Notes from a Culture of Death

"We who have a voice must speak for the voiceless." [Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, Assassinated at Mass by Soldiers Trained at the School of the Americas]

On November 16, 1997, I was arrested at Fort Benning, Georgia, in a peaceful demonstration aimed at closing the School of the Americas. I was pleased to be part of a group of protesters from Pax Christi Atlanta.

I was even more pleased to encounter people of faith from all over America who had come to Georgia to demand that the United States close its training camp for Latin America's military elite. The demonstrators included many high-school and college students fresh with the idealism of youth, as well as plenty of us oldsters inspired by their good humor and moral intensity.

Other young men and women, less privileged and more ethnically diverse than those who accompanied us, served as military police inside Fort Benning. While we were being held, they furnished us with amenities ranging from a catered dinner to portable sanitary facilities, and they treated us with courtesy and respect. These youngsters clearly meant us no harm. We, after all, have a voice.

However, no such courtesies are afforded the voiceless ones who suffer at the hands of graduates from the School of Assassins. It was in their memory that we entered Fort Benning, "Crossing the Line" in a funeral march to honor those tortured, murdered, raped, kidnapped, beaten, arrested, intimidated, and silenced by SOA graduates in Latin America. As the names of the victims whose crosses we bore were called out, those of us in the procession responded, "¡Presente!"