Protesting Oppression Within and Without
ordained war! War is God's way of punishing the wicked!"
The woman with the loudspeaker shouted angry slurs at us as we attempted
to hold an interfaith prayer vigil at Y-12, the nuclear weapons plant
in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Although there were about 120 of us who had gathered to protest peacefully
and hold vigil on Hiroshima Day, August 6, the woman and her 5 or 6 counter-protesters
were able to drown us out because our sound system went dead while hers
remained strong. She played CD's of military march music and southern
gospel songs while shouting at us for being communists and environmentalists
(which are apparently synonymous to her). She was joined at one point
by a preacher in a starched white shirt and necktie who literally waved
his Bible in the air as he shouted out Bible verses at us.
Most of us were annoyed but amused at their loud intrusion in our gathering,
but their noise only made us focus more intently on our reasons for being
there: to commemorate those who died in Hiroshima and to pray for an end
to the nuclear threat.
At one point we gathered in front of the blue line on the pavement marking
the entrance to the plant, with a row of policemen on one side of the
line and about 120 hippies, grey-bearded activists, Buddhist monks, Episcopal
Peace Fellowship members, Pagans, and blue-haired grannies on the other
side. About 20 people, including one whole family, chose to peacefully
cross the line and get arrested. As one woman was being led away to the
police van, the angry lady shouted sarcastically over her loudspeaker,
"There goes another martyr to the communist cause! They're gonna keep
you in jail for 3 days, honey! Can you live for 3 days without granola?"
The weekend before, I had been to a conference of peace activists. The
main theme of that conference was that those of us who work in peace and
justice activist groups face a common adversary, but it isn't the angry
people who shout war slogans at us, and it isn't the folks who refurbish
nuclear bombs at Y-12.
Our common adversary is what liberation theologians call "the domination
system" -- those ingrained patterns of our culture that reinforce violence,
militarism, homophobia, racism, patriarchy, and oppression. The speakers
at the conference talked about our need to move away from a paradigm of
"war vs. peace" to a new paradigm of "oppression vs. liberation." We need
to see the interconnectedness of all the varied activist groups who work
on issues of peace, gay rights, racism, environmentalism, and human rights.
Although we may have different "causes," we should all work together since
we're all working for the same goal: an end to oppression and "the domination
system" in all its many forms.
For those of us who GLBT, this may include overcoming the homophobia most
of us grew up with and which many of us have internalized. For many years
I carried around my very own "domination system," the messages of self-hatred
I picked up from my fundamentalist upbringing and from society as a whole.
Only when I was able to accept my sexuality as a gift, rather than the
curse I had been programmed to believe it to be, was I able to escape
my own internalized system of oppression. Only then was I able to accept
myself as a person who is both spiritual and sexual.
For me, my activism and my participation in interfaith prayer vigils is
an extension of my self-acceptance as a man who loves men. By overcoming
my own internal ždomination systemÓ I am better able to bear witness against
other systems of oppression. I can proudly raise my voice and my prayers
and my protest signs against the many forms of domination our society
article also appears in the Summer 2003 issue of White
Crane: A Journal Exploring Gay Mens' Spirituality.
Darrell Grizzle is an interfaith bear who is active in Gay Spirit
Visions, the Sufi Healing Order, and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship in
Atlanta. His website is www.WildFaith.com.
Copyright © 2003 by the author
All Rights Reserved
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