Cherith Brook Ordinary Time 2014 Newspaper
Have Salt In Yourselves
By Theo KayserAs we stood vigil outside of Whiteman Air Force Base on the final day of this years Trifecta Resista my mind kept returning to one thing, salt. “Nearly 70% of Afghan children face iodine deficiency. With iodine deficiency comes functional and developmental abnormalities. The solution is simple, iodized salt. And the cost? Only 5 cents per child per year. That’s compared to the 2.1 million it costs to keep one US soldier in Afghanistan for one year.” This was the message of the talk given the night before by long time peace activist Kathy Kelly. She could have just as easily compared the cost of iodized salt to the 16.9 million dollars it costs to build a new MQ-9 Reaper drone or the 2,500-3,500 dollars it costs per hour to fly one. Just to be clear, the money spent on one flight hour could cover the cost of a year’s supply of iodized salt for fifty to seventy thousand Afghan children. Later that morning Kelly was arrested with one other as she entered Whiteman in protest of US drone warfare controlled from that base.
Salt. I thought about it more and more. Jesus told us to perform the works of mercy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick etc. As Catholic Workers, we try to make those works the center of our every day lives. I guess there are some we take for granted, like giving salt to the saltless. Iodine isn’t something that people in wealthier nations think about very often but according to a UNICEF report on the lack of Iodine in Afghanistan, “Iodine deficiency is common in women, resulting in low birth weight, deafness, and cretinism in new-borns - lack of iodine is believed to contribute to a reduced IQ level of up to 15 points in some parts of Afghanistan.”
That morning at Whiteman my musings on salt lead me beyond the plight of Afghan children. It reminded me of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the subsequent resulting treaties. They are most referred to by their acronyms, SALT 1 and SALT 2. These 1970s era treaties were the first bilateral agreements between the United States and Soviet Union on the issue of nuclear arms control and the predecessors to the New START treaty in effect today. The terms of the New START treaty concern the reduction of nuclear capable launch facilities by half. This reduction in nuclear capabilities would seem to be a step in the direction of eliminating the threat of nuclear war but other actions taken by those in power would suggest that these weapons are here to stay.
Just the day before, on the second stop of our Trifecta Resista we gathered outside the Banister Federal Complex, the home to the old Kansas City Plant. We were there to bear witness to the toxic mess being left by this factory that produced 85% of the non-nuclear materials for the United States nuclear bomb arsenal. The National Nuclear Security Administration has relocated the Kansas City Plant to a new location leaving behind contamination of chlorinated solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, PCBs, and beryllium. The cost of the new plant is estimated at $673 million. For a country with a president who claims to desire a “world without nuclear weapons” that is a lot of money spent on the improvement of our nuclear weapons infrastructure, a lot of money that could buy a whole lot of salt.
The other stop of our Trifecta was a visit to Ft. Levenworth, KS. It is there that Chelsea Manning and Greg Boertje-Obed are imprisoned. Anyone who has ever been in jail or prison will tell you that even salt is a treat when it comes to the food served there. These are two people who, as Jesus commanded, refused to lose their saltiness, even at great cost. Both have been imprisoned for revealing the lies we have been told about the way our military works.
I knew that Jesus talked of being the “salt of the earth” and that he commanded us to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” but didn’t realize until I looked it up that salt is mentioned 35 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 6 more in the Christian. Salt was a symbol of the covenant with YHWH. It is a fitting parallel that our reliance on military prowess rather than on God is manifest in money spent on weapons rather than human needs such as iodized salt.
Paul, writing to the Colossians from prison, mentions salt. He says, “pray for us, too, that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak of the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, as I must speak… Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.”
When acts of war are orchestrated in your hometown but perpetrated half a world away the phrase “think globally and act locally” carries a whole new meaning. As the use of drones proliferates more and more bases are being converted to drone piloting centers. Thankfully, it seems that with every base that starts piloting drones there comes resistance. From Syracuse, NY and Las Vegas, NV to Des Moines, IA and Knob Noster, MO people are finding that they, like Paul, “must speak.” There are many that have even been arrested delivering copies of international law to and blocking the entrances of military bases as they attempt to (though they may not use the exact language) “make it clear” that the word of God (that is Love) does not permit the likes of drones. They are dedicated to non-violence but their message is certainly seasoned with salt.
If we lose our saltiness, if we allow ourselves to just blend in with the mass of people and be complacent in war making we will, as the gospel says, only be “thrown out and trampled underfoot.” I pray for the sake of the children of Afghanistan and for the entire world that we may all learn to be salty.
Georgia Walker, Tamara Severns & Kathy Kelly at Whiteman AFB. Georgia & Kathy presented bread to the arresting officers