Out at the Missile Site

Friends,

President Obama pardoned two turkeys prior to this Thanksgiving holiday – one name Liberty and the other named Peace.  I’m still wondering why Peace (let alone Liberty) would ever need a pardon.  But enough of turkeys; the President could have chosen among scores of them wandering the halls of DC.

As I sit here on the day before Thanksgiving thinking on things for which I am thankful, I keep focusing on the countless people with whom I have had the honor of working with in this good peacemaking work that we do together (and it is something that we truly do together, no matter how far apart we may be geographically).

So I thought I would leave you with a song that was sung by the Raging Grannies of Denver on October 8, 2011 at the N-8 Minuteman Missile Site during a memorial for our dear Sister Jackie Hudson. This was the place where Jackie, along with Sisters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte engaged in the Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares action in 2002.

The new words to the song were written by Judy Trompeter.  Thanks to all who sing (and act) for peace. Together we make beautiful music.

Peace to All,

Leonard

****************

Out at the Missile Site
(to tune of “Down by the Riverside”)

Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside.
Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside.
Ain’t gonna study war no more.
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
Ain’t gonna study war no more.

Sister Jackie’s work goes on
Out at the missile site,
Out at the missile site,
Out at the missile site.
Sister Jackie’s work goes on
Out at the missile site.
Ain’t gonna finance war no more.
I ain’t gonna finance war no more,
I ain’t gonna finance war no more,
Ain’t gonna finance war no more.

Gonna carry on for these brave nuns
No matter what it takes,
No matter what it takes,
No matter what it takes.
Gonna carry on for these brave nuns
No matter what it takes.
Ain’t gonna pay for no more nukes.

I’m gonna protest war each day,
I’m gonna protest war each day,
Gonna protest war each day.
I’m gonna protest war each day,
I’m gonna protest war each day,
Until all the nukes are gone.

Bix is feeling fine…

(Update from Joe Power-Drutis 11/18/2011)

I just received a call from Bix. He sounded very well and was in
excellent spirits. He remarked how different he feels now than when he
first went to SeaTac on March 28th; he is much stronger and does not
have to relay so much on others to assist him. This is very good news.
He also provided me with his unit designation therefore we now have a
complete mailing address for him; and that is:

Fr. William J. Bichsel
# 86275-020 Unit FB
FDC SeaTac
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198

I am certain he will be happy to hear from you. One further thought if
you are able to do this. Bix’s ability to read smaller type print and
writing has diminished over the last year or so. If you are able to
send your letters type written, using #14 fonts, I think it would make
his letter reading much easier. He is not requesting this, but over
time as I have typed much of his correspondence, #14 is the font I
have been printing out for him.

Prayer Sendoff Gathering for Bix – video & photos

This YouTube video has a blessing and some parting words from Bix:

This is a photo montage from still photos taken at the prayer sendoff:

Update on David Corcoran of the Y-12 resisters

(Editor’s Note:  Here’s a brief report from Ralph Hutchison of OREPA about David Corcoran, one of the Y-12 defendants.  David was not tried with the others do to his health)

all,

i had a nice chat with barb and then dave when he returned from the courthouse where he was signing papers. he is doing much better physically and sounds better.

dave’s trial, scheduled to begin on monday, nov 14 in knoxville, will not happen then. it appears as though his trial will be moved from knoxville.there is no new trial date set, and barb said it may not happen until after the first of the year. they have been assigned a new lawyer, a woman they know and like. “we’ve been arrested with her,” barb said.

so that’s the news.

peace,
ralph

Bix has self surrendered (a report from Joe)

Yesterday at 2PM Bix self reported to his old alma mater the Sea Tac
Federal detention center. The day was a perfect Northwest Fall day;
sun shining, blue skies and lots of color in the falling leaves.

He was in a very good spirit and health (as well as could be expected)
as he prepared to undergo another 3 months of prison life.

A special word of gratitude to Diane Whalen as she led our community
in blessing Bix and one more time saying goodbye to him at Jeans House
of Prayer prior to leaving for Sea Tac. I am so thankful for the
presence and open spirits of everyone who came to pray, to bless and
send Bix on his way. Your presence and your words had a profound
impact on Him. We called forth so many spirits to join us, both living
and dead, and Jeans House was packed with love and grace; especially
Jackie Hudson and all the Disarm Now Plowshares and Y-12 resisters,
along with Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, and Bonnie Urfer, Stephen
Baggarly, and Michael Walli who remain imprisoned.

