Tomorrow morning, me and a group of 11 others will leave from Union Theological Seminary to Fort Benning, Georgia to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation ((WHINSEC) previously known as the School of the Americas). This is a US Army training facility for military persons from South and Central America. They are taught the importance of democracy and how to throw a coup if the government of their countries are Marxist or Socialist (or really anything that the US cannot control). WHINSEC’s two major accomplishments (certainly devastating) was the Honduran coup in 2009, which military leaders were trained by WHINSEC. And the Chilean coup and murder of the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
I came to Union because I wanted to be flooded by liberation theology. Using the experience of the oppressed and the love and power of God to free them is my ultimate concern (to use a Tillichian). So when I read this answer on an archived website by a School of America’s spokesperson in 1999 to the question “Why the controversy over the School?” I flipped.
According to leaders of the opposition movement, the controversy is not limited to the School nor its graduates; but rather with U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. In their view, that policy is responsible for all the violence and repression that characterized many countries during the Cold War. The School is the easiest target for those people who believe solutions lie in eliminating military or police forces in the region. Many of the critics supported Marxism — Liberation Theology — in Latin America — which was defeated with the assistance of the U.S. Army. In other words, their objective of achieving socialist revolutionary governments failed, and they now are going after one of the mechanisms which assisted in promoting and maintaining democratic ideals.
I protest to give voice to those who cannot be present. I protest for the silent voices of the dead. I protest because this program needs to be shut down and I want to make sure they know it. I protest because bodies move/change the world, even more so than ideology. I protest because I want that struggles for peace and justice rather than being dictated by US demands.
Pray for South and Central America that they will not be inflicted by US control any longer. Pray for those fighting for freedom and non-bourgeoisie democracy all over the world. Pray for those traveling to Georgia to protest. And pray that you too may know your neighbors better trying to love them as deeply as you can. Amen.