VINCENT SCOTTI EIRENÉ Foreword by Mark Vender Vennen


Barbary Shore

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoncommercialNo Derivative Works 3.0 License. Published by Barbary Shore, Pittsburgh.

This book would not have been possible if it was not for the love of my family: Rebecca, Caitlin and Chenoa.


CONTENTS i. Foreword by Mark Vander Vennen 1. Molly’s Clear Broth Chicken Soup 7. Uncle Joe Goes To The Circus 11. 1968: What 35¢ Will Buy You 13. I Thought You Had The Handcuffs! 17. On The Road 25. The Children Of Edward Abbey 31. The Brains Of Auschwiz 43. Olympic Reflections 51. Caitlin Is Born 55. Crime And Punishment 59. Italian Toast, Margarine On The Side, Please 63. Winking At Fallujah 67. Empty Playgrounds 71. The Last Visit To My Father 75. From Pittsburgh To New Orleans 79. Malik Rahim 91. Community and Nonviolent Confrontation 101. Pilgrimage to Los Alamos

Foreword: The Art of Peacemaking Mark Vander Vennen The Day the Empire Fell is a remarkable book, and I am delighted to commend it to you. Vincent Scotti Eirené is a consummate storyteller. In this book he offers poetic vignettes about his family and his lifelong journey into nonviolent peacemaking. Along the way he takes us across the country, from Pittsburgh to Chicago, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, the White House, New Orleans, Atlanta, and even beyond, to Fallujah and Baghdad. We meet an assortment of colorful characters, people like


Grandma Molly, Phillip Berrigan, Hungry Bear, Uncle Joe, Black Panther Malik Rahim, Martin Sheen, judges, lawyers, activists and others. Stitched together, the stories serve as a striking miniature of our age. They form a snapshot of a time in American history, flashes of what Jack Kerouac did for an earlier era with his book On the Road. Throughout these finely rendered stories, Vincent’s reflections are tender, and his juxtapositions are startling. For me, all of them come together naturally in one theme: the art of peacemaking. And at least two aspects of that theme stand out. The first is humor. These vignettes illustrate that humor is at the core of Vincent’s peacemaking. Humor is not an interesting add-on, nor is it simply an endearing aspect of Vincent’s personality. On the contrary, humor is an essential tool by which we creatively engage people. It is the door into building respectful and genuine


relationships with one’s opponents, without which peace is impossible. I know of no one who knows this—and practices it—better than Vincent. Vincent is to peacemaking what Patch Adams is to medicine. The second theme is nonviolence, and it is this which is the central plea of the book. Violence is nonpartisan. It runs underneath the polarizations of our age, such as the Left and the Right. Vincent uses poignant stories from his own family to show that the confrontation between violence and nonviolence lies within our own hearts. This book serves as a clarion call: perhaps at no time in American history is nonviolent direct action, in the spirit of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, more desperately needed than today. History has done its cruel work of largely sanitizing the legacies of Ghandi and King. Daniel Berrigan has pointed out that while the remnant of the peace movement attempts to assess the damage done to Iraq, it has avoided assessing the damage done to


our moral conscience that will allow the next war to occur. Today an ideology of fear and hate has sanctioned, without questioning, unprecedented economic and military violence, done in our names, even in the name of Christianity. But Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Nonviolence introduces an incisive, comprehensive alternative to the “logic” of self-interest and the cynical, reactive patterns of violence. It throws up a mirror that forces us to confront ourselves. On these pages Vincent tells stories; let me tell two stories which illustrate that Vincent walks what he talks. In the early 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, Vincent and I participated in Christian Peacemakers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Christian Peacemakers undertook nonviolent civil disobedience at the U.S. Steel Building in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then headquarters of Rockwell International, the third largest military contractor in the United States. At one such witness, a police officer


dragged Vincent away by his hair. Though in obvious pain, Vincent responded beautifully, in accordance with our training in nonviolence: he did not resist. An anti-war bystander, a selfdescribed Leftist, ran up to the scene and yelled, “Hey listen, he’s a human being, you [expletive] pig!” Later, when Vincent told this story to his close friend Phillip Berrigan, I remember Phil laughing, laughing and laughing some more, his laughter deep and free. In the 1990s Vincent was falsely accused of assaulting a police oficer at a demonstration. The reverse had actually happened: a number of policemen had viciously assaulted Vincent. A crucial character witness in Vincent’s defense was the retired Head of Security at the U.S. Steel Building. Vincent had developed such a mutually respectful and genuine relationship with him over the years that the Security Head was delighted to testify on Vince’s behalf (as were Phil Berrigan and actor Martin Sheen). The testimony of the


police was such that at various points during the trial the spectators, jury and judge broke out into laughter. The jury rightly declared Vincent innocent of the trumped-up charges. Finally, a word of advice. Never let Vincent leave a restaurant ahead of you. At the door, he will turn and address the entire restaurant with an enthusiastic “good night everybody”. In the time that it takes the patrons to turn towards the door, Vincent will have left, leaving you to face the crowd. In a manner not unlike that scene, this book sets up a confrontation. Like nonviolence itself, it throws up a mirror. I invite you to look steadily into it and ask whether its reflections give a more accurate picture of ourselves and of contemporary America than the narratives given by pundits and academics, stories emanating from the false polarizations of Right and Left.


I am convinced that out of this difficult but courageous personal confrontation with violence, comes peace.
Mark Vander Vennen is the co-author of Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises, Foreword by Desmond Tutu (Baker, 2007).


Molly’s Clear Broth Chicken Soup. Molly married my grandfather in a small town outside of Naples, Italy when she was a teenager. She was brought to America one year later pregnant with no knowledge of English or the American way of life. Molly lived in the United States until she was 79 years old. She died only knowing a small handful of English phrases and never having learned how to drive. She had a tremendous fear of outliving her husband. She knew nothing of the world outside of her Italian neighborhood; her grocer and butcher both spoke Italian. Yet this


humble woman raised and cared for her husband, four sons and two daughters. For my grandmother, whom we called Molly, it was time to be strategic if her family would be fed. It was after World War II and food and other items were rationed so that the government could feed the armed forces. To obtain these basic needs, ration stamps were issued according to the size of your family. Taking advantage of this small opportunity, Molly applied to run a small produce store out of her garage. Back then the feds allowed a 15% spoilage rate. Even when there was not 15% spoilage, she would take it. At the end of each day she would close her makeshift store and allow other mothers with large families to come into the garage. She would lock the door and they would divide the spoils of war. Even before I was born, my father placed boxing gloves over my bedroom door. When I was 4 or 5, he started to throw balls at me. I had no


idea what he was doing. He never realized that I was a southpaw, and kept trying to make me a play ball as if I was right handed. For all I know, if I'd played right, I may have become the next Mickey Mantle. This was not meant to be. Upon realizing I would never be a boxer or basketball player like him, he would go into violent rages and beat me. Knowing that there was no way to meet this problem head on, Molly asked if she could babysit me every Saturday. I loved our Saturdays together. Molly took me shopping in Market Square, a small shopping district in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. We would shop for fresh meat and produce, staples and bread. Upon arriving home she would cook, and cook and cook... she would dramatically hold up a green pepper and say to me, Oh VJ, this pepper is a work of art! How can I bring myself to cut this up? I was so skinny that she would try to feed me for eight hours each Saturday. She would put


honey in a double boiler and throw in tufts of pastry dough, then pour out the cooked nuggets and honey onto the cutting board. She would explain, saying, look VJ, this is struvoli. When I finally escaped my embattled home life and went to school at Ohio State University, I missed Molly the most. I would call her each Saturday, and her voice was soothing in such violent times. In the spring of 1970, all it took was twenty eight seconds of gun fire – four dead and ten wounded – to sound the end of Hope and the sixties at Kent State. The campuses went up in flames, and over 250 schools were closed. It would take another five years until the war was slowed down to the point that the US lost. In April 1975, the world's mightiest military was pushed out of a country the size of New Jersey. Over 3.2 million Vietnamese had died in this undeclared war. For Molly it was another war that ended her life. Her sons had formed a construction company,


V. Scotti and Sons. The new-found wealth of this first generation Italian-American family tore them limb from limb. There were divorces and accusations of theft. The attempt to pass the concrete construction business to the grandsons failed. They say Molly had a soft heart and that is why she died in 1973, but I knew differently. It was the obscenity of her sons fighting over money. It broke her heart. Months before she died, I called her and asked her to share an old family secret. Molly, I asked, how did you make your chicken soup broth clear? She answered, well VJ, let me tell you: I strain the broth through asbestos cheese cloth. Well, I thought, we can’t all be perfect.