How could Bix not be filled with strength as he entered the house
without windows, after the outpouring of love he experienced at Jeans
House. He was thankful John Fuchs reminded us of the meditation on the
Two Standards of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises; do we stand with
Jesus or the way of the world. The choice is a personal one, and for
us all. I think we know where Bix stands.

At 1:55 he stood in the radiant sunlight and said “If I should see
that light before 3 months are up I might begin to worry”; then at
2:00 sharp he gave himself up.

No Bix, you for one have nothing to worry about. We know the Standard,
the flag you stand under.

Bix & Community: We Are Called!

Dear Friends,

The bright sun streamed through the windows of Jean’s House of Prayer today as roughly fifty people crowded together in prayer, song, faith, hope and community.  We came together in honor of our dear friend and co-conspirator in the struggle, Bill “Bix” Bichsel before he reported to SeaTac Federal Detention Center to begin serving his sentence for the Y-12 resistane action.

Joe Power-Drutis began our time together by bringing out his old and well-worn Bible, the pages of which, when he opened it this morning, opened somewhat prophetically to Isaiah.  He handed the Bible to Bix who read those prophetic words about turning swords in plowshares, and nations not lifting swords against other nations, and people not learning war any more.

Diane Whalen, the first female priest in Washington ordained by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, was invited to lead the remainder of the service. She began by inviting everyone to call out the names of those who were present in that space with us.  The already crowded house overflowed as a litany of names rang out: Jackie Hudson, Chief Leschi, Dorothy Day, Susan Crane, Anne Montgomery, Mother Teresa, Liz McAlister, Martin Luther King, Rachel Corrie, Phil and Daniel Berrigan, Chief Seattle, Steve Kelly…    The spirit of both the living and the dead were fully present with us.

Then Dianne asked us to pray today not only for Bix, but also for ourselves, for the oppressors, for the world so desparately in need of healing.  And then the people called out another litany, this one of things for which we need healing:

fear, anguish, judgement, sadness, idolatry, racism, self-rightousness, all forms of violence, apathy, nuclearism, US domestic and foreign policy, the 1%, homophobia, addiction, confusion, sexual violence, separation, despair, ignorance, mental illness, our prison system, denial, abuse, hunger, aggression, classism, childhood trauma, poverty, domination, selfishness, passivity, torture, dishonesty, slavery, damage to Mother Earth, war, sexism, homelessness, weapons…

Dianne then asked us to take all of these “illnesses” and imagine the healing oil of God’s love and peace, that we may act to heal them.

Lynne Greenwald shared the final passage from Jim Douglass’s book Lightening East to West.  In this passage Jim tells of the valley in the mountains of British Columbia where he lived at the time, and where he wrote this.  He spoke of the rock sculptures that were built over months or perhaps years, and which created a vision “so that the person, or community of persons who had sensed it could live in truth and peace.”  Jim then finishes with an invitation to each of us.

In our nuclear end-time, a vision of the kingdom demands concrete expression in the world if we are to live in truth and peace.  We need the patience and single-mindedness to form that vision of a global community out of the rocks of our own lives and communities, and to build up a vision of the kingdom of God on earth, from life to life, from community to community.  In our own valley of division and darkness, there is an invitation into Oneness, a transforming way to follow.

I believe that you and I are invited.  We are invited over the fences and into the heart of the Trident base.  We are invited down through tunnels and through vaulted doors into the War Room of the Pentagon.  We are invited into acts of ultimate perfect emptiness and compassion in the places of total destruction of life on earth.  We are invited into these places because they are ours.  In the nuclear age we live in darkness, in the absence of God, and the darkness is not separate from ourselves.  Going to the heart of Bangor or the Pentagon will bring no revelation of destruction.  We’ve been there every day of our lives.  In a time of total violence, our love has grown cold.

In walking into the darkness of these places which we know already in ourselves, we may eventually discover a tiny ray of light.  As we go more deeply with more faith and love into our own responsibility for darkness, that ray of light could intensify and fan out into the brilliance of a billion suns.  The Light in our darkness is real.  The transforming unity we seek is here. 

After more prayers, song and a Blessing Bix shared some thoughts with us.  He spoke of what an incredible community this is and how at times when he wanted to flee how different people in the community pulled him back into community.  “I am no more than who you are, or what you are, or who we are together.  And… I kind of have to blame you for the hope… that I could not do any of this without any of you.  But what I am called to, you, probably in greater ways are called to.”

