~ from the Camden County Detention Facility, by Martha Hennessy

[This arrived in the mail a month late from the jail.]

Earth Day Reflection

by Martha Hennessy 

In April 1968, as a 13-year-old student in rural Vermont, the news of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s killing cast a dark shadow on my hopes for a more just world. My mother and I knew that a great spiritual leader had been taken violently from the people. My mother’s mother Dorothy Day wrote about that day with great sadness, the brutal state practice of crushing a voice for truth and redemption.

My current cellmate Liz McAlister here at the Camden County Jail in Woodbine, Georgia reminds Clare Grady and I of her husband Phil Berrigan’s quote “to keep each other’s courage up is the most apostolic duty of all.” This stands in stark contrast to the state murder of Dr. King.

What led me to Kings Bay Strategic Weapons Facility and Naval Base in the state of Georgia, where Dr. King was born, is my sense of outrage towards what Chelsea Manning, a brave whistle blowing military insider, called our “whirling death machine.” I understand it to be my turn to stand up and raise a voice, to enter into the wounds of Christ, to bring hammers for disarmament and blood for atonement to the site’s onmicidal intent. I can no longer be complicit in our endless taking of life, liberty and happiness of the vast majority of the Earth’s peoples. In the state’s charges, the hammers and blood are replaced by bolt cutters and spray paint. I see this as the state’s attempt to obliterate our sacramental message and diminish it to a criminal act of property destruction and slightly unruly graffiti. Are we to accept this false construct rather than unveiling our eyes to see the idolatry of missiles and bunkers full of nuclear bombs, waiting to incinerate life in all its beauty and bounty?

Today is Earth Day and my companions and I sit in a concrete holding tank, completely severed from the natural world outside. Documentation reveals that the United States military consumes the greatest amount of fossil fuels in a compulsive drive to maintain global dominance. Our plunder of the Earth and its people is no longer sustainable as climate disruption affects soil, water and food crops. Our small community of the seven Kings Bay Plowshares now attempt to contribute to nuclear abolition, joining the efforts of our indigenous brothers and sisters, and many others, who have engaged in the defense of life since the dawn of the nuclear age. In today’s (Earth Day) Gospel reading of John, Jesus states, “I am the good shepherd … and I will lay down my life for my sheep… no one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” We all have this power to freely give of ourselves in the horrendous struggle against empire and to care for one another as we are instructed to as Christians.