Using the Weapons of the Weak -- 3
A Message by Chuck Fager, at the Quaker Conference on Torture, Guilford College, Greensboro NC June 3, 2006
One among us will hear a calling to start a newsletter about the work of ending tortureĖ because weíll get nowhere if we donít keep in touch.
And someone else will hear a whispered call to raise funds for QUITís ongoing work, because there will be bills to pay. Another Friend will hear a whisper about going out to network actively with other groups that are building a larger anti-torture movement, because we canít possibly do this on our own.
The whispers to several more will be to form a committee to begin planning the next QUIT conference, in a year or two, in order to keep up the momentum and enlarge the network.
This is tenacity: building a small but sturdy infrastructure that can support ongoing Quaker work, and connect it to the larger struggle. If it doesnít happen, if some among us donít hear those whispers and respond to them Ė then that makes us tourists here, and torture an activist fad, and shame on us. But I think weíll be listening.
As for Veracity, it means continuing to educate ourselves in an ongoing way about the ugly truths of torture, and the growing opportunities to end it. Iím very serious about this educational task, and feel obliged to sound a warning here: if most of what we knew about torture before this weekend came from the news media, Friends, we are not yet well-informed Ė even if we get all our news from NPR. (Or for that matter, from Fox News.)
News reports are just the beginning, and too many, even in prestigious outlets, are not to be trusted. Learning the hard truths of torture will require digging deeper, doing hard work And as we become more versed, we are called to spread this information. The basics of veracity here, the roots of the matter, are elemental Ė not elementary, not simple, but basic: they are that torture is immoral, torture is inhuman, it is rarely effective, and torture defiles the law and debases a culture. Like the widowís cries, these truths cannot be repeated often or loudly enough.
And then Audacity: imagination and creativity are crucial. As current examples, Iím grateful for the presence of Lady Liberty outside this building, and the presence among us of some of those who have been protesting the CIA torture flights that have been taking off from right here in North Carolina. There is a "torture industrial complex" that has been surreptitiously created in our society, and a key part of our work will be to name and expose it, and give it no rest. We canít hope to do this unless we can bring imagination and creativity to bear on the truth, the information we gather.
I canít overstate how important such creativity is to our hopes of long-term impact. When we began planning this conference last year, I told the other committee members that I wouldnít put in all the work that it would entail, and I wouldnít spend a weekend sitting here, if what we were going to be told would boil down to telling us to write to Congress Ė again.
Of course, we canít ignore Washington. But I say to you today, the salvation of this country from the curse of torture is a force that will end will end up in Washington, it will not begin there. It will come from the sparks lit by those in the far corners of this land, who have imagination and daring.
Iím talking about the spirit of six Quaker housewives in Seneca Falls New York, who started a revolution for women around their kitchen table. Iím talking about Rosa Parks, on a shabby bus in Montgomery. Iím talking about Cindy Sheehan, crouched in a ditch in rural Texas. Iím talking about Martin Luther King Jr., crossing a rusty bridge in Selma, Alabama. And Iím talking about Bernadette OíNeill, who youíll hear from later today, who risked arrest in Johnston County, two hours east of here, to challenge CIA torture flights.
Thatís the audacity that will set the wheels of change will turning, wheels that will roll across this country and rumble into Washington, until torture is driven from the land.
I wonít pretend that the weapons of the weak, and the powers of the powerless, will bring quick or easy results. But I can make a prediction. As we sit here today, there is not an anti-torture movement in America. There are some dedicated anti-torture activists, and weíve met some of them. But there isnít a national anti-torture movement. Not yet.
But hereís my prediction: by the end of this year, and even by the end of this summer, there WILL be such a movement. It is being created even as we speak, and taking form almost right before our eyes. It is not just here, but in a dozen other rooms, filled with members of other churches, mosques, and synagogues.
Quakers are not the center of this movement, or its leaders. But today those of us in this room are literally on the leading edge of this campaign as it is comes into being, and our role in it can be crucial Ė if we will take this opportunity and run with it.
To play that role, let us remember Lukeís widow, and her cries for justice. Letís seize the powers of the powerless and put them to work. And let us remember those three silly initials that can point us in the way we are to go: TVA. Can you say them with meĖcan we Quakers do something as radical as a little call and response?
Whatís This? ("T!") Whatís it stand For? "TENACITY!" (Canít hear you!)
Whatís This? ("V") The V For? "VERACITY!"
And this one?("A!") "AUDACITY!"
All right Ė now be radical again and give yourselves a hand. Thank you.