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God's Politics

Standing outside of gated communities doesn’t usually send disquieting emotional impulses through my body. But this Sunday morning, marching outside of Fort Benning – home of a building in which Latin American military personnel have learned tactics used to massacre and torture their own people – left a venomously mournful feeling in my gut. Thousands of people slowly marched a half-mile road hearing the names of victims of SOA graduates, to which we responded “presente,” while lifting up a cross with a victim’s name written on it (or a fist for the secular revolutionary still wanting to show solidarity with the massacred).

I was literally on the verge of tears with each step, but I inexplicably couldn’t surrender my face to them. Many of the surnames of people massacred by the graduates of the School of the Americas sounded all too familiar: “Diaz,” “Garcia,” “Rodriguez,” “Lopez.” They are the surnames of some friends I’ve spent hours in conversation with, classmates I’ve learned how to read with, girls I’ve had crushes on, and extended family in Puerto Rico. I resent not letting myself fully cry. I don’t know what its like to live under the constant trauma of a potential paramilitary massacre, or to lose a loved one to violence. But hearing the same “z” in “Hernandez,” or “Melendez” as the one that’s in my last name should have easily soaked my face.

But sometimes, after sorrow comes hope. After the mourning procession came the Puppetistas, a group who masterfully showed the creation story of a movement to end torture, war, and all forms of violence, using puppets. We danced, drummed on buckets, and sang after this movement was “created.” Hope inspires joy, and I’m glad to be a part of this movement.

Jonathan Mendez is a 2006-2007 Sojourners Intern.

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