Uncle Joe Goes to the Circus. Light years before the Pentagon was levitated, or Timothy Leary was kicked out of Harvard for proclaiming far and wide the benefits of LSD, or the armies of the night thrust flowers into the barrels of M-16s at the Pentagon, or the Black Panthers initiated their breakfast program... way before Abbie Hoffman ordered us to shoot our parents or the Pieman took aim at the homoterrified orange juice queen Anita Bryant... before the Yippies hatched the idea to throw dollars onto the floor of the stock exchange or Vietnam Veterans threw their Purple Hearts on to the steps


of Congress... before Martin Luther King went to Memphis, Uncle Joe took us to the circus. It was 1958 and after much booming, millions of post-war babies were let loose onto the world. Here in the USA, in Pittsburgh, the Scottis were doing their part; they had conceived thirty-three first cousins (including the Navarros, Della Gattis, Zaccharos and the Della Vecchias) into this blossoming Italian-American family. With great expectation we sat in darkness on dirty bleachers, with an offensive acidic smell in the air. From the sky came a single beam of light that landed on a little man with a big manual megaphone to announce the night's activities. Women and men flew through the air, human cannon balls crossed the sky, elephants moved to their knees and gave out an other worldly bellow, tigers leapt through flaming hoops. A little car screamed across the big top floor and crashed into a pole and out of the cracked shell of the car emerged a thousand clowns.


When my father, Adolfo, returned from WWII, he and his father Vincenzo were asked if they could pour cement sidewalks. They were amused by the question and answered in the affirmative. Then father and son were asked if they could construct all of the sidewalks in Mt. Lebanon Township. What had been an unobtainable treasure could now be gained by crisscrossing a sea of suburban green lawns with concrete paths. That is when the trouble began. As the iced Cokes and pillows of cotton candy were passed down the row to legions of squealing boomers, my father bent way down and whispered in my ear: Look at Uncle Joe. I looked over, his body shaking with laughter, he was imitating one of the clowns. He had a fist full of dollar bills, which he passed out to us... See Uncle Joe, my father said. He will never amount to anything. Do not be like Uncle Joe! Save your money and make something of yourself!


Epochs before the John and Yoko bed-in for peace I realized who I was to be like, that I must run away and join the circus and that I must never never save my money. For Uncle Joe showed me that money is only valuable when given away. Uncle Joe died in 1984, outside the favor of his nuclear family. At the time of his death, he was volunteering his time teaching concrete construction to convicts at Pennsylvania’s Western Penitentiary.


1968: What Thirty-Five Cents Will Buy You. I reached into my pocket and pulled out thirtyfive cents. I had a decision to make: should I buy a pack of Larks? Buy lunch? Skip school and take a trolley downtown? As I climbed aboard the South Hills/Drake Line trolley the driver looked upon me with suspicion. Why was I not in school? Weeks before as we were sitting in class, we watched curiously out the window as local police arrested some college students for trespassing on school property. We rushed to the edge of campus to meet these intruders, college students, anti-war activists, and were met with people just a few


years older than us. They were dressed in army trench coats, with patches that seemed to mock the military garb. They told us of a demonstration against the war, calling for a ceasefire, a moratorium. Behind the eyes of these Pitt students was a wild desperation. I promised myself I would go. As I left the trolley for downtown I was confronted with tens of thousands of suits, dresses and construction workers. Soon I found out that a moratorium against the war meant folk took the day off of work to demand an end to the killing. There was not a hippie in the crowd. This was Pittsburgh and people, normal people, were angry. Enough people had died. Enough had been killed. The buttons of that day screamed: Out Now!


I Thought You Had the Handcuffs! With Phillip Berrigan we planned various acts of civil disobedience. The beauty of this type of witness is that it pulls the opponents into a drama that they have no interest in being part of. This is an effective and faithful way to break up the false consensus that surrounded the building of five nuclear weapons a day, the US contribution to the nuclear arms race. As Phil spoke, we dutifully filled the keyholes of a half a dozen handcuffs with hot wax, making it virtually impossible for the police to unlock them.


Trying to appear normal as we entered the White House tour provided the day’s only comic relief. No matter how you dressed up these nuclear resisters we just did not fit in. We tucked our hair up under our hats, put on sports coats and dresses and “blended in.” On cue we made a break with the tour and sped across the White House lawn for our goal post, the White House fence. This was not part of the plan. The previous week a man had been killed by the Secret Service for running towards the White House swinging a pipe. Federal marshals were chasing us across the lawn and warned us that we should halt or they would shoot. We ran forward even faster, as if we could outrun even a speeding bullet. Upon reaching the White House fence, we stood there in disbelief that our support people were nowhere in sight. Phil, upon hearing we were running across the lawn, pushed people out of the way to see if we were alive. Finally, someone appeared and threw the


handcuffs over the fence. They fell a bit short of their mark - the handcuffs landed at the feet of the police. The police smiled and assumed the gig was up. But somewhere deep inside of us, the anger of being reminded of our mortality, and of our future being taken from us, gave us the strength of survival and, possessed by God’s will to preserve, we wrestled the police to the ground and tore the cuffs from their hands. We snapped the handcuffs shut around the White House fence. Unknown to us, Jimmy Carter and concerned congress people were watching this entire fiasco. They were in the middle of a secret meeting, plotting the demise of this unpopular weapon. The international media moved in, shoving for a good shoot of the unwanted White House guests. Several hundred miles away Adolf Scotti, my father, had sat down to his traditional Sunday spaghetti dinner. As the spaghetti sauce dripped onto his freshly pressed, starched white shirt, the


TV screen at the end of the table filled up with his son’s face and long curls. He sat there in disbelief as I shouted: Just as these chains are being cut, so we must free ourselves from the chains that bind us to this nuclear madness! My father swung toward the TV and spat out: And for this I sent him to Ohio State?


On the Road. In the Hebrew Scriptures much is written about Sabbath, meaning “rest of God.” Believers in antiquity were even instructed to allow their fields to lay fallow so they could be naturally replenished. So too, with the human heart, one can only witness so much suffering before they themselves become unresponsive. After a fourth person in my neighborhood of Manchester on Pittsburgh’s North side died from gang violence, those who support my hospice for the homeless insisted that I take a sabbatical. With much trepidation I handed the sanctuary


for the homeless over to another community. I reduced my possessions to three boxes, including my pastel art, videos of various peace actions, my scrapbooks and manuscripts. A bit unnerved, I released them to a friend, who periodically assured me that they were safe under her bed. I bought a three hundred dollar Dodge Aries, met a young hipster named Blackwater to share expenses, and we headed to points unknown. The first stop was Chicago. I visited a friend, who is a radical feminist visual artist. We made it just in time for her art opening. Once there I was overcome with this sinking feeling in my stomach that my time on the road was a mistake. I was surrounded by the most arrogant people, dipping their strawberries in fresh whipped cream. Facing the gang wars in Pittsburgh seemed more advantageous. Our next step: Boulder, Colorado. Here we stayed with some Gothic Death Rockers. Even


these pale bohemians would have tested the patience of Manny Theiner, Pittsburgh’s best known music/culture revolutionary. How many times can one listen to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead?” Walls were painted black, and a cage was filled with screeching exotic parrots, unnervingly imitating the high-pitched shrill of a smoke detector. I was told that tonight the Zombie Tribe would assemble for some home-grown entertainment. As Lurch played the hurdy-gurdy out came a rendition of belly dancing only to be matched by Laurel and Hardy. Now I was absolutely convinced that I had made a big mistake leaving my home town. Yet Blackwater convinced me to push on to the West Coast. If one is to survive economically on the road food is a big issue, so preached my back-to-theEarth guru and co-pilot. I was, literally, spoon-fed millet day and night. Millet is a lot like the manna that fell from Heaven and caused the Israelites to


go insane, to turn their backs on God and engage in less than kosher feasts. Millet, millet, millet... millet cereal with honey, millet patties, millet stew with onions and spices. I am a vegan, but I could see the pagan fires in the distant night, beckoning me to infidelity. No road movie is complete without an encounter with the enemy of the road, the state police. Just outside of Denver we were stopped by a policeman who had a remarkable resemblance to one of the corrections officers in Cool Hand Luke. My mind raced, my heart pounded. At the time, there was an active warrant out for my failing to appear at a trial for blocking the doors at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) last August 6th, Hiroshima Day. Would the computer reveal my fugitive status? But running my plate would have followed linear thinking, and this situation would not yield to that.


