February 24, 2009

. . . we are about bury Peter DeMott's body in the ground, but nobody can ever bury his spirit.

A simple pine box made by a couple of friends sat in the back of a small pickup truck in front of the Church in Ithaca, NY on a cold February morning.

The large church filled with friends from all around the country. We shared a service, sang songs and listened to speakers.

“I am Peter’s mother.” The entire church stood and applauded. She told us how she knew he was meant to do something special. It took ten months for him to be born. He was eleven pounds, twelve ounces and twenty-three inches long. She was not a big woman.

Then she and the other speakers shared their memories of him, his wise counsel, hard work, devotion to his faith and his family and his commitment to stopping war and violence.

The priests spoke from a place that shared a deep understanding of Peter’s connection between his faith and his need to act in the face of a violent society. You just knew they had discussed it all at one time or another. The church was filled with people who shared his commitment and many had supported or participated in some of these actions over the years with Peter. 

Liz McAllister noted that we were about bury Peter’s body in the ground, but nobody can ever bury his spirit.

His four daughters spoke lovingly of their dad and read from letters he sent from prison. They teamed up to read,  Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, a poem by Wendell Berry:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.
These were kids who really knew their dad.

Later there was another gathering and potluck at the Women's Community Building. We listened to more stories, ate and chatted with family and friends. We met the people from those places we read about over the years where the non-violent protests happened. Picketing and climbing fences at military bases, planting gardens on top of missile silos, pouring their blood at the recruiter's offices, crashing a van into a Trident sub and hammering on the subs, protesting the depleted uranium at Vieques, Puerto Rico - the list where civil disobedience actions took place seemed endless. Many of the people here told their stories and Peter was part of most of them. 

Hundreds of people came. Of all the things we shared in common there was one thing that stood out. Whether we only met him a few times or knew him for thirty years, we all loved Peter. What a community!

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