through security fences and worked their way across what should have been one of the most heavily protected sites in the United States, at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They spray-painted graffiti and splashed blood on the outside of a uranium enrichment facility before being confronted by a lone security contractor, who immediately recognized them for what they were, peace protesters. When backup arrived, they were arrested without incident. Their brazen act of civil disobedience brought attention to an appalling lack of security at that site, brought an end to one security contractor’s spotless 30-year career, illuminated the enormous cost of maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, and now sends the three protesters to jail for years.

Sister Rice, rather than seeking mercy because of her age, or because of the reason for her actions, said instead that “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be a gift.” Amazing.

How many of us would be willing to commit an act of civil disobedience like she and her fellow protesters did? How many of us would be willing to sit at segregated lunch counters, kneel in front of the doors of recruiting stations, blocking potential enlistees from entering, literally putting our bodies on the tracks to stop something that had raised our passion to the level of taking such action?

Sister Megan Rice joins a list of many women and men of faith who have put their freedom and very lives on the line in the name of peace, to turn swords into plowshares. One of the things that makes me most proud of her actions is her absolute willingness, even desire, to pay the civil price for her disobedience. Remaining in prison for the rest of her life, paying the price of breaking the law, in the name of peace, would be the greatest gift the judge could give her.

If more of us had her courage, her conviction, to nonviolently do whatever it took to keep that next train from leaving the station, we could stop whatever train we felt needed to be stopped. Thank you Sister Rice for reminding us of our ability to do what needs to be done.


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