My mom is in jail tonight with a $10,000.00 bail for delivering a war crimes indictment and people’s order of protection to Hancock Air Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing which pilots killer drones over Afghanistan. “That’s crazy!” you might say, and it is. Or others may say, “Well, she did do that and knew she would be arrested.” Stop and think about that statement, though. Isn’t that still crazy because what she was doing was a perfectly peaceful and legitimate action, protected by our constitution? My mother was practicing her first amendment right to petition her government for redress of grievances. For that she was handcuffed, taken to court, arraigned on criminal charges, given a $10,000.00 bail, and locked up in the Syracuse Justice Center- a notoriously freezing cold and cruel environment. If your mother were mowing her lawn or bringing cookies over to the neighbors and that happened to her you would say that was crazy, madness. Well, I do not argue that I’ve just given anything near to a stellar analogy there, but my point is simply this: If you say that you’re not shocked and upset by what has happened to my mother after she peacefully held a sign outside of a military installation, then perhaps we should all take a step back and analyze what we accept these days as normal, as given. This is crazy.
I sit here at our dining room table and I have no appetite for my favorite meal that my dad has just set out. I’m thinking about how cold my mother must be in her jail cell and how far removed she is now from the vibrant green chirping outdoors now falling into a warm summer’s night. I am sad thinking of the garden outside which my mom has poured so much love into and now cannot smell its ripening fruit nor tend and water it, marvel in the miracle of its abundance. These thoughts lead me now to Gaza and to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq- In so many places mothers cannot tend gardens, not even gather and mourn over their dead for the threat of another bomb, another drone strike. This is madness. How can I mourn my mother’s absence at our dinner table when Israel’s military terror rains down on Gaza, when weddings, funerals and community meetings in Pakistan and Afghanistan fall victim to drone strikes, when so many people live in terror of my government’s weapons? Yes, we fly those drones. Yes we give Israel those helicopters, those bombs. But the answer is that I can still mourn my mother’s imprisonment and I also mourn all of this insanity. My mother’s arrest and high bail is insanity, just as Israel’s bombs and the United State’s drones are insanity.
At the same time, though, the occasion of my mother’s arrest brings a breath of reason, a breath of right into this insane world. Her action represents life affirmation and stands along so many other examples. We are all doing something. I really believe that every act counts. If your mother was bringing cookies over to the neighbors, then your mom’s a lot like mine: doing something in the direction of good, in the direction of understanding, of respect, generosity, love. These are the ways in which we can bring each other back towards sanity. My mom’s action at Hancock today was a call for sanity- it said that drone terrorism is a war crime and that all people of the world request an order of protection on their behalf against drone strikes. Her imprisonment is insanity and I want us to recognize that. I want us to recognize, too, all of the other madness: we could make a long, long list that seems to only be getting longer. Did you read the headlines about Gaza today? Death toll topping 650 people, more than 4,000 people wounded, 2,600 homes damaged, with 475 houses completely demolished. 46 schools bombed; 56 mosques; seven hospitals. Imagine if that were your city. Can you imagine it at all?
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Quickly this madness seems overwhelming, even if you’re not personally experiencing the horror of living in Gaza. Tonight, as I comprehend the excess of my mom’s bail and the very real possibility of her being locked up for a year for violating the base commander’s order of protection, tonight I feel like I am personally experiencing the madness. My mom stood peacefully in front of a gate, asking for the protection of life and of human dignity, and she was served with an order of protection on behalf of a military commander who oversees drone murder, drone terror. She returned today with the same message, putting her in violation of that order of protection, for which she may now face a year in jail. This is insanity and it is affecting me, affecting my family and my community. Experiencing this insanity personally does not distract me from, nor dull my perception of the other larger insanities. It magnifies them. The reason that the US government and military keep locking up my mom is the same reason why they keep funding Israel’s occupation of and bombing campaigns on Palestine. It is the same madness. This same madness perpetuates poverty, fuels white supremacy, intoxicates us with materialism.
It’s ok to weep when it all hits you. That is an appropriate response. Tears and grief, anger and helplessness all come naturally in the face of insanity. Tears are sane. Feeling it is sane. Feeling upset that my mother is locked up is sane. In the interest of sanity, too, I want to understand why she is locked up, understand why the judge set a $10,000.00 bail. Perhaps, though, “understand” is the wrong word because the why doesn’t make sense. Rather, I’d like to acknowledge. My mom is in jail because she stood up against the madness.