Quick Thoughts On Today’s Non-Violent Witness

We are safe. We are healthy. All is well.

white house1Today’s action went incredibly well, any way you choose to look at it. More than 100 faith leaders (Many clergy. Even Bishops) chose to be arrested at the White House, as a witness against our nation’s treatment of immigrants, calling the President and Congress to act.

The DC Park Police treated us with the utmost respect and dignity. They treated us fairly and, dare I say: kindly.

The witness was peaceful and powerful. At a certain point, the police backed away all other bystanders and media from a very large perimeter…about half a football field. That was a sobering moment…to realize that we had been separated out, and were now standing alone, in front of the White House itself.

After three “warnings,” they then moved in and, one by one, took us into custody.

Myself, Dr. Owen Ross, and two other friends from Dallas, Rev. Jeff Hood and Jason Redick, ended up among the last fifteen or so to go. So, we spent several hours in a very direct mid-day Sun. But, the old fashioned paddy wagon they loaded us in was even hotter, and we sweated profusely in there. Even though we were not all three standing together in line, we ended up right next to each other in the paddy wagon.

{08.02.14 UPDATE: A video clip of our actual arrest}

{08.04.14 UPDATE: Video of our interview on NBC5 in Dallas. Owen Ross and I interviewed at Lafayette Park during the rally. Thanks to Pam Curry for this….EF}

There, we found ourselves next to three new friends from Pennsylvania who’d also come for the action. I had the idea that we should pray the Lord’s prayer together, and so Owen led us in both English and Spanish. We both later said that this sweaty moment of prayer with the six of us –crammed in that paddy wagon just outside the White House, with the cuffs on our wrists– was a highlight of the whole day for both of us.

We were taken to a detention center in Anacostia.  There, we spent several more hours in a holding area, while they processed everyone through. Again, at all times the park police were generously kind to us.

Somewhere during those two hours in detention, Owen and I were sitting on the ground together, waiting to be processed, and reflecting on what the day had felt like up to then, and where we were, spiritually, at the moment. And a thought came to me.

arrest1In those few moments, some powerful comparisons hit me…

By that moment, we’d been unable to communicate with our loved ones for several hours. We knew we were safe. We knew we were fine. But we knew they didn’t yet know, and we knew they might still be worried.

It was nerve-racking. But ultimately  it was short and it was quickly over.

However, unaccompanied children are unable to contact their mothers and fathers for months at a time, as they make a perilous journey toward the Rio Grande.

We were charged a very minor fee to get out of jail. We paid in cash. The matter is closed.

However, unaccompanied children’s parents pay thousands of dollars to coyotes to get them to America.

We’d been treated with respect by the park police. We felt the power of our legal system of checks and balances. The entire incident witnessed to the beauty of our free speech rights, the inherent power of our democratic institutions, and the basic decency with which we Americans can treat each other with, if we choose to.

However, unaccompanied children have few laws to protect them, few people looking out for them, and face violence, molestation and even death trying to make their way to our border.

So, given what they face, compared to the small sacrifices we made today?
There is no comparison.

Our “sacrifice” on their behalf was largely symbolic.

Yes, we spent real time in real custody. And, yes, I understand few folks do that. I understand that this is why we’re getting a lot of generous “way to go!” and “So proud of you!” comments on social media tonight. That’s gratifying.

However, stack what we did up in those few hours against what these children face, everyday. Their sacrifices for the sake of their future, or their family’s future, are immense.

Sitting on the jail floor today, the scripture that popped into my head was from Luke 17:10. Jesus compares his disciples to the servants of a master who follow their master’s command. Like them, Jesus says, all we really can say after following God’s call is:

“We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Our faith in God reminds us that we must never lose this focus, and never take our eye of the true injustices and truly sacrificial journey these children take. That is the real story here, and they are the truly courageous ones.

Standing for them is why we did what we did this today in the first place.


{08.02.14 UPDATE: A blog, “Failure to Move” in response to the House’s two votes on the “border crisis” yesterday}