The Two Smiles
On the morning of August 9th, 2005 – the 60th commemoration of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Pentagon guards brutally arrested seven who dared to speak the truth…
As we rode up the escalator, I could hear the soft beat of a drum. I looked up at Joe. He looked at me. We held our silence (as planned), but the air pulsed with intense emotion. Above and to our left, we could see the backs of men lining the wall – all designated “police”, and all waiting for us. We reached the top, turned left, strode past the guards, crossed the crowded sidewalk, and headed towards the barricade. An officer immediately told us to get behind the small barrier. Thirty of us did so.
But not all.
Seven of our number had decided to “risk-arrest” by donning sackcloth and sitting in ashes. They would not stand behind a barricade holding signs and banners. They would not let the American government tell them where and where not to proclaim peace. They would sit in the middle of a stream of pentagon workers, bearing witness to the sins of our nation. They were there to repent. They were there to bear the cross and to pay the penance – to atone for America’s vicious annihilation of Nagasaki. And they did so with gentleness. With kindness. With meekness. And in turn, they were greeted with violence.
Two of the seven slipped unnoticed past the guards, making it to the very entrance of the pentagon. There they sat undisturbed until being arrested. In front of the barricade, however, things went differently. Art Laffin, a gentle giant of a man, put on his sackcloth, attempted to pour his ashes, and was immediately tackled by three guards. They threw him face first into the ground, thrust their knees into his back, recklessly ripped his arm around (nearly breaking it), and finally dragged him away handcuffed. Four others were herded to the barricade, pushed and shoved fiercely by a smirking guard. Those of us behind the barricade stood in shock at the aggressive assault. Some called out, “they are nonviolent!” The officer didn’t seem to care. He smiled cruelly at the two gray haired women before shoving them with the weight of his entire body – propelling them back into the barricade. His smile reflected the masochistic joy of the tortured, the smile of one who had grown to enjoy pain – both his own, and others’. But the women only smiled back at him with peace. The four attempted to walk slowly past him. And again, they were violently pushed back.
Officers who had started the morning with grins and snickers now stood silently. Pentagon workers, who had at first looked away, now found their eyes and hearts drawn to the contrast of the two smiles. The smile of cruelty glared at the smile of peace, one reflecting an idol, the other a God – one an idol of violence, death, and hate… the other a God of peace, life, and love. The sight touched every soul that witnessed it, and at that moment, we all experienced the power of nonviolence. The officers stood in shame as they witnessed their co-worker’s wildly disproportionate behavior. Pentagon workers’ eyes widened at the ferocious display of unneeded force. And throughout it all, a tiny whisper drifted through the haze… asking…
“Is this who you are? Is this who you want to be?”
The officer in charge eventually overcame his shock and pulled the frenzied guard back – giving him a silent order to stay away. The police then arrested the four peacemakers, doing so with violent precision. There were no cruel smiles this time. There were no snickers. There was only the pain of techniques designed to dominate, humiliate, and control. Within minutes, our friends were bound, arrested, and taken away.
Afterwards, many workers came and went. Many passages were read. Images of burned shadows and burned children were branded into every open heart that walked by. And in the background, the soft beat of our drum continued without pause. It drummed for every soul lost on that day sixty years ago, when Nagasaki was obliterated by hate. We stood finally in a circle of silence, holding hands, praying for God’s mercy – pleading for an end to our nation’s death march. And then the heavens opened, the rains poured forth, and…
As Jesus drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
- Luke 19:41-42
Christ weeps for us all,
for the men murdered in battle,
for the children charred in flames,
for the terrorists tortured in hate,
for the bishops caught in cowardice,
for the politicians tickled by tragedy,
for Americans and Iraqis and all afraid alike,
that we may find another way,
a way and a path lined with crosses,
a way and a path paved with peace,
a way and a path lit by martyrs burning,
burning in everlasting life,
burning in everlasting joy,
burning in everlasting light,
in the mercy of an all powerful Father,
through the knowledge of an all loving Son,
with the meekness of an all seeing Spirit,
forever burning in the truth of Christ’s tears,