An Open Letter To Kathy Kelly On The Beginning of Her Incarceration As A Prisoner of Conscience

Kathy Kelly, left, and Georgia Walker on June 1 offer Whiteman AFB guards “the bread of peace” and an indictment of all U.S. drone warfare. The guards took the bread, not the indictment, and took Kelly and Walker into custody for about an hour. Image from vcnv.org

Kathy Kelly, left, and Georgia Walker on June 1 offer Whiteman AFB guards “the bread of peace” and an indictment of all U.S. drone warfare. The guards took the bread, not the indictment, and took Kelly and Walker into custody for about an hour. Image from vcnv.org

Dear Kathy Kelly,

As you begin your three-month sentence in federal prison, you carry with you the prayers and gratitude of The Raven Foundation and countless others who find hope in this violent world though the courageous actions of peacemakers like you.

I personally want to extend my heartfelt appreciation for your witness to peace, love, and justice. When you crossed the line onto Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on June 1st of last year, you delivered a grievance on behalf of the people of Afghanistan. These people have been dehumanized, demonized and ignored, and some of them have been silenced forever by weaponized drones piloted from remote American bases such as the one you were arrested upon. A childhood friend of mine resides in Kabul with her husband and three children, and the thought of deadly robots hovering in the skies above their heads grieves, frightens, and sickens me. The simple grievance you delivered, “Please stop killing us,” is my wish as well, for the people of Afghanistan and around the world. The United States is waging drone campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq (where another dear friend resides), Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria, and the aftermath of strikes in Libya is a deadly civil war. As you have pointed out, for every intended target, we kill 28 more people. Additionally, United States special forces operate in over 100 countries. I know that you have been to many of these nations specifically to bring aid and comfort to the very people our nation has written off as enemies or collateral damage. We are a nation suffering from an addiction to violence, waging a war of terror that lays land and people to waste, blinded by a sense of righteousness and a fear of “others.” But your courageous faith in all of humanity, calling attention to those suffering from our murderous policies and refusing to let their dignity be forgotten, summon our better angels. Your witness reminds us that there are no others; there is no “them.” We are one humanity, and we must stop killing and start loving one another.

I hold my children and consider the fact that every person killed is someone’s child, someone beloved or tragically in need of love. I believe in Love as the ground of our being and the power that binds us together. Nothing is more true than the fact that we are all held together in the embrace of Love. There is no enmity, no malice, no selfishness, no violence stronger than Love. All our reasons for war, all our carefully-crafted rationales for violence, all of our worldly logic that tells us we must kill in the name of prosperity, security, or even justice, are exposed as lies when we see the humanity in the eyes of our enemies or victims. I believe this was Jesus’s mission on the cross. And I believe you, Kathy, are embodying his mission when you give a voice and a face to the blurred dots on the infrared screen of the drone pilot’s computer, dots callously referred to as “bug splats” when their lives are snuffed out.

Our ability to kill depends on our ignorance of the humanity of our victims and our conviction in our own goodness. Your witness is not tolerated because it destroys both. With your arrest, you put the myth of our righteous violence on trial. To the extent that the powers that be defend that myth, they will try to silence you. The desire to define ourselves as good over and against evil enemies is buried deep in the human psyche and deep within our social and cultural DNA. The guards who arrested you, the judge who sentenced you, even the lawmakers who create our murderous policies, are all victims of this insidious lie, as am I. This is what I understand to be original sin, not a mysterious curse passed down genetically, but a desire to identify ourselves over and against others, a disposition to violence. It is a strong and terrible force that binds us all. But love is stronger, and love will set us free.

You already know this love. It inspired you to risk your freedom to remind us of those suffering from our warmaking overseas, and it goes with you into prison as you stand in solidarity with those we cast out and forget here at home. The human desire to identify our own goodness against the evil of others manifests not only overseas but on our own soil, as our nation builds more prisons than colleges, to put away people judged criminal. I know that many of these “offenders” are nonviolent, some of them imprisoned for the disease (not crime) of drug addiction, some serving inordinate time for petty theft, many doomed to harsh sentences because of racial bias, many suffering from the sacrifice of our social safety net to the merciless, voracious gods of war. I also know that the violence inflicted upon them is almost always disproportionate to whatever crimes they may have committed, and in no case does it affect positive change. But your witness and love in solidarity with them is a mutual blessing to them and to you, and to all of us.

Know in times of weariness or doubt or sorrow that you also carry with you the love and gratitude of so many blessed and inspired by your witness to peace, to love, to the truth of our common humanity, binding us to those imprisoned in jails here or trapped in their homes for fear of drones overseas. The prosecutor and judge may have demanded your rehabilitation, but your witness is rehabilitating a world diseased by violence, blind to its own entrapment. You risked your freedom to free us all, and you inspire me and countless others to deepen our commitment to peacemaking, so that we will finally understand that true freedom and security are found not in military might, but in love.

With deepest gratitude,

Lindsey Paris-Lopez,

Editor in Chief of The Raven Foundation

Editor’s Note: Kathy Kelly’s 3-month sentence for trespassing onto Whiteman Airforce Base in Missouri on June 1st to protest drone warfare began today at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Letters of support can be sent (as this one will be) to:

Kathy Kelly 04971-045

FMC LEXINGTON

FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER

SATELLITE CAMP

P.O. BOX 14525

LEXINGTON, KY 40512

Kathy Kelly’s last letter before entering prison can be found here at The Nuclear Resister online, where you can also find the addresses of other prisoners of conscience. In an article on The Nuclear Resister, Jane Stoever writes “In an interview with Medea Benjamin (published on January 22 on Common Dreams), Kathy Kelly said that people can support her by supporting the work of Voices for Creative Nonviolence as well as the duvet project of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (making warm blankets for people in need).” And as Rosalie Riegle said in our interview last weekend, all prisoners, not just prisoners of conscience, would love to receive mail. 

 

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3 replies
  1. Rosalie Riegle
    Rosalie Riegle says:

    Thanks for your beautiful letter, Lindsey! I hope to be able to visit Kathy at Lexington on my way to the Open Door in Atlanta, where I will spend a week, helping them with their street and prison ministries. The Open Door, a community we laughingly call “the Presbyterian Catholic Worker” has worked for years to abolish the death penalty in Georgia. Founded by great preachers Murphy Davis and Ed Lohring, you can read about them at http://opendoorcommunity.org/. Peace and blessings, Rosalie

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