Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Desmond Tutu; An Amazing Man

This is a shot I took with my new camera; one of the few that turned out as I played with my new toy during "retreat". I also brought back a few pages of notes, which I'll get to in the near future.

The Archbishop called us to enter into a silent retreat on Sunday night. We tried, but the idea of 185 Episcopal clergy from New Jersey being silent for half an hour, let alone two days, is incomprehensible. So, during gatherings between meals and chapel, you could hear a low hum of whispering instead of the normal deafening swell of voices. At the end the Archbishop concluded that we were attempting to develop a hybrid; a "retreat" that was actually a "conference," and he was afraid that the "conference" was winning. Then he smiled, and with a little laugh added, "But you're getting there...you're getting there."

Before offering some of the content of his meditations, I thought I'd highlight what the Archbishop was up to before joining us at St. Joseph in the Hills. It appears he was making his Broadway debut, playing the role of a judge in a production of Guantanamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'.

A few days later, the Archbishop was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. The topic of the interview was the similarities between Guantanamo Bay and apartheid in South Africa and the war in Iraq. The entire interview is worth reading, but I want to highlight just a couple of pieces.

First, a segment that is almost verbatim what the Archbishop shared with us during his last meditation this morning;

AMY GOODMAN: During your years in South Africa before the end of apartheid, you were a deep advocate of non-violence, yet you saw so many detained, so many killed. What do you feel, and what did you feel then? How did you make it through those days? What did you advocate? How did you stick to your principles of non-violence?

DESMOND TUTU: One of the wonderful things actually is -- I've got to speak as a Christian -- is belonging to the church and knowing that you belong to this extraordinary body. When things were really rough, it's wonderful to recall for me now, that I sometimes got, when they, the South African government, had taken away my passport, I got passports of love from Sunday school kids here in New York, and I plastered them on the walls of my office. But although I couldn't travel, hey, here were all of these wonderful people all over the world. I had a -- I met a nun in New York, at a particular time, and I asked her, "Can you just tell me a little bit about your life? How do you "-- and she said, "Well, I am a solitary. I live in the woods in California. I pray for you. My day starts at two in the morning." And I said, "Hey, man! I've been prayed for at two in the morning in the woods in California. What chance does the apartheid government stand?" So, one was being upheld. You know, when frequently you say to people, the victory that we won against apartheid -- a spectacular victory -- that would not have happened without the support of the international community, without the support of people like yourselves, without the support of those who were students at the time who might have been crazies, but they were fantastic in their commitment. And in this country, actually, they showed that you could in fact change the moral climate. Because at the time the Reagan administration was totally opposed to sanctions, and students, but not just students, the many, many people who were prepared to be arrested on our behalf, who demonstrated on our behalf, who boycotted on our behalf, well, they changed the moral climate to such an extent that Congress passed the anti-apartheid legislation, and they even managed a veto override, which was fantastic. And so, I just happened. I always say I was a leader by default because our real leaders were either in jail or in exile, and sometimes when people say, "And he got the Nobel Peace Prize," I say, "Well, actually, you know, it was that they thought maybe it was time it was given to a black." And, ah, he has an easy surname: Tutu. Tutu. Imagine. Imagine if I had a surname like Waokaokao.
The other section that I want to point out tonight is his words on an issue that is one of the most tragic, and least mentioned, results of the war in Iraq; the innocent civilian casualties (estimated to be between 13,000 and 15,000 as of today);

They tell you that a hundred people have been killed, and the United States and its allies are doing that; and they say, "No, no. We targeted that house because our intelligence said so." Intelligence. The same intelligence that said there were weapons of mass destruction? Please. That's been done in your name. That mothers and children have been killed. And when you say, "What about the civilian casualties?" They say, "Sorry, our intention was to target insurgents." And most of us, I think, just shrug our shoulders. But you see, you experienced a little bit on September 11, the kind of thing that is meted out on a regular basis. And they're not -- they're not casualties. Collateral damage. Collateral damage, I tell you. How do you feel if someone says, the people who died in the World Trade Center and in Washington, D.C., collateral damage? Say that to someone who lost a wife. Say it to someone who lost a child, someone who lost a friend. Collateral damage. It's an obscenity. It's an obscenity. It's in order to say, "No, no. They don't have faces. They don't have names." No, this is someone's mother, someone's wife, someone's child. Not statistics. And you know what? God is weeping. God is weeping. God is weeping because -- One of the incredible things, I mean, is that Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, George Bush are all God's children. And as God says, "What ever got into me to create that lot?" And then God sees some of you, all of you, all of you who care, and God then begins to smile through the tears. Please, God wants peace. God wants prosperity for everyone. And do you know what? I have yet to meet people more generous than Americans. And I'm not being smarmy. I have experienced it. My family has experienced it on a personal level. Why don't you want to export your generosity, your compassion, and not bombs?
I'll say more about this gentle, holy man soon.


UPDATE - An important read, from A Tiny Revolution; quotes from Seymour Hersh while at Berkeley last Friday. He repeated the story on NPR. Why isn't the rest of the media reporting this stuff?

In the words of the Archbishop, "It's an obscenity. It's an obscenity...And you know what? God is weeping..."

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