Rev. Rich Lang's Bold Call for Action on 9/11/07
Previously: Rev. Lang interviews David Ray Griffin
"First they came for the terrorists but I wasn't a terrorist so I stayed silent and went about my business. Then they came for those suspected of terrorism, but I certainly wasn't a suspect so I stayed silent and went about my business. Then they came for those who defended those who were suspected of terrorism, but I wasn't defending such people so I stayed silent and went about my business. Then, one day, they came and began to "suspect" me, so I stayed very, very silent and went about my business.
And that is how I lost my soul."
You can feel it in the air: many of us are living in the fear that we are one "bad event" away from this administration seizing power over the people in such a way that we will find ourselves swept up in a nightmare of tyranny such as we've never seen before.
Others before us have also lived in such times. Others before us have also witnessed the tyranny of empire, the fear it unleashes, and the trance it imposes on its population. There is a story in the Gospel of Mark (this Sunday I'll be preaching about it)* that has Jesus encountering a man in a graveyard, chained to the tombs and possessed by a powerful demon that has caused the man to become violent, insane, and out of control. The name of the demon is Legion, a military term that symbolizes the occupying army of Rome. In the story Jesus breaks through the silence, the denial, the trance and compels the demon to acknowledge its name. Once named, Jesus "exorcizes the demon", that is, he performs a direct public action that breaks through the denial and the trance while restoring the man to sanity and community.
We are gathered tonight because our nation has fallen into a trance: we've become possessed by a spirit that is causing us great harm. It is a spirit that causes great violence. It is a spirit that destroys community. It turns us against each other. It causes us to distrust each other. And it certainly causes us to question our sanity, our understanding of events and of basic human qualities like honesty, forthrightness, integrity, co-operation. This trance has caused us to lose our voice, we have become silent in the face of great evils. We have learned how to live in denial of the obvious. Indeed, we now know the answer to that old question, "how could good German citizens allow the Nazi Party to rise to power?" We need somehow to awaken from this trance, and find our voice. We need to break through the denial and compel the demon that possess' us to state forth its name, and having done that, then through direct public actions we can restore our citizenry to sanity and community. We need to awaken and reclaim our roots as a democracy.
That's the assumption of this call to meeting. We face a multitude, a whole legion of evils that are silencing us, chaining us to fears and denial, possessing us with a spirit contrary to our nature. You have probably come here because you have seen this possession and have become restless and frustrated in "casting it out" of the body politic. Some of you are here because you think electing Democrats in 2008 will bring a new birth of hope. Some of you are here because you think our governing system has fallen into disrepair and needs a few tweaks and adjustments. Some of you want to fix our broken elections, or stop the impending war in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Some of you want to get to the bottom of the 9/11 contradictions, and some of you are worried sick about the house of cards that is our economy. Many of you are greatly concerned about the growing power of the executive and the military. Many of you worry about the corruption of our political process through Corporate money. The urgency of multiple crisis (legion) is certainly before our nation this evening. But tonight the focus is really on one part of the crisis: breaking the trance, breaking through the denial and finding our voice.
This year, for the first time since 2001, 9/11 falls on a Tuesday. Tonight I want to call us to participate in a creative direct action goaled towards naming the demon and therefore awakening our people from their trance. Tonight I want to invite us into a city wide series of direct actions that will put thousands of people into the streets to perform, what might be called a Day of Democracy, but what I would call, a public exorcism of the tyranny of fear. Like Jesus, I want to invite us to "unchain" the possessed and let them go free.* Unchain the possessed and help them find their voice.
Let me get specific. Many of us are weary of the staged acts of street theater that have become commonplace in Seattle. You already know the script: we gather at Westlake in coalitions that represent many different agendas, we then march down to the Fed all under the guidance and control of our police force. We gather full of sound and fury, full of agitation, we hear a few speeches and then …. go home with little or no impact.
