From the Cross to the Dungeons of America
by Raul Garcia
As I prepared to visit Ramsey Muniz, a political prisoner for the last 17 years, I thought about the many years we have known each other. In fact, we go all the way back to high school and university days.
Though each visit through the years has been educational and inspirational, there seemed to be something different and special about this visit. We had scheduled the visit for April 22, 2011 without my realizing it would fall on Good Friday. Maybe that’s the reason why as I dressed that morning there seemed to be an invisible hand guiding me toward my black clothing, a symbolic color of what happened on Good Friday in 33 A.D.
When I saw Ramsey and we sat down he said to me: “Do you realize today is Good Friday, the day Jesus Christ was crucified”? I knew then that this visit would be different because on close reflection I realized that prison is like being in what the Hebrews called “Golgotha” and Latin Rome called “Calvary”, a place to suffer and die. All over the world, including America, the Christ is being crucified, particularly the innocent ones who are thrown along with the criminals and crucified along with the Christ.
Ramsey believes that the arrest of Jesus was a political event, given that the Roman Empire felt threatened by a young revolutionary who would say, “It has been said of old, but I say unto you……” The Jesus movement had grown so big, that a new direction, a new vision, a new ethic was coming out of the firy lips of Jesus. The authorities had to get rid of him, so they monitored him wherever he went.
Muniz feels that his own arrest was also a political event in order to silence the leaders of the Chicano movement. Reies Lopez Tijerina, a leader of the Land Grant Alliance in New Mexico, once said to me that authorities were always monitoring leaders of “El Movimiento”. He showed me evidence which he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Let us also keep in mind that Jesus was betrayed by some of his closest followers, some for money, others because their egos mattered to them more than the One who had come to speak in the name of justice. Yes, justice is also a form of salvation, both individual and social. Muniz feels that he, like Christ, was betrayed as the years went by, as the silence of some who were close to him during the movement ran scared, like the followers of Jesus who ran scared and hid in and around Jerusalem.
It was Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus appeared first after the Resurrection, she whom Jesus loved the most, and in whom he entrusted his deepest secrets which not even the disciples were privy to. Yes, she rallied the doubters, the scared, the deniers. It is no accident that Ramsey’s wife, Irma, has suffered all these years along with her husband, for she knows him like no one else does and has worked tirelessly in his behalf.
Ramsey said to me that he now understands the agony of the Christ on the cross, an agony that is so profound that it pierces the heart of the soul. He understands, he says, why even Jesus felt abandoned on the cross. Jesus, he says, was a thoroughly pure man, made pure through suffering and sacrifice. To which I added that perhaps that is the reason why we can also see Jesus’ divinity, in the strength of his humanity made pure through the holiness of suffering and sacrifice.
But just as Jesus forgave those who denied him and did him wrong, so does Ramsey forgive those who have accused him of a crime he did not commit. In the end, Jesus was given a death sentence just like Socrates. Jesus for rasiing the standard of love and holiness in a world intoxicated with wars, violence, and racism, while Socrates for raising the standard of intellectual freedom and tolerance. Ramsey believes that he has also been sentenced to death by having him sent to life in prison without any possibility of parole.
After our theological conversation Ramsey touched on other matters. He said he’d been thinking of Cesar Chavez, the great civil rights leader. He was remembering the day when Chavez told him that La Raza was no longer afraid, that the people would no longer hold back and would speak without fear, and that the future was ours.
Tez says that we need to reach the young, for they appear to be clueless about our history and of what is going on in the world. There is no excuse for this, given the power of the Internet as a vehicle for research and communication. In fact, Tez has come to view the great importance of the technological revolution in communication. I mentioned to him that this is how the Zapatistas in Chiapas had gained world support, through the power of computerized technological modern forms of communication. The young, he says, must become experts, masters, of this technology, and those of us in the field of education must emphasize this to them.
Tez says that history is on our side, that the rising speed of the growing raza population is overhelming the centers of power, for they know not how to handle us other than by passing more and more irrational and silly laws. When Ramsey says that history is on our side, I keep thinking of the great prince Cuauhtemoc who rallied the Aztecs when the Sun seemed to be in an eclipse, and though defeated temporarily, he prophesied that the people of the Sixth Sun would rise again!
Finally, before we ended the visit, my friend of 50 years asked that we pray, which we did. We had visited on Good Friday, the day of the crucifixation of Christ. But we both knew that histsory does not end with the crucifixion, that it does not end with a tear or with suffering, for there is always an Easter, always a day of freedom and joy.