Former Catholic priest and liberation theologian Mike Rivage-Seul, who directed Berea College’s Peace and Social Justice Studies Program until his retirement, wrote a poem of sorts about his reaction to Americans standing up and cheering the homecoming of a Marine from Iraq.
In it, he compared the U.S. military to the Nazi S.S. and to the Roman persecutors of Christ. He also called them names like “robo-grunts” and then said we should be kind and merciful to all. Go figure.
Here it is:
Two weeks ago/ Between innings/ Of a Cubs-Pirates game/ At Wrigley Field/ They celebrated a Marine from Iraq — A local boy/ Who emerged from the Cubs’ dugout/ Waving/ To a hero’s welcome/ From a crowd on its feet/ Cheering/ Between swigs of PBR/ As if the poor kid had hit/ A game-winning dinger.
Reluctantly I stood up with the rest./ I now regret my applause./ I should have remembered shaved-headed/ Brain-washed innocents/ Kicking in front doors/ Profaning the sacred portals/ Of everyman’s castle,/ Petrifying children/ Calling their parents “mother f_ _kers”/ And binding tender wrists/ With plastic handcuffs./ To rid the world of evil.
Pitiful lobotomized innocents,/ They are/ Driven to slaughter by poverty/ And debt/ To Haditha, Fallujah, Abu Grahib,/ To weddings transformed in a flash and bang/ Into funerals/ Leaving mourners shocked and awed — “Collateral Murder,”/ By what King called/ The world’s “greatest purveyor of violence”/ And the Sandinista hymn identified as / “The enemy of mankind.”
I should have remembered/ Iraq (and Afghanistan btw)/ Were wars of choice, Of aggression,/ “The supreme international crime.”
Why did I not recall Zechariah? / And the peace-making Messiah / Christians claim he prophesied./ The prophet’s Promised One would be/ Gentle and meek/ Riding an ass/ Rather than a war horse
Or Humvee/ And banishing chariots, cross-bows/ And drones raining hell-fire/ From the skies./ His kingdom disarmed/ Would encompass the entire world./ Refusing to call/ Any of God’s “little ones” (To use our military’s terms of art) “Rag-heads” or “Desert ni_ ggers” / Paul called such imperial hate-speech “flesh.” /(Judging by appearances like skin color, nationality, religion)
“Live according to Christ’s Spirit,” Paul urged. (Compassion for all, works of mercy) No room for door-kickers there.
I should have remembered Jesus And his yoke./ So good and light/ He said Compared with The heavy burdens The Roman War-makers Laid on their subjects Who kicked in Nazareth’s doors And called parents like Joseph and Mary “Mother f_cking Jews.”
Their imperial generals were “learned” and “wise” In the ways of the world But they piled crushing burdens On the shoulders Of those “little ones”
Jesus preferred — In places far from the imperial center/ Like Palestine (or Iraq today)./ Victims there might be out of sight And mind/ For those enjoying bread, circuses/ Cubs and Pirates, But not for the All Parent Described by the Psalmist today
As gracious, merciful, slow to anger, hugely kind, benevolent to all, compassionate, faithful, holy, and lifting up (rather than crushing) those who have fallen under the weight of the burdens Jesus decries.
I should have asked, If following that Messiah If worshipping that All Parent Allowed standing and applauding A robo-grunt returned From a war Where over a million civilians have been slaughtered To rid the world of violence.
(In 1942 would I have joined the crowd Applauding an S.S. “hero” in a Munich stadium Just back from the front –or Auschwitz? Or a pilot who had bombed Pearl Harbor At a “Wrigley Field” in Tokyo?)
No: I should have had the courage To remain seated. And so should we all Instead of
Celebrating the military/ Waving flags on the 4th of July/ Paying war taxes/ And wondering with Fox newscasters What makes America great?