In an unprecedented move the cop asked me to come back to his car. He asked, where are you going? His knuckles had turned white from the the crushing grip on his gun handle. I would not answer. Then he s pi t out , Why did you leave Pittsburgh? I obtained a glimpse of what Kennedy and Khrushchev must have felt during the Cuban Missile Crisis, face-to-face, staring eyes painfully dry. So I blinked and mischievously told him the truth. I told him about my need for time off, this fall and winter national speaking tour, about the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I told him of my plans to cross the fence at Los Alamos National Labs in January 1995. The state policeman ever so slowly removed his sunglasses to reveal a fresh black eye. As if speaking to an annoying dog, he simply


exclaimed: “Geeeet out!” Twenty-six hundred miles and thirteen tanks of gas later, we arrived at the West Coast. Out of the car I stepped into Eugene, Oregon’s festive Saturday farmer’s market. There my eyes met a large, hairy man with dreads. His eyes revealed a young man I’d not seen since the raging peace marches in 1991 against the first US killing in Iraq. We laughed at this serendipitous path crossing. He was now Hungry Bear, a hemp advocate. He sat me down and told me of the West Coast criminalization of the homeless and harassment of colorful people. He led me to various people who are fighting against this injustice. So I traveled to San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and San Diego. I zig-zagged up and down the coast in disbelief of the darkside of paradise, all victims of America’s last cottage industry, tourism. The unsightly were arrested for sitting or sleeping in public. Riot police were


arresting people for running a restaurant without a license (feeding the homeless). Monthly sweeps of the city in which anyone not fitting into the social landscape (anyone other than the hipwazee, in their shorts and sunglasses) was arrested. This was an ugly side of America, unseen in the conservative east. Contrasted with the West Coast's response to the homeless, Pittsburgh seemed like the city where you should wear flowers in your hair when visiting. The previous winter members of the city's police force, homeless advocates and the media searched the streets, saving the lives of our city's lesser members by finding people under bridges, in parking lots, in alleys and taking them indoors before the life-threatening blizzard hit. While in Eugene, Oregon, some environmental warriors invited me to drive nine hundred miles to a march against logging in central Idaho. The logging industry was clear-cutting hundreds of acres of our last and largest wilderness areas, and I


wanted to see this first hand. They warned me of the danger involved in a proposed march through logging country, and then we dumpster-dove for a load of not-so-perfect peaches. My next stop was Dixie, Idaho, to join Earth First!


The Children of Edward Abbey. Edward Abbey was an American iconoclast. Born in 1927 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, he has been called the “Thoreau of the American West” for his book Desert Solitaire (1968). He liked to bait environmentalists, shooting guns into the air and tossing the empty beer cans out of his truck as he barreled down America's highways. “What the hell?” he asked me once, before his death in 1989. “The highways are much worse than the litter.” His best known book, The Monkeywrench Gang, was a send-up of all the aspects of the environmental movement, and it was an early inspiration for Earth First!


In 1994 I left my shelter for the homeless, Duncan and Porter House, to see the United States. I had been living in Manchester, on Pittsburgh's North Side, for a number of years, and I needed a sabbatical. All the people killing each other in my neighborhood, the Crips and the Bloods and the drug deals gone bad were beginning to take its toll. I went on the road for almost two years, ending with my imprisonment for crossing the line at Los Alamos in 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In doing so, I would face “the Guns of Navarone,” the M-16s there, and I wanted to make sure that I saw some of the world before I was possibly killed. I traveled from Pittsburgh to Denver, from Denver to Eugene, from Eugene to Seattle, and finally back to Eugene to live for a while with Hungry Bear, a hemp cook and farmer, and an advocate for medical marijuana. When the time came for me to leave Eugene, I met a woman who asked me to drive with her to Dixie, Idaho, where Earth First! was


fighting the loggers. I said, well, isn't Dixie, Idaho a long way from here? No, she said, it's not that far. And it turned out to be some nine hundred miles. The philosophies of the various members of Earth First! and myself were much different. On one hand, these folk were picking up where we left off in the sixties and seventies, after decades of violence inflicted upon the Earth. On the other hand, they seemed to be reacting to the activism of the sixties and their parent's nonviolence. And a lot of them were acting very macho, and talking like thugs, and they were talking about blowing this up, and getting guns for the revolution, and blowing up dams and burning up condos and trashing SUVs, and it was all very offensive to me. From Dixie, we hiked seventy-five miles into central Idaho. When we reached the forest that was earmarked for destruction, I could see that the anger of my friends was more than justified. We


lived outside and we ate outside in the most hostile environment imaginable. Like the civil rights movement in the sixties, the people living in this area couldn't hide their contempt for us. One would have to travel sixty miles for gasoline, forty miles for supplies. There was a lot of hostility directed at the environmentalists. People had been shot at, people had been injured doing this. And where they did the clear cutting, it looked like the moon – there were no trees at all, and black flies everywhere, biting us – and we realized that this is what the lumber company wanted to do to the entire region. William Stringfellow, an Episcopal theologian, once said that in the future – and of course, that means now – “every relationship, whether between nations, states or our relationship with ourselves would be marked by violence.” The destruction of another country through war, and the destruction of the environment, the trees, which allow us to breathe, all of this is being done just so people can


make money. This destruction seems to be employed in every aspect of our lives. So I felt that the sabotage, the monkeywrenching that was happening was wrong. I felt, and I still feel, that our action, and our activism, must come from a place of love and respect, like Gandhi driving the British out of India. This led to some very long late-night discussions. And Gandhi, too, used to get in trouble for this. He would stay up late at night, talking to the violent anarchists. He enjoyed their company, and he felt that their anger and passion were more in line with his desire to see change than the passivity of his religious friends. It took us about twelve days to reach our destination. When we arrived, almost immediately we received word that we had won, that this lumber company would be pulling out of the forest. As we hiked, a lot of attention had come our way: there were articles in the New York Times, the


lumber company was being sued, and all the people who were clear cutting this forest couldn't handle the controversy. That is the beauty of this type of action: it draws the other side into a game that they are incapable of playing. Here I was in the forest with these people who had been talking about the acts of sabotage that they had been “not committing” for years, and we were employing the nonviolent method of an open air march. And we won.


The Brains Of Auschwitz. Interview by Claire P. Rivlin in The Student Union. How long have you been an activist? I have been engaging in some form of activism since I was sixteen, in 1968, the Vietnam era. For the last thirteen years I have attempted to speak some truth to the powers about the nuclear arms race, and I have been in and out of prison, believing it's only by transgressing the law that we can get to the heart of the injustice.


What do you know about Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute? How would you characterize it? SEI is not some computer engineering firm. It is central to enhancing every aspect of military software and is central to the Department of Defense. SEI is the brains of Auschwitz. What do you mean, "the brains of Auschwitz?" What I mean is that there were a lot of people involved with the genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany who felt they were not responsible for the hideous crimes because they were not "directly" involved in the actual murders of innocent people. But in fact everyone was guilty, from citizens all the way up to those who turned the valves releasing the gas and those who fired the ovens. Nuclear holocaust is even worse because it is not simply racial genocide, but the killing of every living thing. So whether we pay our federal taxes that enable our country to make


five nuclear weapons a day or work at SEI or Pittsburgh’s Rockwell International (the third largest military contractor in the United States), we all stand before history as premeditated murderers. What about the SEI statements that they are a software research organization, simply doing research to discover information which could lead to anything? Almost all of its funding comes from the Department of Defense (DoD). Now if they aren't doing anything for the DoD, why are they being funded? Well, they say the National Science Foundation is unable to fund them. I don't want a society organized like that. I don't want the DoD enhancing software for a trauma center at a hospital as they said they're doing. That's the job of Health and Human Services, the old HEW-Health, Education, and


