Today, January 11th, 2008, marks the six year anniversary of the arrival of the first men held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If I didn't have another long-standing commitment to my writing partner today, I hope that I would have the nerve to join in the long line of people, dressed in orange jumpsuits, who will process to the steps of the Supreme Court in protest of the inhumane treatment of these fellow human beings, held in violation of U.S. law and in an ill-advised evasion of the Geneva Conventions.
If you've allowed yourself to forget what's being done by our country here's a quick summary from the Witness Torture.org website:
On January 11th, 2002, twenty hooded and shackled men shuffled off a plane from Afghanistan, arriving at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo. In an attempt to sidestep the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners of war, the Bush administration created a new category of "enemy combatant" for these men captured in the "war on terror."
Since that time, more than one thousand men and boys have been imprisoned at Guantánamo. Accounts of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment have been condemned by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other reputable bodies. The prisoners have resorted to hunger strikes as a way of protesting their treatment. Many have attempted suicide; three men allegedly killed themselves on June 10, 2006; a fourth died on May 30, 2007. Desperation, fear and frustration mark their confinement.
Six years later, not a single prisoner has been charged, tried or convicted of terrorism. Many have been released because no evidence has been found against them, but more than 380 men remain in indefinite detention without hope of release. The United States has abandoned law and justice.
Yesterday, in the course of looking for something else on the web, I came across yet another tirade against the "moral relativism" which characterizes "postmodern culture", written by a Christian minister who claimed that the work of the church was to call the world around back to the moral foundation on which this country was built. And while I used to argue with this kind of diagnosis of the world's problems, these days I find myself wishing that we would reclaim a moral baseline--a way to say to the world, there are some things we just won't do. I have tried to do that in my own life, even as I navigate the sometimes choppy waters of postmodernism. I used to think I lived in a country that had a moral bottom line, but Guantanamo and Abu Grahib have made me realize that there really is a kind of moral relativism that is deeply threatening to our world.
And, there are glimmers of hope. Code Pink pointed out an amazing story from the British press of a small garden that several Guantanamo prisoners have been tending, planted with seeds recovered from their food, dug with plastic spoons. That amazes me--and also confirms for me that the Holy Spirit will continue to call us to hope, even when the outward conditions of our lives give us only reason to despair.