Across Pennsylvanian Avenue from the FBI the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building dominates the horizon. “Where the Law Ends Tyranny Begins” shouts one of the phrases crafted into the stones just under the rafters. “Sanctioned by the Light of Reason” shouts another. Do people in this city hear these shouts, I wonder? This morning there are more stories about an Iraqi General being killed during interrogation. Our group of Shine the Lighters maneuver our battery powered candles and flashlights as we pass these walls of Justice. Maybe the power outage that has darkened Iraq since the occupation is part of a world wide dimming of the the lighting system that has now reached our own Department of Justice. We consider offering some of our extra batteries for the Department to help shine the light on the exercise of justice in this democracy.
The walls of the FBI and the Department of Justice did not come down as we circled but the light of the sun was everywhere apparent. We didn’t lose heart. We completed our procession on this January Saturday by processing next door to the Internal Revenue Service. Some in our group of 25 may never have had contact with the FBI or the Department of Justice but all of us have had direct experience with the IRS. We wanted to shine a little light there because the IRS will collect in excess of 600 billion dollars this year to pay for our nation’s present, past, and future wars. As one who has been the recipient of many financial offerings, and has occasionally organized fund raising letters, the modern begging bowl, I know that money is needed to get things done – but 600+ billion dollars! As I walked around the IRS I wondered if our peace work would have the internal discipline to make good use of so much money each year to undertake the massive task of building a global culture of nonviolence. Would we stuff our budgets with money for gadgets, vehicles and SUVs and try to solve human problems with technology when the human touch would suffice? Would we sustain our work in the confidence that love and light will overcome terror and the legacy of the human enterprise of war? Would we have too guard our buildings too?