Welfare. You're not going to tell me that the military, the DoD and all the military brass, are running in and out of SEI, that there is no type of military value. That's not double-speak, it is beyond double-speak. It is a lie. So what's the solution, to burn down the building to stop it from functioning? The answer, I believe, is a very thoughtful, very loving and systematic nonviolent disruption of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and SEI. I still believe that my ideas are not obtuse. Now here's a problem. We are not Gandhi's Indians, we are not Martin Luther King's blacks, we are not the early union people, we are not even the protesters of the Vietnam war. But the mere survival of humanity depends on the white educated middle class throwing off its selfishness, because in reality we have no aggressor. We are not an occupied country, we are not being racially discriminated against, we are not being shut out of the


workplace; so it's dependent on us. That's why some type of miracle has to happen. We have to act on something beyond self-interest. Do you feel that your attention-getting methods, such as your vigils, have gotten through to the CMU administration and/or SEI? I have talked to people that work at SEI, to professors and faculty, administrators and students, and I feel that slowly but surely by developing relationships with people here, that it will be a combination of the general populous and the CMU community that is going to bring about the disarmament of CMU. We just have to do what's right because it's right, not because it works. Now you were fined for dumping 100 pounds of ashes on the steps of SEI... If we could go back a bit, it's been since September first of last year that as a community we have focused on SEI. And so, when we came to


campus a year ago, to leaflet, the police told us that we would face arrest for trespassing on private property. When I told them that we would stop leafleting, they proceeded in asking me for ID. When I refused ID, they said they were going to arrest me. And did they? No. I produced some ID and was escorted off campus. Since then, the campus policy has changed. So, a year ago I came here and leafleted every week, up until December 11th, which was the grand opening of SEI: I knelt down in front of the oncoming traffic that was going into the parking lot of SEI, to pray for peace, and was dragged around several times and then finally arrested for obstructing traffic. I spent ten days in jail for that. The third act of civil disobedience was in remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki day, once again vigiling on the steps of SEI, sleeping there


overnight, trying to be thoughtful and mindful of the future that has now become possible. On August 9th, we dumped a hundred pounds of ashes on the front steps of SEI in order to symbolize what people were turned into at Nagasaki. Now the symbolic aspect of it is very important. A symbolic action is a lot like sign language-if somebody can't hear you, then it would be a disservice to speak to them as I am speaking to you now. So you speak in sign language to a society that doesn't hear, to a society that is deaf. I think that it's a disservice to concentrate on the normal methods of raising consciousness, because raised consciousness is not a changed heart, it is not a changed life. Somebody could be aware of an injustice, but that has nothing to do with interdicting that injustice, with engaging the darkness. But if we go back to the dumping of the ashes, I think it was a sign pointing towards a deeper truth. I think we have forgotten how to think, how to speak.


Have a lot of CMU students been supportive of what you're trying to do? I find people this year to be a lot more responsive than I have ever found people, and that gives me a lot of hope. It doesn't mean that somehow there's going to be some type of massive nonviolent confrontation against this injustice. But at least the openness and the curiosity and the willingness is there. So what I did was I had a sign which said, "SEI WAR" and I leafleted and found the students to be very, very, responsive, asking when the next demonstration would be, and I was really caught off guard. This new openness gives us a better chance to speak to the travesty of a university like CMU engaging in such destructive activities as opposed to creative ones. What about the argument, "Well, somebody's got to do it?" Yeah, someone has to destroy humanity. That's just sick. If we're ever going to have love counter


this hate then we've got to speak some type of truth...people are telling me about M&M's and the moon and Johnny Carson, and the reality of the matter is that we're twenty minutes away from our own extinction and that we have to find a moral equivalent to nuclear war. And hopefully, that will be found through some nonviolent battle to purge the evil from our society that has allowed our culture not to even care about the extinction of its own species. Even animals protect their young and we are one step below that...we have not even given the children of society the basic security and right to have a future. Anything else? I think this year will be a significant year in terms of expressing our hearts against the darkness, those representing SEI. I am hopelessly enthusiastic.


In a broader sense, what can people do about this "darkness?" I think that in the time we live in, people should make time. And I think that they should make time for the care of present victims of nuclear war, for the poor and oppressed, the homeless and the physically and mentally disabled. That we should spend our time serving and loving these people, and being their friends and developing non-paternalistic answers so that the poor are not the victims of our concern. And that people should somehow creatively and contemplatively confront the nuclear arms race, live simply in community, that we should share the majority of our money, time, and energy with those who have none. We need to move to the margins of society if there is ever to be any world for those who have not chosen the destruction of our society, if the children are ever to have a future. We need to take this very, very, seriously and yet not hold onto it so


much that we choke the truth out of it. We need to leave a legacy for the future generations that some people were not afraid.


Olympic Reflections. It was late and my article about my trip to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta was not happening. Then the news broke about a pipe bomb exploding at the Olympics during a free concert, with Daddy Mac and the Heart Attacks. Violence is so gray. Anonymous violence is insidious, no preparation can absolutely prevent it. There is no defense. No marching army can defeat terrorism. Like the first Gulf War news reports, the


more we are told about the terror at the Olympics, the less we know. If only the late-breaking news response to this act of terror was applied to the displacement of the poor of Atlanta. Over 15,000 poor people were forcibly removed to make way for the Olympic games. To the disenfranchised people of Atlanta, the Olympic chaos was like the aftermath of a war. Never would the light of TV cameras report this “Olympic defeat.” Food Not Bombs held its Third International Gathering in Atlanta to unmask the Olympic games for what they really were, corporate greed at the expense of the poor of the city. Food Not Bombs has grown to over 130 autonomous chapters throughout the world since it’s inception in Boston in 1990. This anarchistic collective was formed in direct response to the US war in Iraq. Food Not Bombs employs public feedings of the homeless as public commentary on the neglectful violence of poverty and the waste of military


spending. Olympic security forces being housed at Morehouse College (ironically the alma mater of Martin Luther King) had already demonstrated their professional readiness by arresting 74 local residents in the Morehouse College community the week before the Olympic games started. With the added urgency of this news, I planned my Greyhound bus trip down south. There is no fear like the venture into the South for a northern activist. The accents are unnerving. The journey conjures up images of Bull Connors unleashing dogs and hoses on Civil Rights protesters in the 60’s. The closer I got to Atlanta the more my anxiety deepened. I kept seeing flashbacks of “Deliverance” in my mind. I was weary, tired from recent construction work and the mental exhaustion that comes from living communally with our homeless men. These men are elderly, mentally sick, with one lovely, determined man dying of AIDS. I slept all the way to Chattanooga,


Tennessee. Leaving Duncan and Porter Hospitality House for the Homeless made me feel a bit like a representative of some obscure banana republic. Six to nine million homeless are a small nation within America — a nation without a homeland, without a flag to burn, without borders to violate, no history, forgotten — forever wandering. Its citizens remain uninvited to the Games of established nations. Finally, my nineteen-hour journey was over and I found myself asking a security guard, dressed in an unmistakably brand new uniform, directions to the city’s capitol building. For a moment after the directions were politely given there was a blank, hostile, lingering stare. He and others were alerted to the impending protest. It was nine blocks to the capitol building, a brisk walk, welcome after sitting for so long. As I approached the capitol I came upon a gathering crowd, a mix of dirty punk rockers, Food Not


Bombs people and old African American Civil Rights activists. This desperate remnant watched as famed civil rights activist Hosea Williams put an Olympic-style torch to the Georgia state flag. The state flag has included the confederate state flag in its design since 1956 in defiance of a courtordered integration. T h r o u g h a b u l l h o r n t h i s e l d e r l y, statesman/activist shouted, We are not burning the Georgia state flag, but this enslaving Confederate symbol. The nylon flag did not burn, but sort of shriveled. I suggested that the next time they did this it would help to apply a thin layer of sterno. The Georgia state trooper standing by nervously laughed. This was the first day of the Centennial Olympic games. I must admit that I am not comfortable with protests that include burning: book burnings, cross burnings. These seem to better reflect the intolerant hate of our opponents. It is now Sunday, July 28th. I call down to


Atlanta. Food Not Bombs is on their way to the center city, an area called Five Points, to feed the homeless another vegan meal. Part of their nonviolence is to not use any animal products in their meals, another expression of compassion for all living creatures. People are anticipating arrests for feeding in downtown Atlanta, because of new security measures since the terrorist bombing at the Olympics Saturday. I saw a report in which Atlanta officials are claiming that this year five times as much money was spent on the homeless as in previous years. Of course the City Fathers of Atlanta fail to tell the world that Urban Redevelopment money intended for urban renewal (read: removal) was used to tear down a shelter and several businesses, to relocate people from housing projects and to build Olympic housing This new housing will be used after the games to attract productive city dwellers. These model citizens will be able to move into the temporary Olympic shelters (now a glorified


efficiency) for a mere $85,000. Since the explosion there have been 125 bomb scares due to copycat psychos and fearful visitors frightened by unidentified packages. Today security forces at the White House were called to investigate a suspicious package. They cleared the area only to discover a little child’s discarded lunch. It seems that all we have holding us together in America is our fear of each other.