Bix said that the strength of this community is marvelous, and that although the task ahead of us is daunting, the grace is abundant and we can walk in that, and that we should trust our hearts and continue walking and working together.  “To what much is given, much is expected.”

Bix gave thanks for not only coming together today, but for who we are as a community, for the coming together, and for the strength, the power and the grace, the wisdom and the good, and that it is humbling for him to be a part of that.

Bix finished by saying that “the graces you pray for today, I think they come to us as a community.  And I very humbly walk at this particular time, but we are all called and we all have strength beyond imagining, and it all comes from our community.”

After a blessing by Senji Kanaeda from the Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple and a rousing chorus of The Ballad of Disarm Now Plowshares (No, Nay, Never) , Bix said many goodbyes before walking out to the waiting car.  He was smiling all the way.

Although Bix will be in prison for three months his spirit, just like all those spirits present with us today, will be with us both individually and collectively.  I can already hear him calling to us through those thick SeaTac Prison walls – calling us, in Jackie Hudson’s immortal words, to take a step (or even a half step) outside our comforts zones.

We are called.  Can you hear it?

With Peace and Gratitude ,

Leonard

P.S. – I wanted to get this posted right away, so stay tuned for photos tomorrow, and hopefully a video as well.

Bix heads for prison: Living in a deep river of Peace

There will be a prayer sendoff gathering for Bix at Jeans House of Prayer, Thursday Nov 10th from 11:30 to 1PM. All are welcome.  Jean’s House is across the alley behind Guadalupe House ( 1414 Tacoma Ave. South) in Tacoma.

Bix was informed yesterday that he was to report to Sea Tac Federal Prison at 2PM on November 10th. He was sentenced to 3 months in prison for his part in the Y-12 resistance action of July 5, 2010 at the Oak Ridge Tennessee Y-12 Complex. Here the first weapons of mass destruction were made that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and where today old nuclear weapons are being restored to be far more destructive than they once were.

Also this week Bix was told that when his time is completed at Sea Tac he will be going directly into house arrest, for 6 months, for the second part of his incarceration following the Disarm Now Plowshares resistance act of November 2, 2009.

Steve Kelly, currently in solitary confinement for non cooperation, is entering his 8th month at Sea Tac. Though they may not be seeing one another I believe being in the same confining building will bolster each of their spirits.

The following thoughts are Bix’s. His words offer us a glimpse at what motivates his actions at this time of his life; the power of the Resurrection.

Thursday – September 29, 2011
Tacoma – War Memorial Park
 Bill Bichsel

On this September day I was sitting on the knee-high, semi circular
wall that borders the viewing plaza of the Narrows Bridges. I don’t
know if plaza is the right name but it s a place to get a good look at
the bridges and the south Puget Sound.

I was there trying to get inspired by thoughts that would lift me out
of the lifeless malaise that I was feeling. No inspirational thoughts
were coming to me when up the sidewalk to the plaza came five homeless
looking people. There were three guys and a couple. I felt they were
invading my space – my plaza. My control and ownership feelings
yielded to the realization that the plaza belongs to everyone and that
they were probably paying more taxes than I to maintain the park.

I introduced myself to the man who had seated himself on the wall to
my right. “I’m Bill”, I said as we shook hands. He introduced himself
as George. I asked him if he was from Tacoma. “No”, George answered, “
I was born in Korea and lived my early years there. My mother is
Korean and my father was a GI. We lived on Portland Avenue from my 7th
to 10th year. I remember driving past the Dome shopping for
groceries.”

The man sitting on my left side said his name in a mumble, so I didn’t
get it. He was straightening out a page of the News Tribune. Because I
didn’t get his name, I referred to him in my head as ‘paper man’. An
African American guy with a red hat was leaning on the Narrows Bridges
sign. I said, “Bill” and he said, “Red” and our connection was made.

The couple was huddling in the middle of the plaza. It looked like the
woman was calling the plays. They sat down on the wall and the woman
joyfully announced to me that they were on a honeymoon. “I’m really
enjoying it”, she informed all of us. Her partner didn’t say
anything.

