I received the news yesterday afternoon prior to guest lecturing in a class at Vanderbilt Divinity School that Trump was issuing an order for US air strikes in Syria. Just days prior, he spoke of how the killing of innocent children through chemical warfare touched him, and yet had closed the borders of the United States to Syrian children weeks before. For many of us, this does not make sense and only highlights the smoke and mirrors of a nationalist led agenda that is rooted in a form of power that is death-bringing to us all. Deploying our military into the war-torn area of Syria is not an act of justice; it is an act of imperialist rape that leaves the most vulnerable (and innocent) without a way to survive this globalized and violent imperialism of the West. I call this Empire Religion for it is done in the name of God.
This morning I woke to this headline: “In airstrikes conducted by US-led coalition on Monday, four civilians were killed in Syria's Eastern province of Deir Ezzor, local reports said.” Read the article here. To this, I borrow to oft-cited refrain from Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s 2003 sermon: “God Damn America!”
Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his sermon said this: “War does not make for peace. Fighting for peace is like raping for virginity." I agree with him on this point. We are returning to our tragic imperialist past in the name of ‘peace.’ War doesn’t create peace. The only thing war does is escalate a global-scale violence, in this case, and is an exercise in the logic of dominance by any means necessary. As someone who participates in nonviolent resistance and names themselves a militant pacifist, Trump is just throwing up smoke and mirrors in his contrived care for those impacted by the chemical warfare in Syria.
I believe in a militant pacifism. I believe in the act of peace-making, which means that we must figure out a way to be human with one another, or we won’t survive one another. I do not appeal to an allegiance to religion in my militant pacifism, and I don’t believe that religion is necessarily our answer. I do, however, believe that our human bonds and the fires in our guts that motivate us to love each other deeply in light of our deepest differences will be our saving grace. But, we must fist affirm the center of our own difference and the center of each other’s differences before being able to bridge with those differences.
Governments lie to its people, and the US government has lied to us for many years. From the lies that African Americans / Black Americans are less than human to the lynching of Mexicans (and Blacks). So, we continue to live in a country where our government lies to us and calls it Christian. As my colleague, Dr. Susan Thistethwaite wrote last November, it’s better called Christofascism. What we need now is a movement of deep, abiding peace, and I think that is best found in the work of militant pacifism. I believe this work is grounded in the radical act of bridging with difference and not confusing god with our government.
Peace is something that all the worlds religions have as a component of their framework, but because of our desire to control people in the name of our own version of religion, we minimize the call to peace and instead invest in a form of power that kills the least of these. To that I say, God Damn America. You can do better!
Smoke and mirrors will not save us nor will this logic advance our work of collective liberation. What smoke and mirrors do is keep us numb and in a haze, like Karl Marx wrote, and our work is to dismantle systems of dominance so that our people can be free. This is a global fight. The work of militant pacifism starts in our own neighborhoods and is the work of bridging with radical difference and extends to the center of the other’s own difference. In this case, Syria. Let us begin to move toward those who are most impacted by the logic of dominance, so that we can work toward a radical notion of peace with all humans. For, if we don’t figure out to be human with one another, we won’t survive ourselves.