(Written by Timothy Wotring)
“I am open and I am willing
For to be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change” – from George Mann’s “I am willing”
I sat on a median of dried yellow grass as a choir of folk singers belted out these lyrics on stage. The surrounding crowd was full of the bright-eyed college students, older peace and justice activists, nuns and priests, peace-loving hippies, and every leftie in-between. I sat there grateful; indeed, keeping in mind the activists that have paved the way for us to demonstrate.
We participated in the rally on Saturday at Fort Benning. We shared stories with other activists about foreign policy, drones, activism and hip-hop, as well as immigration policy, liberation theology, and the Catholic Worker. We arrived onsite at noon and walking onto the premises, we were invited by puppeteers to join their play that would take place both days. More than half of our group took up their offer. The play comprised of trees, cornstalks, the four elements of the Earth, and chainsaws representative of the military, Congress, the NSA, and money. The four elements: water, wind, fire, earth stopped the chainsaws from chopping down any more trees and presented the crowd with alternative visions of the world. It was such a beautiful performance and it concluded with my favorite chant, “The people united will never be defeated!”
The puppet performance ended the rally at Fort Benning. So we headed to the conference center and attended workshops, listened to speakers, and engaged with booth venders. A few of us attended John Dear’s workshop, which had a wonderful and wholesome message on nonviolence. How one can practice it personally, interpersonally, and globally. Other students, such as Alejandro Escantle and Emily Hamilton were involved in serving communion at the Inclusive Catholic service. We, Union students, were deeply involved in the activities at the SOA protest and enjoyed every minute of it.
My time there was transformative. It was a wake up call for me to find a community of activists in NYC. I have lacked in my once aggressive fight for social justice and know I need to return to my roots. Although, the SOA protest had fewer participants than it had in previous years 1,750 persons, still an energetic spirit of hope and love that transcends any number of people was present. The challenge of justice is that it never rests until it is fulfilled. I pray that I may seek more intensely while at Union and beyond.