Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guantanamo - What Would John Adams Say?

Sometimes it feels like people who are concerned about Guantanamo are a handful of voices in the wilderness. Then there are moments when a lot of people get pulled into the conversation. "Law Day" -- sponsored nationwide by the American Bar Association (ABA) and implemented by state bar associations in each state -- is an example of the latter.

The Boston Massacre
Engraving by Paul Revere
John Adams set a precedent by assuring due
process for a British soldier accused in the massacre.

The theme of this year's Law Day observance is "The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo." The event encourages educators at all levels -- through contests, special events, and detailed teaching aids -- to get students to learn and think about the legacy of due process and legal protections in the United States, and to ask hard questions about how that legacy is (or is not) being honored today, particularly with respect to the "war on terror" and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and other locations.

I'm particularly excited about the event that will be hosted by the Nevada courts - a web-streamed screening of the film about the Guantanamo combatant status review tribunals (CSRTs) -- "The Response" -- followed by a web-linked discussion in locations across the state, led by the film's producer, Sig Libowitz. The screening starts at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday, May 5, 2011, and can be viewed from a link on the Nevada Law Day page.

Below is a sampling of some of the ways young people are grappling with the issue in other parts of the country as a part of Law Day.

In New Jersey students have made short videos to explore the Law Day theme. Entries can be viewed on Youtube -- one of my favorites is entry #27, "A Question of Justice and Due Process." (I especially like the "man in the street" interviews with other students about the detainees at Guantanamo.) Entry #29 touches briefly on Rasul v Bush . . .

In Pennsylvania extensive resources were provided for Law Day sessions in schools, and award winners were posted on the Law Day website.

There were also significant observances in Connecticut, Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Many of us are slowly coming to the realization that the erosion of legal rights that has happened during our watch in the last decade is not going to be erased quickly or easily. It will take hard work for a long time, and it can't be done alone. It may take a generation. What is your community doing to enlist young people in this challenge?

Related posts

The story of the past decade-plus has been the story of the assertion by some that the conception of law that our society has is not sufficient.  Simply put, there are those who say that there is a third, "in-between" category of behavior -- and legal status -- that is not civilian (subject to criminal law) and not military (subject to military law and the laws of war). And since there are no rules about how to deal with that third category . . . .

(See Using the Good, Old Criminal Justice System: Worth a Try?)

I believe Easter is God's gift to humanity of victory over death, hopelessness and frailty, and I believe that God is alive and in our midst. The witness of the Guantanamo lawyers has confirmed me in those beliefs.

(See Easter Victory: The Guantanamo Lawyers )

Eric Holder addressed a group of Northwestern Law students and others. Afterward one audience member summed up the speech as he left: "He pretty much said he can kill anyone he wants." The details of that speech will turn you more topsy-turvy than anything Alice experienced when she ventured through the looking glass.

(See Eric Through the Looking Glass)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where were YOU on April 10, 1979?

It's funny how odd details trigger memories, and how memories solidify our connections to external events.

Rachel Corrie

Last year, I attended a screening of "Rachel" at the Chicago Palestine Film Festival. Those who know the story of Rachel Corrie will not be surprised to hear that the film was inherently engrossing; this was compounded by the presence at the screening of her parents.

But the detail that caught me by surprise was a clip of a memorial to Rachel that showed her birth date: April 10, 1979. My first reaction was, "She and I have the same birthday?" My second reaction was, "But she was . . . I was 20 when she was born." And that reminded me that, in fact, I remember all about April 10, 1979 . . . .

I was a sophomore in college, and two women friends from my dorm said they wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday. I was tickled that anyone was making a big deal about me and my birthday -- the chosen destination was a classic seafood spot in Boston, Durgan Park -- and the fact that Wendie and Jean were the ones doing it, well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Perhaps that's why I was so dazed that it wasn't till I was practically at my seat at the restaurant that I realized that it wasn't just dinner with Wendie and Jean, but that everybody else from our dorm was there, too . . . .

There's a lot more I can remember about that dinner, too . . . . probably NOGI (not of general interest) but interesting to me in the sense of how surprising it is that the mind retains so much detail.

And now I add to those memories the fact that on the same day a girl was born who would go on to intervene in events in Gaza and her life would end and it would only be years later that I would even become aware of her and the events that she cared so much about.

Rachel Corrie's parents spoke to the audience at the Chicago screening of "Rachel." I usually participate enthusiastically in those audience Q&As, enjoying the chance to have a little interaction with those involved with the film. But I was frozen by my encounter with them. All I could think was, "My kids are the age that she was when she died. What would I do . . . ?" And I couldn't resist the thought that you don't get to be an activist without being influenced and/or inspired by those nearest to you, and that I was looking at the people who were both responsible for Rachel Corrie's pure worldview and ideal of justice but also for the personal consequences of her uncompromising commitment to her views and ideals. I thought they showed enormous courage to respond to tragedy with renewed activism; I hoped that I would have the same courage if ever similarly challenged, but frankly doubted it.

There are some people who say, "Why does it take the sacrifice of an American to get people to care about the many people who have died and suffered in Gaza and other parts of Palestine and Israel?" To that I might add: "Do you really have to be able to remember April 10, 1979, in order to grasp the tragedy of the death of a child born that day?" For me, the answer to both is: whatever it takes to get your attention . . . .

Related posts

Can communicating with people via Twitter help relieve the feeling of terror and despair one feels as the war jets roar overhead in Chicago and we think of the people suffering because of us around the world?

(See #GazaInChicago)

The big takeaway for me from this panel was the message conveyed by Ali Abunimah: people in Gaza say now that there is a ceasefire, and the summer 2014 massacre in Gaza is behind us, please don't let up on your advocacy. Don't drop it! I left convinced that Christian congregations -- including congregations of the ELCA, of which I'm a member, as well as others -- are one of the key places that continued faithful attention to issues of peace and justice in Israel / Palestine must be carried out.

(See PRAY, LEARN, ACT: Congregations Need to Stay Engaged on Palestine )

I don't think Alanna and I ever talked about what it must be like to be trying to escape a shower of sparks and hot ash. But she seemed to know that the sparks and hot ash are too important a part of the picture to be left out.

(See The Children Are Waiting )