Crawford Texas by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

August 24, 2005 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Dear Friends,

I’m back from a lightning trip to “Camp Casey” in Crawford, Texas, just outside the Bush vacation ranch.

Before I tell you the story of my trip, here’s an Email I received, after getting back home:

<< Dear Rabbi Waskow:

<< Thank you so much for coming to Crawford to participate in the service on Friday with all of us military and gold star families who are continuing to demand answers while Cindy is away tending to her mother.

<< If there is such a thing as being too angry to cry, that’s what I’ve been for the last two and a half years, but this service moved me to tears and for that I thank you.

<< Many of the participants who I spoke with afterward expressed the same feeling I’ve had, that our own places of worship have been silent about this war, and that has compounded our sense of alienation.

<< Having our government betray us by sending our loved ones to fight and die in this immoral war is bad enough, but then hearing silence from the very community that should be crying out in indignation is almost too much to bear. Of course, this is not true across the board but for too many of us this has been our experience.

<< This is why I am so grateful to you and all the others who led the service. You did a wonderful thing in coming to Crawford to pray with us.

<< Sincerely yours,
P— V—
(the one who asked to hold your hand as we processed)>>

So if at first I wasn’t entirely sure why I went to Crawford, now I know.

How can we respond to these events? One way is to talk with our own religious leaders, friends, fellow-congregants. Notice “P— V—“‘s outcry about religious silence.

The other way is to address our elected officials. For that, I have some suggestions close to the end of this letter. If you need to jump ahead, here’s the click:

And here’s part of the story: (The whole thing is on my Weblog at our Home Page:

When I got home last Wednesday night after a vigil in support of “Camp Casey” sponsored by a nearby church in Philadelphia, I found a message awaiting me from Glenn Smith, the devoted organizer of a religiously-rooted national antiwar bus tour who lives in Austin. His message, confirmed by a conversation with Rev. Bob Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches, invited me to take part in a multireligious service at Camp Casey in Crawford, at noon on Friday.

So I went. What I found at “Peace House” in Crawford was a crew of Texans whose quiet peace-organizing outfit had been transformed in the last two weeks to the nerve center of a national movement.

Homely notes – “Please shut the door. We can’t afford to air-condition all of Texas.” Delicious food made by local housewives, ranging from Texas barbecue to a vegetarian Iraqi delicacy, made by an Iraqi-American in town.

Cindy’s mother in California had suffered a stroke, wasn’t speaking. Cindy herself had flown to see her. May the gentle strength, the boldness and bravery she taught her daughter, flower in her own life and in all our lives.)

When I arrived, I joined a planning session of other clergy who were planning the noon service. All were Protestants, mostly men but a few women; one was a Methodist bishop. A dozen pastors from Texas, others from the East and West Coasts. Some had driven for a couple of days to reach Crawford.

They asked me to start off the service with a “lament” after three minutes of silence of memorial for the dead. So I actually went to the Book of Lamentations, chose four or five verses I thought especially apropos, and prepared to chant them in English, using the special mournful melodic trope for Eicha.

And I added the same expanded “Oseh shalom” I had used back home at the vigil on Wednesday evening.

Then would come prayers by the various ministers from the Psalms, from the Gospels, from the heart.

Up the road near the Bush ranch was Camp Casey itself, just a short strip of asphalt, part of a narrow, dusty road. So narrow a road that when a car came by, the police bull-horned us to walk in the ditch so the traffic could pass.

Lining the ditches alongside the road were hundreds of crosses and at least one Magen David, for Lt. Seth Dvorin who was killed in February 2004. His photograph showed a tall, broad, open-faced man with a big smile.

Now he’s dead.

May he rest in peace in the world beyond, and may his death awaken us to the need for peace in this world right here.

So at noon we created our dusty, hot “procession” and service and heartfelt memorials to the dead – and afterwards, we schmoozed – the Texans, the clergy, and the survivors.

Then as evening came on, the camp was moved still closer to the Bush ranch, so close that to get there you have to pivot to the left at a stake-out of Secret Service guarding the President from seeing or meeting the people whose sons and daughters he sent to die for a “noble cause” he cannot explain to them.

— Into a big tent rented with small donations that are pouring in from around the country, emplaced on an acre of farm offered by a local man who is the cousin of the angry neighbor who fired a shotgun dangerously at/near the vigillers. Farmer Fred Mattlage was evidently doing penance on behalf of his family. Now THAT’S “family values” in the old-fashioned way! And besides, he’s a veteran — and he thinks it’s a bad war.

And in the tent, on Friday night, there were folk songs and prayers and a visit from three African-American daughters of the South who had lost sons in Iraq – accompanied by Rev. Joseph Lowrey of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, still talking the – outmoded?? – language of The Beloved Community.

Below are the verses from Lamentations, Eicha, that I chanted. Some are very slightly “midrashified”; I trust God and the author of Eicha won’t mind too much. And then the “Oseh shalom” prayer I used.

What can we do now?

One impact of Cindy Sheehan’s boldness has been to crystallize the deep doubt and disgust now endemic throughout America about the war. That opens up space for elected political leaders to take their own kind of gutsy stand.

So Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, God bless him — he was the only Senator to vote against the “Patriot” Act, and he battled all the party bosses to insist on new rules for campaign financing — has spoken out to demand that all US troops be brought safely home from Iraq.

Says the Washington Post (page 3, Thursday Aug 18):

<< Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) called on the White House yesterday to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year and criticized fellow Democrats for being too “timid” in challenging the Bush administration’s war policy.


You don’t have to be a Democrat to thank him and support him. You just have to reread that letter from “P — V— .”

Please fax him by clicking here:

And though we are supplying a VERY short “model” letter, PLEASE add your own words; MAKE THE LETTER YOUR OWN in some way.

If you feel comfortable making clear your own religious and moral value system – please do. – It could be important to counter the widespread assumption that the only real moral values in America are right-wing.

A little down the road, it might make sense to write other Senators as well. But we think the first task is to make clear to Senator Feingold that many of us support him.

And remember what “P—- V—-” wrote. Speak out yourself in the name of God, and ask your religious colleagues, friends, congregants to do the same.

Here is what I chanted from the Book of Lamentations:

Eicha!! – How lonely sits the city,
Once filled with life and joy,
Now sorrowful.

My eyes fill with grief
At the fate of the youth in my city.

I call on Your name, O God,
You Who are the Breath of Life;
For you have seen all their malice,
Their whispers and murmurs against me.

May You come near to say –
Do not fear!
Do not close Your ear to my outcry
But give me relief.

And then I recited, first in English and then in Hebrew:

May You Who make peace in the ultimate reaches of the universe teach us to make peace within ourselves and between each other — among all the families of Abraham, all the families of the human race, and all the forms of life that You have created on our planet;

May You bring near the day when strength and gentleness are woven together;

May You give gentle strength to all who today dare to face those leaders who make war — as long ago the midwives faced Pharaoh and the prophets faced kings;

— And may You give such leaders the wisdom not only to hear and see face-to-face the pain of those stricken by war, but to bring that suffering to an end by doing Your will and making peace.

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu yaaseh shalom alenu, v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol Yishmael, v’al kol yoshvei teyvel.

With blessings of shalom,

Entry filed under: Jewish, Judaism, Politics, Social Justice, War.

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