Statement to Court: “I plead for Iowa”
(Aug 19, 1977 DC Court, Frank Cordaro’s sentencing statement for Blood Spilling at the Pentagon on Aug 9th. Frank got a 30 day jail sentence.)
I enter a plea for Iowa and my act of August 9 which was an act of Civil Disobedience. In theory, Civil Disobedience implies the legitimacy of the Court and the Law System within which it is practiced. At this time, I agree with this basic assumption.
In my case, it appears that I have broken a particular property law. I acted, not because of the injustice of this law, but because of the injustice which lies within the very property I violated-the Pentagon.
Property laws in our justice system protect all property, private and public, indiscriminately. In normal times, this seems to be for the good of a society and its individuals. However, these property laws break down, as any static law must, at their edge–their borderline cases. The Pentagon is just such a borderline case.
St. Thomas Aquinas in his writing on what constitutes “stealing” gives as an example the case of a person who take~ a loaf of bread because he would starve without it. Aquinas states that such an act does not really constitute the act of “stealing” since in taking: the bread the starving person is obeying a right higher than law–the inalienable right to life. Using this method of reasoning, I plead f or my home state of Iowa in my act of Civil Disobedience.
I am too young to have experienced the historical events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore, I am unable to remember experientially the reality of all-out war and the dropping of the Atom Bomb on these two Japanese cities. However, such past evils are never completely erased from present moments. The evils of war and violence are unforgettable realities that are repeated in every generation.
Yet this repetition of History’s evils is not a natural burden human-beings and their societies MUST live with. Instead, its an outgrowth of peoples’ unlimited capacity to pretend to forget. This pretending to forget allows modern-day Hiroshima and Nagasaki to exist right under our noses without us, as individuals, ever claiming them for what they are. This pretending permits our many institutions, which profess to protect the individual and society from the nakedness of such evils, to blindly protect the uncontrolled powers and structures that daily implement the realities of new Hiroshimas and Nagasakis.
In my act of Civil Disobedience, I plead for my home state of Iowa. I plead for the people who come to our Catholic Worker House daily because they have no housing, or clothing, or food. These people share our house out of their necessity and our privilege. These people, our friends who have suffered institutional violence of every kind, are broken persons living unprotected and naked to their own violence.
I plead for my home state whose people, in a few short years if not before, will lose their most precious resource- LAND –either by loss of ownership, or of the freedom to decide how that land will be used.
I plead for my family and friends who suffer so much spiritually because they live in a death wish society. The Pentagon, and all it represents, is the outward manifestation of this society–a death wish society that has been killing us spiritually as a people long before its nuclear bombs will kill us physically.
And, finally, I plead for the poor of Iowa knowing that the material and human resources wasted on ONE Trident Submarine could do away with all the poverty and unemployment in my home state.
In truth, my plea is a plea for LIFE and my act of spilling blood (yes, your honor, it was blood) on the pillars of the Pentagon was a life-affirming act. BLOOD, the symbol of life and death, spilled on the pillars of the Temple of Death to beckon the deadened consciences of my fellow citizens and their established institutions to take back the control of all life from this Beast of Death.
Surely no property is more valuable than life itself–and ALL life is at stake. Global life MUST be protected before the legitimacy of this unholy, illegitimate property called the Pentagon. All types of forums must be used to proclaim the Truth. As an individual citizen, I have used the action of spilling my blood as a forum to speak the Truth.
The Court now has the obligation to speak the Truth, to recognize the Pentagon for what it is-illegitimate property which has no right to exist since, in its idolatry it threatens all life. If the Court were to speak out this morning on this Truth, all legitimate property laws would be obeyed and enforced as they have been in the past. And in this Court, at least, the Inalienable Right to Life would be affirmed before the rights of illegitimate property.