I want to call us into something a bit different. The empire has promoted our trance largely through the mechanism of stealing our voice, distorting our voice, controlling our voice, and then silencing our voice through shutting us out of the Corporate run media. So I say we should take our public assembly straight to them. It is in the graveyard of our media outlets, where once there was life, but now only death and distortion. I call upon us to gather in groups of tens, of hundreds, of thousands, and on Tuesday September 11th , the 6th anniversary, I call upon us to engage in several direct actions at each of the major Corporate media outlets: Seattle PI, King 5, KOMO, FOX etc etc etc …these direct actions will be public exorcisms acknowledging the name of the demon: the growing tyranny that has been inflicted upon our land.
Imagine surrounding the PI or King or KOMO with pots and pans, circling the building seven times and each time mounting a thunderous roar of IMPEACH THEM ALL. Or imagine, performing creative and bold actions of civil disobedience that compel the media to acknowledge and hear our voice, loud, strong and clear. Imagine thousands of people with tape on their mouth, muzzled and doing a die-in at FOX to demonstrate the logical consequence of a nuclear attack on Iran. Imagine the nude bicyclists of the Fremont Fair streaking throughout the city as a living reminder that this administration is stripping us of our civil rights. Imagine every kid from every high school walking out of class and surrounding Military Recruiter sites with the all day chant, "NO MORE LIES!". All on the same day, all in groups of tens, of hundreds, of thousands; and all without getting permits or permission from the authorities that would dare to bind us in chains in the graveyard of silence. Imagine rocking this entire city with direct actions to cast out the spirit of fear, the smog of deception, and the chains of silence. Imagine a Seattle Tea party with a citizenry that dares to act as if they are, in fact, a free people! Imagine a day of democracy. And then, that night, imagine a party that brings us together to celebrate our voice.
I issue forth this call because we can't simply stay asleep watching a treasonous band of lawbreakers bully our nation into tyranny. We must stand up to them. We must create a free space for our citizenry to take heart and as an example for other cities to do the same. This public act is a liturgy to inspire and motive those who are already hard at work in the trenches for electoral integrity, for impeachment, for stopping the war, for the reprioritizing of the political agendas of our representatives. This public act of liturgy is a tool to help our fellow citizens reconnect with their efforts. Democracy only works when the citizenry cares enough to move beyond concern to commitment.
What we don't have is the money to compete against the filthy rich who own our representatives, and who have distorted and silenced our voice. But what we do have is moral power. What we do have is a sacred narrative, a declaration of independence from the tyranny of empire. What we do have is a sacred code of conduct called the Constitution that tells in no uncertain terms that "we the people" are the rulers and those we elect are in service to us. We have forgotten this and need to reclaim the birthright of our heritage: our democracy. We need to compel those who dare to steal this birthright to respect our basic human rights. This is what it means to be a free people.
Imagine that on 9/11 of this year that everyone would suddenly "get sick" and leave work to assemble with groups of tens, of hundreds, of thousands, and perform acts of democracy. Imagine the entire police force of this city calling in with the "Blue Flu" so that they could join us in participating in a day of democracy. Imagine everyone walking around this city with a sign that says "I am not paralyzed by fear". Imagine reclaiming our courage, our moral vision, and our national idealism that strives for liberty and justice for all! Imagine shutting down this city for one day to make our voice heard, ending the shame of our silence, and the guilt of our cowardice in the face of fear. Imagine reestablishing our national self-respect.
On Tuesday September 11th I call upon "we the people" to gather in a series of direct actions to perform public actions exorcizing the fear of tyranny from out of the citizenry. I call upon us to make a noise and find our voice.
Certainly, it would be a good thing if every spiritual leader of every faith community would be front and center helping to lead our actions: but don't hold your breath. Certainly, it would be a good thing if our State and Federal representatives were there in solidarity with our actions, participating with us: but don't assume that they either care or even agree with the crisis before us. For this to happen we alone must make it happen. We alone are, as the proverb says: "the ones we are waiting for".
* Reverend Lang is Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.