Caitlin Is Born. On June 4, 1998 at 6:49 PM my wife Rebecca gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Caitlin Greer Scotti Eirené was born 7 pounds 9 ounces. After nine months Rebecca went into labor. We called the midwife center and informed them of our imminent arrival. Bored with timing contractions we took a long ride in our 1979 Ford Ranger pick up truck; this rough ride caused Rebecca’s water to break. Finally this eyesore of a work truck had earned its keep! Rebecca was already packed, and I put a few pair of underwear,


socks, and t-shirts in a Giant Eagle blue bag and soon we were at the urban zoo hospital. We had chosen the contemporary room at the midwife center, complete with an adult size swimming pool/bath tub. Joseph and Mary never had it so good. As Rebecca employed every method of encouraging birth, I dove into a thousand page biography about Ché, the revolutionary from the 1960’s. As Rebecca paced the halls and listened to the comforting words of the midwives, Ché was landing in Cuba with Fidel, accompanied by a handful of rag-tag revolutionaries, overthrowing the Batista regime. As we breathed through contractions, the U.S.-backed regime fell. As many attempts were made to bring this pregnancy to term, Dr. Guevara was making his historic motorcycle ride through the mountains of Bolivia. But alas, the best efforts seem to only prolong the birth pangs. We held on to each other, waiting for sleep that would never come, as Ché fought


with Fidel and his brother Raoul… the “revolution” was reflecting the very state-ism, reflecting the very system that they had fought so hard to dismantle. As the doctor dug his heel in and pulled her out with forceps, our first and new daughter made her appearance. The doctor commented on how alert she was, hence her middle name “Greer,” which is Celtic for alert.


Crime and Punishment. I have sat down to write this several times but given the atmosphere of hostility and apathy it seemed pointless. After the brutal murder of 11year-old Scott Drake by Joseph Cornelius, a Pittsburgh homeless man, I even found myself cringing upon seeing the homeless. It was the news that Pittsburgh’s Mayor Tom Murphy created a commission in response to this inexcusable murder that shook me from my fears. This was the same Mayor who attempted to have a high school youth group arrested for “enabling” the homeless by feeding them on a cold winter Sunday morning


and distributing blankets downtown. He went on record as stating, “let the homeless go to Mount Lebanon if they want cared for.” Five years later, the same Mayor approved the arrest of Food Not Bombs members for distributing food in Market Square. Tom Murphy has created and encouraged this hostility toward the homeless and those who would provide “aid and comfort.” Neglect is violence. In Pittsburgh we have the fourth poorest African-American community in the country. It is not a harsh judgment to say that this has not been mentioned from many, if any, pulpits. The homeless have fallen out of favor with the general public. This “issue” no longer inspires people to action. People mistake panhandlers for the homeless. After four years of being panhandled on Forbes Avenue students of the University Of Pittsburgh are drained of compassion. Neglect moves to hostility as Scott Drake’s parents petition the public to clear the streets of Pittsburgh’s North Side of the unsightly forgotten. Members of the


media asked me to be silent for fear that our homemade sanctuary for the homeless would be shut down… or worse. The moment has passed. Joseph and Scott have fallen from the front page and therefore from the short-term consciousness of Pittsburghers. It is no longer news. So here is what I would have said if the media had called: This tragedy is but a dress rehearsal. You cannot cut millions off of welfare and say it has had no effect… such a statement shows the company you keep. We must open our homes to the sick, the destitute, the criminal. If we do not extend this hand of justice the forgotten will visit us and it will not be to thank us. I do not side with Joseph Cornelius, who will surely face capital punishment for his crime. My heart is with the parents of Scott Drake. If retaliation would bring back his son I would be the first to strike a blow. But revenge will not give the peace the Drakes so desperately seek. After 23 years of caring for the homeless, I have never felt


more determined to bring the hidden to light. Let us pray to God to show us a way out of this endless spiral of crime and punishment.


Italian Toast, Margarine On the Side, Please. When I need to think, I go to a little diner that my brother Victor and I used to visit. As a rule, we would go out no earlier than four a.m. Three months ago, in August 2003, he took his own life. As I make my way there after some late-night shopping, I stop to get a Post-Gazette. The man at the 7-Eleven informs me that even though it is three a.m., Monday’s paper has not yet hit the stand. I must have flashed a great sense of disappointment because he proceeded to give me Sunday’s paper for free. People are always giving me stuff.


As I settle into the diner for Italian toast and coffee, I am offended by the spin on the war and the cartoon-like announcement that Billy Graham’s son is going into Iraq with all his resources to help rebuild Iraq. It was reported that more Iraqis have died during the aftermath of “liberation” than during the war itself. There is no clean water, no electricity and bombed-out hospitals. Even the world’s oldest museum was looted, almost a means of self-ethnic cleansing. Where four religions claim that civilization started, at the Tigris and Euphrates, the scene looks like St. John’s vision of the end of the world. The Marines have been informed their stay in Iraq is indefinite. Finally my Italian toast arrives; it smells like the freshly baked loaf of Italian bread grandma Molly used to make. I raise my tired eyes to the waitress. Her eyes fly open and she takes a step back. After regaining her equilibrium she says,


you’re Victor’s brother. Then she stops herself, pauses and disinterestedly asks if I want more coffee. It seems that folk don’t want the responsibility of remembering. And the war goes on...


Winking At Fallujah. As the journalistic delegation made its way to Fallujah, a city north of Baghdad, the landscape seemed to change. I was informed that we were in Sunni country, an anti-American stronghold. As we made our way to this complex of big thick colorful pipes I was amazed at how such a small water purifying station could supply water to over 60,000 people. The Vietnam Veterans Against The War financed its rehabilitation to the tune of $22,000, and seeing this made the whole trip worth it. Whether the water treatment station was a


target of the last two wars or whether it fell into disarray because of the US / UN sanctions does not matter. The end result was the same; without the station, there was no clean water. This was a violation of the Stockholm Convention, a treaty signed by the US which states that to destroy facilities like this amounts to destroying a nation's infrastructure, a violation of international law. This atrocity is unimaginable to those of us in North America, a city without clean, drinkable water, and the disease and social upheaval that comes from such a shortage. But my moment of Zen at Fallujah was interrupted... one driver excitedly suggested we were in danger and that some Sunnis were gathering across the street. I told him that it was not true... in fact, I said, one of the Sunnis just winked at you. He actually jumped backwards at the suggestion! As we rode up and down the highway with Fallujah to our back, the other driver and


translator, Mahr, mockingly winked at him and we all laughed hysterically.


Empty Playgrounds. It is a sort of unwritten principle by radical Catholic Workers that we need not go to war zones to document the suffering. We can see plenty of suffering in our own communities, with the abandoned, those locked away in hospitals, and with those given just enough by the government to starve. Visiting, it is said, is not only a misled act but wasteful. Perhaps that is how we lost the wars in Latin America and South America: everyone came back with his or her obligatory little slide shows, a form of radical voyeurism, a poor substitute for resistance. What was needed was to


disrupt and dismantle the war machine. To this day, people suffer in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, but the Left has moved on to other issues, more fresh and relevant crusades. After being to Iraq I feel that this principle, that we should not venture forth from our communities, is wrong. No photo, article, video clip or audio interview could capture what I perceived in Iraq, that which cannot be electronically rendered. I had witnessed the utter humiliation of the Iraqi people, the shame that they could not stop their country from being destroyed. They simply could not stop the lives of those around them from being ruined. We met a psychologist at the Artist Café in Baghdad. As he talked, and talked, and talked, I zoned out and allowed others to hold the microphone. Upon reviewing his interview I heard what he said but I was still too distracted by the necessary insane pace we kept. Weeks after arriving home I was watching my


children play in a playground. Suddenly, I went into convulsive weeping. I remembered the words of the shrink at the Artist Café, that he was seeking funds to counter the “delayed stress syndrome” of the Iraqi children. When Iraqi children were placed in a room with toys they did not play with each other. Fear of the future bombings have left children terrified of the openness and vulnerability of going to a playground. My children are safe, but the children of Iraq have been robbed of a future and of the simple joys of childhood.