Paper man smoothed out the TNT newspaper and put a pill in the middle
of it. He began to break the pill into pieces with his cigarette
lighter. The woman jumped up and jerked her thumb at me as she warned
Paper man and said that I may not be cool. Paper man dismissed her
query with a wave of the hand. Then the woman confronted me, “Are you
cool?” I answered her, “No, I don’t like to see anyone take drugs.”
Paper man spoke out, “No biggie – it’s clonopin.” I answered that
clonopin is a drug. Paper man connected the pill to bipolar treatment
as he continued to crush the pill pieces into powder. Then he took a
piece from the news page and rolled it into a thin funnel. He put a
funnel into one of his nostrils and lowered his head so that the
funnel sat in the middle of the powder pile. With one snort he sucked
up all of the powder. Then he stood erect and bent his head back and
breathed deeply.

The couple sauntered down the walkway engaged in one-way
communication. Paper man, Red, and George were quiet and into their
own thoughts. In this quiet interlude I asked them if the name,
Caroline Fick, was familiar to them. “Yeah,” said Paper man, “she
jumped off the bridge.” Red added that she had hit the railroad tracks
and not the water. I asked them how they knew about her suicide. Paper
man thought that I was the one who informed him – over a year ago. Red
and Paper man began to list guys who came into the park whom Caroline
knew and had helped them with food, tobacco, and blankets. (She was
very resourceful and knew where to go for supplies for her homeless
friends.)

Some of the guys that they mentioned had died in the last year. One of
the guys lost his leg and another lost his foot because of diabetes.
Most of the park homeless crew had teeth rotting out of their mouths.

One of the reasons I had come to the Plaza this day was to remember
Caroline. She was homeless the last year of her life after she had
been evicted from the Flamingo Apartments on 6th Avenue where she had
lived for 10 years. During the time that she lived there, she made
sure that her stretch of 6th Avenue – from Skyline to Jackson – was
clean of bottles and debris. Afterword’s, she would call me to let me
know that she had completed a clean sweep of her adopted area of 6th
Avenue. She would end her report with a crisp, “over and out,” finish.

Caroline was a very compassionate and caring person who easily came to
people’s aid. She was a small “c” Catholic who had a great devotion to
Mary and the rosary. She would feel bad and at times indignant if she
was treated poorly at her church.

For the last year of her life Caroline’s dad tried hard to get her out
of homelessness into a safe living situation. He was payee for the SSI
(Social Security disability) check that she received monthly. Without
his stewardship, all of her money would have been gone in a flash. I
worked with her father to find a suitable place. On two occasions we
had arranged for her to stay at the Family Shelter. The first time she
didn’t show. The second time, the Family Shelter didn’t think she
would be a good candidate because of her drinking.

I was thinking of her staying at Jean’s House of the Catholic Worker
where I live. However, the Catholic Worker has such a strong
prohibition against drinking that I didn’t think it would work. After
I learned of Caroline’s suicide jump off the bridge, I felt deep
remorse and guilt that I didn’t do more to help her out of her
homelessness. I felt the loss of a dear friend who would be ready to
help anyone she could. I still question my caution about not taking
her in.

I taught Caroline’s father at Bellarmine High School and came to know
Caroline as a teenage girl when I presided at her brother’s funeral.
Her brother’s death in a car accident caused her and her family much
grief and sorrow. In the accident, her brother was trapped in the car
which burst into flames.

Over the years Caroline suffered other pains and losses but never
played the self-pity part. She took things as they came. After she
completed high school she didn’t go on for further formal education.
However, she was very bright and learned things quickly. I still feel
a loss of her and remorse that I was too cautious in coming to her
aid.

Another reason that I came to the plaza is because of an experience of
the Resurrection that I had in that place. I try to reconnect with
that experience. The experience needs some background narration.

A few years back, in my preparation to do a protest action at the
Trident submarine base at Bangor, I traveled to the grave of Chief
Joseph in Nespelem Washington on the Colville Reservation. His spirit
speaks quietly and strongly to my soul. I wanted to spend some days
there on retreat living in the Jesuit parish church next to the
graveyard. Much of my time was spent being quiet next to his grave.
The spirit of the chief who quit his heroic struggle with the US
cavalry in order to save his people rises out of the earth. With his
words, “From where the sun now sets, I will fight no more forever.” he
stopped the violence of the US cavalry and the violence that comes out
of battle. His compassion, humility, and strength lighted his path of
nonviolence.

