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Editor's Note: The Audacity of Hope, the U.S. boat among a small flotilla seeking to
challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, was turned back by Greek
authorities doing the bidding of Washington and Tel Aviv. However, for
ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who was among the passengers, the endeavor
demonstrated the commitment of Americans from a variety of backgrounds
to fight injustice.
We passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza represent a cross-section of America. Yet, if there is an emblematic trait that sets us apart from "mainstream" America, it is a common, radical determination to take risks to bring Justice for the oppressed -- in this case, the 1.6 million people locked in an open-air prison on a narrow strip of land called Gaza.
While most of those calling us "radical" hurl the word as a barb, we welcome the label -- but radical as derived from the underlying meaning of this word, "root." Like radishes, we are rooted in soil, the soil of Justice.
"Extremist?" Yes, we confess to that too -- as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. did in his Letter From the Birmingham City Jail.
Replying to those who threw the "extremist" epithet at him, Dr. King acknowledged that he was, indeed, an extremist -- "an extremist for love."
He placed this kind of extremist squarely in the tradition of the Hebrew prophet Amos ("Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream"), as well as Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal").
"So," wrote King, "the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice -- or will we be extremists for the cause of justice."
A Different "Liturgy'
Our kind of extremism can be seen as rooted in a liturgy that rejects pseudo-worship, which prophet Isaiah warned that God finds sickening:
"Trample my courts no more! ... Your incense is loathsome to me. ... Make Justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. ... I will strengthen you ... a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners out of confinement, and from the dungeon those who live in darkness. ...
"Do not dwell on things of the past. See, I am doing something new. Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?"
And, finally, another passage from Isaiah typically read on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, which often is observed by many secular Jews, as well.
"What is the fast God desires of you? To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, break off the handcuffs from the prisoners. ..."
Nice image, no? Breaking off the handcuffs from the prisoners. Whether literally or figuratively, that takes work.
And, as the passages from Isaiah suggest, this is central to a genuine liturgy -- the DOING of Justice, not merely rhetoric about how nice it would be.