PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus


Shine the Light: Pentagon by peaceprobe

Lights for the Pentagon

Jan. 26, 2006: It was supposed to rain today when our tiny group was scheduled to go to the Pentagon. We had been told that we could not process; we could not pass out leaflets; that no indiscretion would be tolerated or arrests would be immediate. Eventually our group of seven would require 25 heavily armed Pentagon Protective Service agents to stand between us and the throngs of people coming and going.You reach the Pentagon by way of the Yellow Metro line and when you emerge from the escalator you are there right at the Pentagon. On the sidewalk beside the Pentagon a mass of civilian and uniformed employees pour through the late afternoon. Colonels, privates, secretaries and senior level civilians share the corridor. 

One of our members places a hood over his head and is tethered by rope to another member in our group simulating pictures of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and secret prisons that span the globe. We tell our entire story with one sign and the hooded one.

During the hour and a half presence, our time is interrupted when the Pentagon Protection Service spokesperson approaches us repeatedly to push us further and further from the masses of people passing by on the walk way. I had been appointed to negotiate with them. With a mixture of suggestions, humor, requests, and compliments I try to preserve space for our small circle. After 20 minutes we are pushed off the sidewalk behind a fence into a lawn like Iraqi citizens are pushed from their streets in Baghdad by huge tanks. An early promise that we could carry out our prayer time on the sidewalk suddenly changed and another round of discussions proceeded between us as my collegues stood silently – prayerfully. Thirty feet away we watched hundreds of state supported defenders of freedom pass by on their way from an office to a meeting, or to a shift change or …. to defend the country and make the world order come out right.

When all 25 agents took their positions after we had been there for about 45 minutes we knew that our ability to negotiate more time was limited. But we continued with our little prayer service complete with scripture, and song. As we prayed I thought I saw a tiny sliver of sunlight pierce its way through the clouds. This morning the Washington Post reported a massive increase in appropriations for special secret units like the special forces and Navy Seals. I was not surprised. As I watched the crowd pass I wondered who was directing and commanding that process.

My mind went from this temple of modern warriors to their colleagues I had seen clothed in flak vests and armor as they moved about Baghdad, the 2500 who will never walk these streets again and the tens of thousands whose lives are broken because their souls were not meant for warrior campaigns designed in this temple. I think of their chances for healing. Then I look at the hooded one in our midst. I noticed that the throngs that pass us looked carefully at our signs but their eyes drop when they see the hooded one. What had the bent hooded one ignited in our common silence?

By the time we took our leave, the Pentagon Protective Service had created a silent, empty space between us and the masses of this day’s foot soldiers that walked just beyond the security corridor. That empty space had a sacred quality, an interim safe place where the Divine could remind us all, holy warriors and holy peacemakers of the freedom and hope of the light. As I watched that space I thought I saw energy for our global civilization to reach beyond the smoke of the fuel that we burn, beyond the engines of power and destruction that we have all helped to create to a moment in time when the affection to which all creation is pulling us begins to fill that space with music that we all can learn to sing.

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