Issue #70, October 2004
In a world where religious politics usually further combative tribalisms and patriarchies rather than liberation and pacifism, Bad Subjects remains appropriately skeptical of most American politics fueled by religious faith. We were thus surprised to encounter Professor Rosalie Riegle in late fall 2002, as the threat of a United States invasion of Iraq grew. Braving Michigan's cold, she organized twice-weekly peace vigils at her workplace, Saginaw Valley State University, and in downtown Saginaw. She is moved to operate in the American traditions of progressive faith-based activism that has included abolitionists, civil rights activists, and war resisters — all of whom have laid their bodies on the line.
— Mike Mosher, Bad Subjects Production Team
Below is a statement read by Rosalie Riegle on June 3, 2004 in Federal Court, Omaha, Nebraska. She had been convicted for Non-Violent Trespass onto Offut Air Force Base, the United States' nuclear command post, on March 14th, 2004. She was sentenced to $100 fine and one-year unsupervised probation.
If it please the court, I would like to speak briefly on why my resistance to the military has moved from protest to non-violent civil disobedience. I am a sixty-seven year old retired teacher, now living in Illinois but maintaining close ties to two Catholic Worker communities in Saginaw, Michigan. Most importantly to my presence here today, I have six young grandchildren.
They deserve a better America — and a better world — than the one we're giving them with our current war policies of coercion, nuclear threat, and widespread abuse of power. It is for them, for the college students whom I've taught over the years, and for the homeless people who deserve a better chance at life than our miserly social policies give them, that I prayed with my feet by crossing an imaginary line at Offut Air Force Base, kneeling with my fellow pacifists, and saying the Lord's Prayer. By this simple act of resistance, I continued a policy of saying, 'Not in my name.'
I have been a non-violent activist for peace since the 1960s because I am convinced that violence will end the world, not save it. Our country had the world's sympathies after 9/11, a support we have largely lost because of our bull-headed insistence that might makes right. Instead of using our power to mitigate the many economic and political problems in the world, we have used it to spawn only more misery.
As Gandhi said, 'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.' We are indeed blind today, with millions going into the military while our cities deteriorate and our family farms suffer. Offfut AFB, as a nuclear command post, is symbolic of that wasteful expenditure. I am so shamed and disgusted by the actions of our government in the last two years, especially the brutality and imperialism we have shown in Iraq, that on March 14th I was moved to do more than protest legally.
There HAS to be a better way to preserve our country for our grandchildren! Please join in searching for the ways and in acting on them with your whole life. Peace and justice will come to the world only when individuals act for it, individually and collectively, inside the justice institutions and outside of them, in prisons and in Catholic Worker houses, in universities and in the streets. The system will be changed by millions of individual actions — one added to one. As Martin Luther King wrote: 'Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.' I believe there are few things in this world which stand against love more harshly than war. Let us all work non-violently together for Christ's peace. Thank you."
Demonstration organized by Rosalie Riegle,
Fall 2002, from the SVSU Valley Vanguard.
Rosalie Riegle has also collected writings on a pacifist Catholic predecessor with her book, Dorothy Day: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her (Orbis Books, 2003). You can reach her at: email@example.com.