Yesterday, I volunteered to climb the steeple of All Souls Unitarian Church of Washington D.C. and ring the Revere Bell for the ten minutes before the second worship service in remembrance of all the lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Revere Bell of Freedom was cast in 1822 by Paul Revere’s son Joseph. It was once considered one of the official bells of Washington and was rung for fires and to mark the death of public figures. The bell fell out of favor [as an official bell] after being used to toll the death of abolitionist John Brown in 1859, earning it the name the Abolition Bell. Since then, the bell has been rung for many human rights causes.
Ringing the bell is no small chore. It requires yanking down on a rope with the full weight of your body, halting the rope on its rise and halting it once again on its second rise. The entirety of this activity is done with a deafening clanging in your ears. After ten minutes of laboring with the bell, I descended to the sanctuary covered in sweat, but also alert, mindful, and ready for worship.
A week before ringing the bell, I went along with staff from the Friends Committee on National Legislation for a visit with the staff of Senator Specter (R-PA). We thanked Sen. Specter for speaking out against President Bush’s Middle East policies and asked that the Senator back up his lip service with action. The staffer was glad to receive our praise and our request, but he gave us nothing back.
Our congress is stymied in a cycle of rhetorical outrage against the war, followed by sheepish votes to continue funding it. Members of congress are full of powerless words, and devoid of powerful votes. Congress is currently considering appropriating another $100 billion for the war. This is likely their last chance to live up to the mandate to end the war that voters gave them in 2006. I encourage you to visit your members of congress the week after Memorial Day when they will be in their district offices and remind them of their mandate.
While ringing the Revere Bell, I imagined it stationed in the halls of congress. I imagined the bell’s clanging thunder drowning out all the empty rhetoric, and its resounding glory celebrating every vote for freedom and justice. As we march and protest against the war, write letters and emails, call and visit our representatives, we are tolling for justice. As we send vibrations reverberating through congress, our representatives may not be moved to action, but they certainly feel our presence. And this November our vibrations will be much more powerful, so please vote, and please vote loudly.