The Last Visit To My Father. My family told me not to come but my intuition whispered, go now. I slipped my hand down to his and grasped it. I stroked his gray hair. He winced in pain...but he was relieved I was there. After having half his cancerous vocal cords removed, he looked strong. Except for the 24 years difference in age, we could have been twins. Even before I was born, my father put boxing gloves above my bedroom door. When I was young, my first memory of him was seeing him laugh... as children we all loved to


laugh. Also I remembered my father would throw all these balls at me, I was too small to understand and would usually fall backwards trying to catch them. As the years went by, Dad could not believe the only thing I threw was a frisbee. When I was eleven I was told it was time to go to work. I would work construction every Saturday and summers until I was 22. We had a large extended family, with 32 first cousins on one side. We were the baby boomers. My father would come home from work, shower, eat dinner and go off to build us a house, on land purchased from some farmer. When we finally moved in, the neighbors were horrified that these wild Italians had arrived in this quiet suburban neighborhood. The green lawns were filled with children. After playing one day I came home and I told my mom and dad some guys roughed me up and said I worshiped Mary. My parents stood silent then quietly cried; they had hoped that Upper St. Clair would save me


from such base prejudice. One night as we watched our black and white TV, a bare-chested man with long bushy hair came on with war paint and a big rifle and screamed, shoot your parents! My Dad said, don't you get any ideas... and we laughed for a long time at our first encounter with Abbie Hoffman. My father would become angry as we watched children being knocked to the ground while protesting segregation in Birmingham. He would sit silent as scenes of the war poured into our living room, as we ate off our TV trays. To my surprise he was enthusiastic when I told him I was applying for conscientious objector status with the Selective Service... I had wrongfully assumed he was for the war. Once during college I asked my Dad if he could help get me some wheels so I could get around at college. He said yes, and shipped me a one-speed bike. I would come home from Ohio


state for the holidays and he would ask me to get my hair cut. I never did. Now the winking and blinking of various machines connected to a tangle of tubes woke me up; he had throat cancer. He had never smoked a day in his life. Stubbornness and his strong body would pull him through this. I unclasped my hand and he pulled me back, so I stayed for a long time...


From Pittsburgh To New Orleans. The light from the fire was unable to pierce the darkness around us. No matter where you sat, the smoke drifted straight towards your eyes. My newfound comrades were drinking what they called “flood water booze." It was presented to me as being a necessary ritual after a day of hurricane clean-up. Yes, you could only find it searching through abandoned homes, but what a prize! People were thrusting these nameless mold- and dirt-encrusted bottles in my face and offering me their newly found stash. I do not drink, so I faked it.


There was a sense of peace in the midst of this post-apocalyptic scenario, as people loaded pieces of what used to be their homes on the fire. It was very late when the party was over and it was time to make it back to St. Mary of the Angels Primary school, abandoned after Hurricane Katrina and the scene of a dramatic rescue; and now our home away from home. The school houses hundreds of volunteers gutting area homes seven days a week. As we slowly walked back, the "war-zone" landscape became acute – metal and wood and dirt in an upheaval, forming twisted sculptures. One of my fellow volunteers, and a bona fide local, Eli, was talking about the trouble he was having with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as we passed through a never-ending corridor of utterly destroyed houses. When we finally arrived at St. Mary's, the only sound was that of the diesel generators droning away, bringing the barest of lighting to our base of operations. The hallway was lit just enough for me


to find my way back to what was once a classroom, and now a mass bedroom. I quietly crawled into my bottom bunk, and quickly fell asleep. This was my first night in what used to be the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. I was a guest of the Common Ground Collective. I have been running the Second Mile Light Hauling and Handyman Service or, should I say, it has been running me. I perform odd jobs – moving furniture, cleaning out basements and taking junk to the dump. The work is hard, but being outside and searching for the perfect vegan breakfast makes it worthwhile. More importantly, being selfemployed is the springboard for freedom to act. Since Hurricane Katrina, I have heard talk of Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and Common Grounds Collective co-founder. I want to meet him and get the story of the collective's extensive relief operation.


This was my third trip to New Orleans. And in just over two months, hurricane season would descend upon the Gulf Coast once again.


Malik Rahim. Throughout the hero-shy anarchist community, the name of Malik Rahim, a former Black Panther, has come up over and over again. My curiosity was piqued, so I made my way to the Common Ground Collective Relief Operations press conference. We had arrived a bit early and were dismayed at the lack of turnout from the press. Nevertheless, up to the stage lumbered a large old man with graying dreadlocks. I introduced myself and asked if I could interview him after the press conference. He threw back his head and laughed and said,


why not now? As I set up my equipment we talked, like old friends, having much in common from our varied experiences from the Sixties. But more importantly we were still active almost forty years later. We’ve burned too many bridges. Selling out is not an option. Malik was original equipment, he was for real, and as I realized this, I relaxed and a wonderful conversation flowered amid the rubble. Malik, talk to us about when you were young and started to become active. My activism started in 1962 or 63. I saw a very courageous hero of mine, Reverend Avery Alexander, sit at a counter in New Orleans City Hall cafeteria. For that he was jerked off the counter and dragged up two or three flights of stairs to the mayor's office. Then after they talked to the mayor about how he had the nerve to go into the lunch counter, he was dragged back down the stairs. The only reason


why this was happening was because he was black. At that time it truly opened my eyes to just how blatant the racism was. I knew that I had to make a choice, y'know. So my awareness basically started then. My activism itself started in 1970 when I joined the Black Panther Party. Tell us about the Black Panther chapter here. The party was started here by a person named Steve Green who came down under the direction of Geronimo Pratt from Los Angeles to organize, not necessarily a chapter, but to organize. Steve came down with 300 papers, met two brothers and from there they started selling the papers and just going out and raising awareness. I found out they were doing this maybe a month, month and a half after they started. That's when we started what was known as the NCCF: the National Committee to Combat Fascism.


There's a lot of talk about violence and revolution, revolutionary violence and class war – it goes on and on and I'm sure you're surrounded by this talk. I was part of it. I was entrenched in it as a member of the Panther Party. We were armed and we advocated self-defense. One of the greatest, most profound events that ever happened in my life took place when the police came to raid our office and the community surrounded our office. Men in public housing, in the Deep South, surrounded our office and told the police you will not raid this office. What they did was an act of nonviolence, civil disobedience. The police were trying to tell the people to get out of the way, and I'm not talking about ten or twenty or one hundred or two hundred. I'm talking between two to three thousand people surrounding our office to prevent the police getting in. I thought a shootout was going to happen and I figured they'll probably kill us and we'll get some


of them. But it's not justice, you know, it might be revenge but not justice. Every act of violence will be just to the winners and unjust to those who were being victimized. There's no justice in it and without that there can be no peace. I believe that everything I've been doing in the 36 years I've been involved in the struggle for peace and justice --it's all been a glorious experience. I believe I've been blessed to meet some of the greatest people that I would want to meet in my lifetime. Would you mind speaking a bit on the origins of Common Ground? Common Ground came out of Hurricane Katrina. Scott Crow and I founded Common Ground on September 5, 2005. So what you have seen has happened since September 5. At the time, at our kitchen table Sharon Johnson, my partner, had thirty dollars and I had twenty, and with that fifty dollars we started Common Ground. Then we


started contacting activist people we knew on the phone and over the Internet. I even called other people to contact activist people I did not know. Through that chain and the wonderful efforts of Scott and Brandon Darby, we went from four people to twenty. Then one day, I was walking my dog and as I was coming home, I said to myself, what in the world is going on? There were sixty people standing on my porch. Ever since then we have grown. Since September 2005, we have had well over seven to eight thousand volunteers. During spring break we have had over 2,700 volunteers. They have gutted out over three hundred and fifty houses that are now ready to be rebuilt. It will take ten to twelve years to rebuild New Orleans, but it must be rebuilt, in every aspect, by the people of peace and justice. We have done what the government refuses to do and is not capable of doing.


