Hold It All

Month: February, 2009

Dear Shannon (On Ralph Nader)

Dear Shannon,

I enjoyed our long conversation on Saturday afternoon at 6 North Coffee. I appreciate you taking the time to visit on such a busy weekend. After our chats, the strong impression I am left with is of a person of great integrity and commitment to justice. You want to “walk the walk.” In the idiom of your semester in San Salvador, you want your “praxis” to be real, substantial, and serious.

You were curious about Ralph Nader, whom I mentioned I had been reading recently. My friend Andrew Wimmer and current Social Justice student Dan McGinnis have stimulated me in this deeper consideration of Nader. As I look back on it, I knew his name in my early teens, but I didn’t know who Dorothy Day was until I read her autobiography at 21. Nader was a household name in the Seventies because he was the foremost consumer advocate in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

The War Within: The Voice of Camilo Mejía

On Camilo Mejía, Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejía 


Road from Ar Ramadi  is the story of man who goes from being a privileged son of the Nicaraguan revolution to living in the U.S.A. without much promise to becoming a Florida National Guard infantry squad leader to acting as strong critic of the military and an unjust war.  Mejía knew the war was wrong, and he eventually refused to go back.  He refused to continue being part of the lie. He refused to go back if only for “his buddies.” He refused because of an individual, ultimate necessity: To act according to his own conscience, not social loyalty or conventional patriotism.  He thus spent a year in prison. He dedicates his book: “To the war resisters, to those facing the imperial powers of the earth.” His is a story of waking up, claiming his own voice, and walking the walk.

Throughout the book Mejía struggles; none of this was easy for him. He acknowledges his own cowardice and weakness in refusing to speak up while in Iraq.  I can see the traces in him of loyalty to the military, even as he denounces the “imperial powers on earth,” which rely on soldiers willing to do whatever it takes to maintain the disparity for the benefit of the empire. Here are some representative passages of Mejía’s inner and outer battles:

“My heart was racing as I witnessed all this; I found it wrong and shocking. But I didn’t want to appear upset in front of the other soldiers, who seemed okay with everything that was going on. I kept reassuring myself with the fact that the detainees were not being hit, although, by the way they were shaking, you could tell their distress and exhaustion were messing them up physically as much as psychologically.” 50 Read the rest of this entry »