Monday, September 10, 2012


As Caravan for Peace visits Atlanta, GA, Javier Sicilia prays at tomb of Martin Luther King

Detroit—Murder Capitol of the USA.  We’ve seen the headlines.  A recent benchmark high for Detroit was a murder rate of 37.4 per 100,000 population in 2008.  How does that compare to the killing in the drugs & guns wars that plague Mexico? — Ciudad Juarez, a murder rate of 238.7 per 100,000 in 2010. 

Drug cartels, a flood of assault weapons from the U.S. and elsewhere, a military & police compromised by drug money, an escalating violence to maximize drug profits in Mexico from the U.S. drugs/guns marketplace, all these have made life unlivable in many parts of Mexico.  This was the message from the 100 plus members of the Caravan for Peace, coming from Tijuana towards Washington D.C. over this past month, and as I joined the northern Chicago to Toledo leg.  It arrives in D.C. September 12th.  Most Mexican participants have directly experienced the death-violence in loss of their family and friends.
Javier Sicilia and supporters of the Caravan on the march in Chicago
They plead for an end to the War on Drugs as unwinnable--another way to spend outrageous amounts of money aimed at illegal drugs, but just killing more people.  They ask us to decriminalize drug use, to take the huge money out of the illegal drugs business, by government control and taxation, as we did with alcohol when we ended Prohibition.  Organized crime on both sides of the border is cashing in, while most of the killing happens in Mexico, 70,000 dead, 20,000 disappeared in the past 6 years.

Economic changes have lessened the immigration impetus to come to the U.S. for a better life.  They’ve always hoped to be able have a good life with their family in their native land.  But now many are being expelled by the violence.  They come to the U.S. as refugees, for physical survival.
Image by Corbis, from Wall Street Journal
I walked with them in a march in Chicago from the Latino to African American neighborhoods. A good sign of reconciliation between communities which have often been pitted against each other.  I listened to these  Mexican pilgrims tortured testimonies at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church that had invited them in, and at the Centro Autonimo de Albany Park the following night.   Shootings, women assaulted, assassinations, beheadings, disappearances with dismembered or no trace left behind.  Mind-numbing violence.
Disabled AK 47 held aloft by Javier at Caravan's stop in Houston 
Javier Sicilia, a professor and poet, a devout Catholic who leads the Caravan, opened one of his talks with a poem from Emily Dickinson, “I felt a funeral in my brain”… He knows grief firsthand, losing his 24 year old son to the drug violence.  He wrote his last poem then, and has been leading the movement to Stop the Drug War since.

"I felt such an immense pain, I can't even explain," Sicilia said in Spanish. "It's the biggest pain one can feel — when one loses a child."
His son's friends had visited a bar they hadn't known was operated by people involved with organized crime, Sicilia said. Valuable work equipment had been stolen from the car of a friend of his son. When his son, "the pacifier" of the group, approached the bar owners, he and his friends were kidnapped and murdered, Sicilia said.
His son, three months from graduating from university, had been offered a job as a cardiologist in Mexico before he died, his father said.  *

Javier asked me to pray for him and his Caravan as I left Toledo for home.  I am doing that, and trying to tell some of their story.  Thank God we don’t have their level of violence yet in our towns and cities.  But there were 11 heroin deaths in my mainly rural St. Clair County in 2011.  I don’t know the Detroit figure.

Drugs guns and violence are a terrible curse, taking deeper hold if not confronted.  We must make it severely less profitable to be pushers and killers.  This can be done by the nation courageously decriminalizing drug use, and state control of pricing and availability.  Upping the violence ante with superpower assault swat teams will not work.  It hasn’t in Mexico.  It won’t here.  This is a common sense opinion within the police departments themselves.  The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition group had a symbolic squad car as first car in the Caravan for Peace behind the 2 giant buses.  Please visit especially the Caravan’s website.

ork and pray in any way you can for their success.  Let him and her who have ears listen to their pleas.  They have decided not to be silent.  These pilgrims are the frontline against the wave of guns & drugs violence that can soon inundate ourselves and our children, perhaps much sooner than any international terrorists. 

Illumination by Kathey Brahney

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