Choose Joy

Role Models

Written by Zach Pflederer from Illinois, and posted on his blog,  Choose Joy

Today I read the following:

On December 13, a Tacoma-based jury declared five Disarm Trident Now Plowshares activists “guilty” of trespass, felony damage to federal property, felony injury to property, and felony conspiracy to damage property. The charges against the Disarm Now Trident activists resulted from their November 2, 2009 Plowshares action at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base, which is located just outside of Bremerton, Washington. The activists, who will be sentenced on March 28, 2011, each face a potential prison sentence of 10 years.

According to the Disarm Now Plowshares blog:

Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Bill Bichsel, S.J., 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington; and Steve Kelly, S.J., 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California … cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of the Feast of All Souls … They then walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside the base to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC). This top security area is where the Plowshares activists say hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored in bunkers. There they cut through two more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up two big banners which said “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral,” scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were arrested at dawn. Once arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with sand bags because the marine in charge testified “when we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them … so we did it to them.”

After the jury rendered their verdict, Father Steve Kelly “faced the jury, and all the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants stood with him with their hands raised in blessing as he said, ‘May you go in peace and have a safe, happy holiday.’”

Before you read on, take a few minutes to watch this video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As a history major and then a history teacher, I read too many books to count about courageous, “great” men through the ages. In nearly every case, the man was a soldier, president, or king. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Robert E Lee, Crazy Horse, Muhammad, Skanderbeg. The list goes on. And while each of those men accomplished some incredible achievements, and had some outstanding leadership qualities, their accomplishments are tainted by violence.

A few break the mold and fight injustice without actually physically fighting. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Jesus. While I’m sure it takes a lot of courage to face an enemy with a gun, I am far more in awe of the courage it takes to face an adversary without a gun. Especially if he has one (or a tank, as the case may be).

I am coming to believe more and more that Jesus really meant it when he said “love your enemies” and “when someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer them the left one as well.” At the same time, I know that he doesn’t want his followers to be a bunch of patsies who just get pushed around and slapped in the face twice as much as normal people. There is a lot of injustice in the world to be fought, a lot of pain to be healed. Standing up to human traffickers and sharing the burdens of the poor takes courage, and it’s people like the Gishes and the Disarm Now activists who have that kind of courage.

I am inspired by them, and I hope that my life follows the model that these men and women have set out–loving, courageous resistance to injustice and violence.


After reading about the men and women who are facing years in prison for breaking into a Navy base, spreading sunflower seeds, and praying in a restricted area, I thought that their story should be heard by as many people as possible. I haven’t seen anything on the news about it, so I figured the least I can do is tell all my loyal readers what happened. How you respond is up to you, but I think I will try to find a way to help, or at least protest a long prison sentence for the convicted activists.

(As an aside, it’s got to be pretty embarrassing for the Navy to have their top-security nuclear warhead storage facility easily broken into by a ragtag group of pacifists, armed with nothing but sunflower seeds and a wire cutter!)

One Response

  1. “sane” is a legal term they say – these actions are illegal so the motivation behind them is “insane”? what does that say for our legal definitions? man, am i glad i’m crazy –

    they are very inspiring – i loved what Father Steve said – so very sane

    pacifism may be the ultimate sanity

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