We have been shown around to the different aspects of Common Ground and are amazed. There is so much going on and it's a lot more about justice than about disaster relief. Disaster relief organizations basically deal with natural or national disasters. But see this wasn't a national or natural disaster – this was a national tragedy. People came down because of the tragedy, because of the injustice. We didn't make a call just to those who believe in bringing relief. We made a call to those who stood for peace and justice to come down. Our advocacy is paramount. I told you about what happened with Rev. Avery Alexander. The only other time in my life I saw such an event was in ‘63 or ’64, and then in 2005 when I saw African Americans being denied access into another parish just because they were African American and coming from New Orleans. Nothing in my history prepared me for the fact that here in a state of emergency, with people fleeing for their lives, in America, that one section of


America would be denied access to another population of Americans simply because they are the wrong color. It's obvious that rebuilding is going to take more than a year of two. It's will take a long time to wrench out of the system the injustice it has done. It seems like there's going to be a lot of work for a lot of years. Oh yes, oh yes. The rebuilding of New Orleans will probably take somewhere between ten or twelve years. That's if New Orleans is ever rebuilt, because the first thing we have to do is start thinking smart. We need to stop thinking about preserving or rebuilding levees. We need to start restoring and preserving our wetlands. That's the first thing we need to do. And we need to be talking about really building a strong protection system, one that works with nature rather than trying to control nature. Then we can rebuild our city --a great city, a progressive city, I believe one


of the most progressive cities in the world. And I believe we can. We have opportunities here, such as the opportunity to break the shackles of our fossil fuel dependency. We need to explore this and encourage and implement. No other city has these opportunities. We have the opportunity to turn this big lemon into real lemonade... and I don't believe we can do it unless the activist community, those who truly stand for peace and justice, wherever they are, come and do the work. And that's what I see here. During spring break more than 2,800 students came from 200 universities, and from 8 countries. I mean they came down, answered our call, and they did a wonderful job. They gutted almost 300 homes. Then we did churches, businesses including Kohlman's, and we're doing another one further down the street. We operate three health clinics, one has become a permanent health clinic. All this has happened in seven months, and the only reason why this great phenomenon has


occurred is because of the greatness of the American people. Not the government. I think we have a rich government, a powerful government, but I don't think we have a great government... but I do know the greatness of the American people and of those who really stand for peace and justice. Years after I'm dead and gone, when people think about what happened in New Orleans, they'll always think about the courage and fortitude of those who have made such sacrifices to come down and help in the rebuilding of New Orleans. We have done what the city refused to do, and I'm not talking about the work. I'm talking about bringing people together. For the first time in history of this city you see whites in the Lower Ninth Ward working side by side with AfricanAmericans, in many case whites working inside the houses of African-Americans, to help people get there lives back in order. Just think what that's doing to the racism that's here. Seeing this in the Deep South, I'm telling you this is not someplace


else. During Slavery, half of the slaves who were brought into this country came straight through New Orleans. But now you see people coming and trying to break the edifice we've built to separate ourselves. And it's done more for race relations and offered hope. Our health clinic in Algiers, the first one, started off as a first Aid station. Now we're a fully accredited health facility. We're hoping that one day that health clinic can blossom into a solidarity hospital. We have offered new health services in a community that has been absent of health care for at least the 58 years I've been on this earth. Now they have a permanent health center – and we're doing it, no one but the activist community. When I say 'we', I don't mean just Common Ground, I mean the activist community that is down here, whether people are working for the People's Hurricane Fund, SOS, or other organizations. The great sacrifices they are making


for peace and freedom can't be ignored. You can't ignore the positive change. Well, Malik, it was great to finally meet you. Thank you for your time. Thank you, man. Listen, it's the alternative media that make the difference. There's always been an alternative media in Louisiana, in America. The reason slavery ended is because of the alternative party. Workers' rights are due to the alternative movement. There has always been alternative media to expose the lies of the mainstream and force them to tell the truth. So I thank you.


Community and Nonviolent Confrontation. It was once said by lawyer/theologian, William Stringfellow, that in our age, “every relationship whether between nations, states, or our relationship with ourselves would be marked by violence.” I live in a community that does hospitality for the homeless. In the last months of 1993, on the 1300 block of Sheffield Street where I live, we have seen unprecedented violence. Because of a drug deal gone bad, a 14-year-old girl drew a shotgun and killed her drug contact. Not even a week later, a young man died in a drug overdose.


Recently there was a drive-by shooting less than a block from my home, which severed the spine of an 18-year-old man as he stood on the steps of a church — all this witnessed by a busload of elementary students. Countless times the neighborhood drug task force has broken down people’s doors, in the vain hope of finding drugs. Within our home for the homeless we have seen the fruit of years of neglect and abuse that leaves men in their twenties with no hope for the future. Vietnam veterans and people who are physically or mentally ill, upon their arrival, look as if physically beaten-up. This violence is the result of being forced to call the streets one’s home. They say if an individual feels no remorse after killing someone, that person is insane. Even though we have experienced 3,000 dead in Panama; well over 300,000 dead in Iraq; over $200 billion spent for operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, and Restore Hope; the military


intervention in Somalia; and the threats of air strikes on Bosnia and a military restoration of democracy in Haiti, the list of our enemies still seems endless. After years of confronting the military contracting done at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and its Software Engineering Institute (SEI), I was told that calling into question the relationship between academia and the military was an obscure approach to peace-making. Documentation has confirmed ties between the Computer Science department and Operation Desert Storm. Adding insult to injury, CMU is now peddling to research bomb damage assessment done by its “intelligent” bombs. Insanely, no remorse is felt! The tragic injustice of such a slaughter transpired and transpires at the very cradle of civilization, the Tigris and Euphrates. This moral amnesia of a blind society is indicative of a nation that refuses to see the suffering that it has caused and continues to inflict through sanctions that deny very basic


food and medical supplies to reach an estimated 750 children under the age of five dying every day in Iraq. Dan Berrigan, a Catholic priest and anti-war activist, has stated that while the remnant of the peace movement attempts to assess the damage done to Iraq, it has avoided assessing the damage done to our moral conscience that will allow the next war to occur. With that thought in mind, I would like to recognize four activities/attitudes much needed by those people who try desperately to be compassionate. First, we need to build community and not organizations. If, in fact, our times are marked by violence and our relationships are broken, then within our fragile relations, and within ourselves, we must concentrate our energies to be a community and not concern ourselves with the logistics of building an organization. Once trust is established, the necessary organizational structure will follow. If we are going to capture peoples’


imagination, surely it is not to be through boring routines of meetings, panel discussions, lectures, demonstrations, and fund-raisers. There must be a way to build community through creatively confronting the system, the collective mirror of our fracturedness. This might at first appear as impractical idealism. But one has only to attend these repetitive activities to know these boring routines only inspire pettiness and infighting among groups. Perhaps we need to seek the counsel of those in the arts, the visually oriented, and those in literature, who can teach us about the imagination. Perhaps it is in the context of these communities that we can learn new ways of capturing people’s imagination, which is so desperately needed, as opposed to mastering Robert’s Rules of Order. Secondly, we must bury our glorification of violence and experiment with nonviolence to confront the injustice of war. During the ‘60s I was kept awake countless nights by people who talked


about violent revolution. One time Gandhi did say, “It would be better to pick up a gun than to give way to the cowardice of inactivity,” but of all the hundreds of people I have worked with over the years, not one of these “violent revolutionaries” has ever picked up a gun against an oppressive government or a police force. If you are approached by people who express the necessity for violent revolution while, ironically, employing the tactics of nonviolent demonstrations, tell them this story. Once Malcolm X was confronted by the unjust arrest of two young black men in Harlem in the early ‘60s. He took with him fifty young black men down to the police station. They asked for the release of the two young men, much to the surprise of the all-white police force. Emphatically, he stated that they would not leave until these men were released. He then stated that each member of the group was willing to be arrested himself, if the police did not meet their demands. There was


