This last weekend, John Yoo was attending a conference at Stanford University sponsored by the Stanford Federalist Society. John Yoo, as you may remember, is the former Bush-era lawyer who wrote the memorandum justifying the use of torture.
As some students with Stanford Says No to War and I were wondering what we might do to speak out against the acceptance of Mr. Yoo into civilized society and academic circles, we were mindful that Stanford has begun to prohibit protests and have signs posted saying, “Protests Prohibited.” So it occurred to us that perhaps we should have a “Support John Yoo” event rather than a protest. Consequently, Darth Vader agreed to make an appearance in support of Mr. Yoo. What he didn’t expect was the enthusiastic welcome he would receive as dozens of people lined up to have their picture taken with him. Mr. Vader delivered the following message on behalf of Mr. Yoo:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
These are dire times when our nation, The Empire, is under threat from many enemies both foreign and domestic. Our economy has been weakened by social parasites; international terrorists are attempting to attack us and weaken our mastery of land, sea, air and space; the Occupiers are attempting to take over important public and private space and buildings. We must remain ever vigilant and that is why we urge you to support John Yoo. Make no mistake, the critics of John Yoo are nothing less than enemies of The Empire.
A protest of foreclosures in San Francisco. Credit: Creative Commons/Steve Rhodes.
I recently sold my home. It was the first home to sell in my neighborhood in 6 months. Now my realtor tells me there are amazing deals on the market, homes that are selling for 200,000 or 300,000 less than they were a couple of years ago. She tells me that virtually all the houses on the market are foreclosures and that great deals are available.
It’s not quite as bad as she describes but the housing report for July shows that just over 26% of homes sold in the Bay Area were foreclosures and that nearly 20% of all the homes sold were underwater. It’s like a fire sale or a “going out of business” sale. And that’s the problem, each of these homes represents a family that has lost its home, the biggest investment they would likely make for their entire lives. Now it’s gone, poof. We could explore the “whodunit” and why but many others are already following that trail. I’m interested in the emotional and spiritual impact that this dislocation inflicts on our lives and families.
For those who follow the Christian tradition, Christmas is a time of hope and promise in the unlikely person of a child. It is a time of celebrating the birth of the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah and heralded by Handel as the “Prince of Peace.”
Yet religion and war have become so grotesquely interconnected that we can scarcely tell them apart. Indeed, to suggest that war is antithetical to the message of Jesus is to risk accusations of treason, heresy or both.
Most people are unaware that for the first few hundred years of the Church, Christians were total pacifists. For example, St. Martin of Tours refused to fight against the Gauls in 336CE because of his faith. In spite of the Church’s history of complicity and the downright instigation of war, a vein of this ancient ethic has persisted throughout history.
In the dominant culture, religion and war have become so enmeshed that some areas of the military have become evangelistic recruitment centers. Politicians and ministers alike fawn over our military as if war and religion were made for one another. Military commanders have become aggressive in promoting a “weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Steven Green, the soldier who raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl before murdering her and her family, says that he “didn’t think of the Iraqis as humans.” While our troops include many good people whose consciences would be repelled by Green’s deeds, the reality is that we must desensitize ourselves and dehumanize the enemy in order to go to war and in order to kill.
One military training cadence shows the perverse nature of training for war: “Bomb the village, kill the people/throw some napalm in the square/do it on a Sunday morning/kill them on their way to prayer. Ring the bell inside the schoolhouse/watch those kiddies gather round/lock and load your 240/mow them little mother f….s down.” (See the movie The Ground Truth - its trailer follows.)