Through the inspiration of Chief Joseph, I wanted to reflect more on
nonviolence. I had a tape on nonviolence done by Father Charles
Emanuel McCarthy which I listened to. In the tape, Charles McCarthy
spoke of the uncanny power of nonviolence when it is practiced as a
way of life. By way of example, he pointed out an incident in the life
Clarence Jordan, founder of the Kornneia Community near Americus,
Georgia. With the inspiration of Jordan, white and black farming
families had joined together in the 40s to form this community. This
did not set well with the white population of Americus. Once a week a
segment of the white population would drive by the community and shoot
their guns over the houses – sometimes into the houses. After failed
tries for understanding with the belligerent white population,
Clarence Jordan engaged the main perpetrators in a long conversation
and was able to defuse the violence. McCarthy attributed the outcome
to the life-power of nonviolence practiced daily by Jordan; and
further explained that by his actions, Jordan had witnessed to the
power of the Resurrection.

In my time of retreat and prayer at Nespelem, I had been led by Chief
Joseph to Clarence Jordan to the life giving power of the
Resurrection. A week after my retreat in Nespelem, I drove to the War
Memorial Park. I drove there often in the hope of enlightenment of
heart and soul. Usually I would get an 8 ounce latte to take with me
into the park for my quiet time of reflection. And usually I would
fall asleep after a few minutes of trying to reflect. This day, I went
down the sidewalk leading to the war Memorial Wall but which also has
a branch sidewalk leading up to the plaza. As often was the case, I
would meet and talk with homeless people sitting on the side of the
walkway. This day some were familiar and some were new.

I followed the branch sidewalk leading to the plaza and slowly walked
in slow circles. As I walked I began to think of Clarence Jordan
witnessing to the power of the Resurrection. A feeling of deep peace
came over me. I was experiencing Resurrection as an outpouring of life
and hopefulness. It was a feeling of being in a gently flowing river
whose current was more like air than the ordinary river flow. It was
lightsome and joyful and strengthening. I felt this deep life-giving
power being present.

I wanted, in some way, to witness to this power of resurrection in the
place of death which was the nuclear weapon citadel at Bangor,
Washington. A while after this experience I did a protest action with
others at Bangor. We went to court and the case was dismissed because
of faulty government evidence. Later on – November 2, 2009 – five of
us cut our way into where the nuclear weapons at Bangor are stored. We
all experienced a great joy after being arrested, cuffed, hooded, and
forced flat onto the cold earth. It came to me that beyond my furthest
hopes, we were witnessing to the power of the Resurrection. Even in
this place of fear, death, and hopelessness, the power of life, hope,
and love can rise.

Well, on this September day I said goodbye to Paper Man, Red, and
George and headed down the sidewalk. What will become of them? In the
ordinary course of life in our cities and towns I know they will never
receive the resources needed for a full human life. They will not be
recipients of health care, education, employment, or housing. Nor will
they become respected members of an established community. They will
drift and die – unknown and un-honored.

These thoughts led me to an inner feeling of futility. I imagined the
inner workings of the US to be a robot-like monster with an insatiable
hunger that needs vulnerable people to feed on. This robot needs
homeless people, those losing their houses, prison and probation
populations, black and Hispanic struggling people, children, laid-off
workers, gay and lesbian people, and working poor families. This robot
is at the beck and call of the corporate militarized power command of
the US which sustains its functioning.

These thoughts brought me feelings of futility; thoughts of how deeply
embedded American people are in this culture of death when we allow
our vulnerable to disappear and consent to the use of nuclear weapons
which will bring global death to millions. I questioned whether my
actions of resisting nuclear weapon were in any way helping the
vulnerable ones.

Once again the questioning brought the realization that it is through
connection with these vulnerable ones that I can know what to do. They
take me by the hand and lead me to know whether I’m helping or
hindering our way out of the bondage to the death machine. They lead
me in the way of compassion; if they are not free I am not free. As
long as I’m in contact with them, I’m grounded in my work to resist
nuclear weapons which divert resources from the vulnerable.

The war Memorial Park is a good place for me to reflect. It houses the
brave servicemen and women who have given their lives in US wars. I
went to high school with some of the men whose names are on the
memorial wall. They were young, generous, brave, and dedicated. I take
time to honor them; I do not honor the wars into which they were
drawn.

In the evening in the war Memorial Park there is the song of the birds
coming from the surrounding trees. The chirp and twitter of the song
slows down my pace, and a tweet and whistle and cooing and crooning
calls me to stillness – to listen to the harmony of creation. Their
song heralds peaceful meadows where people can live in peace. As long
as the birds can sing their different songs there will be an earth
harmony that can quiet our souls and unclench our minds. The bird song
announces peace and nonviolence in our land.

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