|By Medea Benjamin
I had volunteered to be in charge of the spiritual part of the
fast, the half-hour in the morning that we ground ourselves in what
we're doing and why. Some of the CODEPINKers
laughed when I volunteered for this, thinking that I'm not very
religious and that perhaps the priest would be a better spiritual
guide for us. But the one part of the fast I am looking forward
to is the spiritual part-deepening our own commitment to ending
violence, forming stronger bonds as a community.
It's true I don't participate in organized religion and tear my
hair out at new age spirituality that's not grounded in the here
and now. But Gandhi said, "I call that man religious who understands
the suffering of others." Those of us who not only understand
that suffering but try to alleviate it are deeply religious, whether
we acknowledge it in a formal way or not.
I didn't have a lot of time to spend searching for good spiritual
material, so I contacted a few colleagues for advice. One is Kristi
Laughlin, a good friend who used to work with CODEPINK
until she decided to go to Theology School..
Kristi wrote back write immediately,
I love it! You are unearthing that spiritual guru in you.
I knew it was just a matter of time :-)
Actually, I do not have a lot of resources on hand. I have
been meaning to seek out just what you mentioned--a good book
full of all kinds of spiritual stuff. I think the stuff I have
tends to be a little too Catholic. But I know folks at school
would often use selections from these books:
1 - Earth Prayers From around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and
Invocations for Honoring the Earth, by Elizabeth Roberts
2 - Peace Prayers: Meditations, Affirmations, Invocations, Poems,
and Prayers for Peace by Harper San Francisco Staff
Even after theology school, I am still not much for the
Bible. The only passage I consistently gravitate to are the Beatitudes.
So I have attached that with just a couple of prayers that I like.
My favorite prayer (besides the Prayer of St. Francis) is the
Prayer of Oscar Romeo, which is not written by him but somehow
attributed to him and in his spirit. That is attached too.
For more ritualistic purposes, it is always nice to do
a Litany---of names with responses. That is very Catholic! And
is very common, as you know, in the Central American Solidarity
movement with calling out "Presente!" But you can create
any appropriate call and response for a litany you create.
And one of my favorite songs that is essentially a prayer
is: Solo le Pido a Dios. You must know that song too. I bet Mercedes
Sosa has done a version. The lyrics are attached. And for a more
inspirational kind of simple song that can be sung in a round
is "Step by Step"
Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none singly none
Good luck with the fast!!!!
Much love, Kristi
Another friend I contacted was Deborah Kory, who worked
with the progressive Jewish group Tikkun before returning to school
as well. I told her that I, the semi-atheist, was in charge of the
daily spiritual openings and needed nice things to read or sing.
Here's her response:
That is HILARIOUS! I don't think I've ever heard someone
call themselves a "semi-atheist." Does that make you
an agnostic? Can't get the God out of the Jew? Or is it more like
a what-happened-before-the-big-bang kind of thing?
So, you are in charge of the morning invocation....I'd
love to help you with this. I'm assuming you're wanting some universal
we-are-all one themes, but maybe also some voices from different
faiths. I will look through my "spiritual" archives
for stuff to bring to you.
I just had a long conversation with Patricia Ellsberg [wife
of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, who will be participating
in the fast] who had a great idea to collect the readings and
morning invocations and also ask the fasters who are the people
and what are the writings that have inspired them to acts of nonviolent
civil disobedience and then to put together some kind of anthology
that Code Pink could use and sell to further its message.
I really believe in what you're doing and I think the hunger
strike has the potential to be really impactful...
Love and Blessings for the journey,
So already, before we have even started the fast, a good idea has
On the plane to DC, I found a great feast of inspiration. Just
this week, Alice Walker's publisher had sent me a manuscript
of her new book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For:
Light in a Time of Darkness. Alice has been a great supporter
of CODEPINK. She was with us at our
big march on International Women's Day, March 8, 2003, right before
the war began. She wrote a beautiful essay about her experience
that I have taken inspiration from ever since. And when we asked
her to do a solidarity fast with the long-term fasters, she wrote
back this lovely message:
YES, YES, AND YES SOME MORE. I WILL START WITH YOU ON THE 4TH;
ALWAYS HATE TO EAT ON THAT DAY ANYWAY!
I loved the message, especially that it was all in caps.
When Alice's new manuscript arrived, I decided to save it for the
plane ride. And wouldn't you know--it turned out to be exactly what
I'd been searching for. I eagerly devoured the book, selecting the
passages I thought would best speak to the fasters.
There was a brilliant essay on the need to stop, sit and reflect
called All Praises to the Pause: The Universal Moment of Reflection.
Part of it talks about menopause as such a moment of reflection.
I'm not sure how that section will go over with Father Louie, the
soldiers and the Iraqi men joining the fast, but the CODEPINK
women will love it. And there's a wonderful poem that will work
just perfectly for July 4. It's a poem for The Patriot that says
can you show your love for America by loving AMERICANS, like the
grandfather with the eagle feather in his braid and the man with
the rosepink turban and the sister on the bus with the nappy hair.
"Love us. We are the flag," she says. Perfect for
July 4th in Washington DC.
Landing in DC, I turned on my cell phone. There was a message from
my husband, Kevin, who is fasting in solidarity from our home in
San Francisco and had been helping me put together some spiritual
essays, like a great one we found by Wendall Berry called
The Failure of War. Kevin grew up Catholic and rejected the
traditional church but is very spiritual. He loves Jesus the revolutionary
and quotes him all the time.
"I just wanted to wish you good luck, baby,"
his message said. "And I was thinking on the ride home how
the fundamentalists believe in God, too, but they reject science-they
reject evolution,deny global warming. We embrace religion AND
science, which is what the planet needs right now to survive.
And we also believe in true democracy-rule by the people. You
are practicing real democracy-that's why you're fasting. I'm proud
I guess I'd just add that what distinguishes us from fundamentalists
is also that we love all people, believers and non-believers, no
matter where they were born, what borders they crossed, how much
money they have or what color they are. The grandfather with the
eagle feather, the man with the rosepink turban, the sister on the
bus with the nappy hair. One love.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Let the fasting beginů