PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus


Shine the Light: Dept. of Justice, FBI, IRS by peaceprobe
January 24, 2006, 10:12 am
Filed under: Shine the Light: Wash. DC

Making Laws and Human interpretations happen:

When the late J. Edgar Hoover died a new home for the Federal Bureau of Investigation was completed and named after him. FBI, these three letters bring fear to some, and entertainment to others. The investigation of alleged indiscretions and the administration of law are always intended to be separate in order to assure fairness, it rarely works that way even in reasoned democracy. The blurring of roles leads to abuse in the fact finding (interrogation) process. Presidents and ordinary citizens have lived in fear of the FBI since its founding early in the 20th century. When indiscretions are discovered and become public modest reforms follow and these work for a time until new ways to get around the law are invented. FBI agents like a policeman/women and military investigators are under pressure to solve a case – to produce results. That pressure leads to short cuts sometimes augmented by political pressure, public opinion (see the story of Jesus) or a deliberate confusion of policy (Abu Gharib). Those short cuts and officially supported violence are expanded depending upon the culture of law enforcement. For this nation the tone of that culture begins at the J. Edgar Hoover Building located at 9th and Pennsylvania Ave and continues through local police, elements of the military and hundreds of other specialized security services that protect gated communities, corporations and national borders. 

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?

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