Malcolm X, the man who said, “By any means necessary,” employing a nonviolent tactic to confront the injustice of the Harlem police. This was a man who at the end of his life refused to call white people devils, and was murdered for this unorthodox belief. Suffice it to say the two men were freed. There is enough hate in the universe. Those who call themselves activists should not add to this through empty violent words. The time for talking is over. Action is needed. Are there fifty people today willing to stand nonviolently in the way of this oppressive nation before it kills again? Thirdly, we must learn, we must struggle to be with the people, the oppressed. Those deemed useless by society must be our closest friends. Our world-view must be completely developed by seeing through their eyes. We don’t do this out of a sense of paternalism or superiority, but out of a sense of solidarity with those who have been abandoned by this dying culture. Tangibly, this


means to move into areas of a city where the poor reside, to travel to parts of the world where the victims of our violence lie, ultimately to become a refugee, an outlaw. Though we will never experience what it is like to be a Salvadoran, a Palestinian, a Vietnamese, an Iraqi, a Native American, a Somali, a Bosnian, to have the daily experience of guns shoved in our faces, to be constantly reminded of the effect of the “intelligence” of U.S. Bombs. Because the oppression of the poor and the victims of war is always legal, we must relinquish our privilege, let no luxury be enjoyed until every need is met. We leave behind forever all academic activism that has us standing detached from the harsh realities we claim to be confronting. Put simply, we no longer call these people “homeless” or “oppressed,” but we call them by name, for they have become our closest friends. Fourthly, and finally, a much-neglected aspect of activism is healing. If we open our hearts to the


realities around us, our most natural response, and I dare say most healthy, is despair. There is in fact something to be depressed about. In our attempts to fight this rotten system we will become wounded. These uncharted waters must be explored if our community and our activism are to reflect any type of longevity in the face of insurmountable odds. We must not give in to our fears. Only love can drive out the fear that has caused us to lack the courage it takes to confront the system of hate. It would be collectively that we discover the nonviolent miracle that will overthrow this murderous empire. My reflections are in the context of the violence within our home for the homeless and on my very block, and of the indiscriminate, senseless murder of our nation’s international meddling coming home. This is why nonviolent confrontation is nothing less than courageous.


Pilgrimage to Los Alamos. Conventional wisdom said that our collective nuclear nightmare was history. The Berlin Wall had come down, the Soviet Union’s economy had collapsed, and so ended the nuclear arms race. The year 1995 marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I had spent the last two years on the road, soaking in the beauty of America before facing the guns of Los Alamos, the birth place of the atomic bomb. Years ago in the New York Times I had stumbled across the fact that Los Alamos National Laboratory was the only place in the country that


assembled the plutonium triggers for both old and new refurbished nuclear weapons. So I made the decision to make a prayer pilgrimage to the labs of Los Alamos as a way of marking the commemoration of the unthinkable. Los Alamos is located in northern New Mexico, atop the Pajarito Plateau in the Jemez Mountains. Almost one and a half miles above sea level, the air is thin and the water boils at 200°F. The flora of the high desert is unusually beautiful, lending a metaphysical aspect to the landscape. The beauty of the ride up the mountain road, the steep walls of the mesa that houses the secret city cannot be expressed in words. You see the siennacolored mountains, the gnarled junipers and the wisp of clouds as you ascend the only road to where the Navajo once lived, evidenced by the Tewa Pueblo ruins – abandoned cliff dwellings dating from about 1225 AD. You only have to look east at sunset, to the Pajarito, and Sangre de Cristo,


to see why the mountains were once called "the blood of Christ." Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the nuclear bomb, had envisioned a laboratory in a beautiful setting that could be an inspiration to his scientists. After witnessing the first nuclear explosion, named Trinity, on July 16th, 1945, he famously quoted the Bhagavad-Gita:
If the radiance of a thousands suns were to burst at once into the sky That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One... I am become Death, The destroyer of Worlds.

Being in this violated paradise I could not help but recall the old story of the Tower of Babel:
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may


reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

At sunrise on January 2, 1995, the first working day of year, I made my way through the driving snow to Area TA-55. As I approached the entrance to the plutonium pit, the only sound was the snow crunching beneath my feet. finally, I came to the road that led to Hell's Kitchen. Once upon the facility, I walked towards the line of vehicles waiting to gain entrance for another day of work. There were two sets of gates. The vehicles were being locked in between them as security searched beneath and around them. As the next automobile entered, I slipped in and let the door come down behind me. Then I knelt down to pray for peace. Immediately, a female guard turned around and asked me what I was doing. Looking up through the driving snow, I replied: I have come here to pray for peace. In a professional manner, the guard cried out, oh, shit!


As if on cue, thirty-six guards appeared, lined up and pointed their M-16s at me. And then we waited. After a very long time the Los Alamos police department arrived. They were visibly frightened. From a safe distance, they slowly asked me if I spoke English, deliberately pronouncing each syllable: Do... you... speak... English? Very carefully, I responded in this same strange lilt: yes... I... do... The female cop asked if I was wired with explosives, pointing to the bulge under my army coat. I assured her that it was only my stomach and she laughed; Khrushchev blinked. The tension melted away and I was cuffed, placed under arrest, and taken to jail. Because of my intrusion all hell had broken loose. I was later to learn that I was the first person to intentionally cross the line at the labs, that no one present knew how to react. The fact that I was able to enter the premises of this highly secured area (one of the most secure places on the planet)


unmolested made my incursion a breach of biblical proportions. After hours spent at the police station (this was before computerized background checks) I was brought before Judge Elaine Morris. Given the number of people in the courtroom police, security personnel, federal agents and several unidentified suits, the court room was tortuously quiet. I sat there, smiling, not participating in the legal proceedings. Finally the judge asked in quiet frustration, why have you come to Los Alamos? I replied, I got here as soon as I could! The courtroom burst into nervous laughter and I was taken to the local pokey with an entourage rivaling that of a visiting dignitary. Refusing to pay the thirty-five dollar fine, I began what would be ninety-seven days of free room and board. The local peace community was very welcoming and supportive. Helen Caldicott, an international anti-nuclear celebrity, went out of her way to visit me during my incarceration. Letters


from all over the country started pouring in from peace folk, and journalists from all over New Mexico made their way up the mountain to meet the intruder. The guards at the facility were puzzled by this unprecedented period of activity. They could not understand why I would choose to remain. Through the Catholic Worker grapevine, Martin Sheen had heard that I was facing a lot of jail time. He called and, surprisingly, the warden gave me five minutes to talk. When Martin told me that he wanted to help, I asked him to attend the trial in April. He assured me that he would be there. At 4:00 AM on the morning of the trial, April 11, 1995, one of the guards woke me up, shouting: = Martin Sheen is here... he flew in on a Lear Jet! So the media circus began. The courts forced a local lawyer on me, Dana Kanter Grubesic, and we got along famously. I told


her that we were not going to present a legal defense, but that we were going to have a lot of fun. She laughed, saying that she liked my nonlegal strategy. The court was tailored made for kangaroos. Martin Sheen kept the focus of his testimony on the continuing nuclear nightmare. High school and college classes were brought in by their teachers, there were lots of federal and nuclear security officials and a gaggle of local peace people. The entire jury of my "peers" consisted of Los Alamos Labs employees. In a letter to the editor of the Albuquerque Journal, a lab employee wrote that the trial was a waste of public money. I replied in my own published letter that the trial was not to be missed, and would be well worth the price of admission. During the proceedings we were prevented from addressing the work that was being done in the labs, in the interest of national security. Martin Sheen's Oscar-worthy performance, however, went


uninterrupted. Afterwards, the D.A. approached him for his autograph. At one point during the trial I was pulled into a room by the FBI. Is it your intention to reveal the security procedures of the lab? I was asked. Every one of them! was my reply. We laughed a long time, and then I asked them if they could send me home by train. Upon being found guilty, the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but the judge refused, saying that she doubted that more jail time would do me any good. I don't think that remorse is something we're going to see here, she said at the sentencing. I don't think that's even a factor. I have no doubt that you'll soon be back doing these kinds of things. With an admonition to never return to Los Alamos, I waved to the bewildered feds as the train pulled away. Conventional wisdom said that with the end of the Cold War, so ended the nuclear nightmare. What we didn't know was that in January, as I


began my third week in jail, the world had come within minutes of nuclear war. In the middle of the night, Russian radar detected a nuclear missile launch from an American submarine heading towards Moscow. Then-President Boris Yeltsin activated the "nuclear briefcase," the first step towards launching the country's some 2,000 nuclear weapons that remain pointed at the United States. Luckily, before he could finalize his decision, the misidentified Norwegian research vessel (which the Russian military had been warned of in advance), plunged safely into the sea and World War III was once again avoided.