The Common Good

SojoMail

Sojomail - December 15, 2000


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++++++++++++++++++++ 15-December-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Joseph Stalin on elections

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *It was a tie

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *2004: U.S. presidential election reaches resolution

 F o r   M e r c y ' s   S a k e  
     *Give hope to prisoners of conscience over holidays

 H e a r i n g   T h e   C a l l 
	*West Michigan Call to Renewal meets

 S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
     *Taize online

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *E-commerce: friend or foe of the environment?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Wrap on Rap

 F a i t h   a n d   P o l i t i c s
     *China blows up hundreds of illegal 'churches'

 W e b  S c e n e
     *Jubilee beyond 2000

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The people who cast the votes decide
nothing. The people who count the votes
decide everything.

               -- Joseph Stalin
                  
--------------------------------------------------------

H E A R T S  &  M I N D S
+++++++++++++++++++++++++
It Was a Tie
by Jim Wallis

I'm writing my column on the night Vice President 
Gore and President-elect George W. Bush addressed 
the nation and ended an excruciating five weeks for 
the nation. Al Gore gave the most eloquent speech 
of his life, calling the nation to unity and 
touching the hearts even of his opponents. George 
Bush appropriately pledged a bipartisan approach 
as the victor who lost the popular vote and won 
the presidency with a 5-4 Supreme Court decision. 

The new president will face a divided nation - a 
House of Representatives with a razor slim 
Republican majority, a Senate split 50-50, 
a judiciary that has revealed deep chasms 
and taken blows to its credibility, and an 
executive branch struggling with questions 
as to its legitimacy. The electorate itself 
showed it was almost evenly divided on Election 
Day 2000, with millions of citizens now feeling 
deep disappointment and even anger at the result. 
The racial dimensions of that alienation and 
disaffection are especially troubling.

Beyond the outcome of the election, it's time to 
ask what lessons must be learned and what our 
political and moral situation is beyond 
"hanging" and "dimpled" chads.

First, the nation's electoral apparatus is 
terribly flawed, as this closest election in 
American history has painfully demonstrated. 
We've fallen well short of the democratic 
promise of universal suffrage, won through 
decades of struggle. 

The religious community should now play a leading 
role in the call for election reform as a 
moral issue, as we have so often in the past. 
From women's suffrage to the civil rights movement, 
people of faith have often been in the forefront 
of efforts to expand and extend democracy. This 
election has dramatically shown that the time for 
a new electoral reform movement has arrived. What 
would it take to begin to address the problems? 
Here's a short list:

Congress should institute minimum and universal 
national standards for voting equipment, ballot 
design, and ballot counting. While the battle 
focused on a few thousand ballots in Florida, 
some 2 million votes nationwide were not counted 
for a variety of reasons. Even the majority opinion 
in the Supreme Court pointedly noted, "After the 
current counting, it is likely legislative bodies 
nationwide will examine ways to improve the 
mechanisms and machinery for voting."

Of particular concern is how these many problems 
work disproportionately to disenfranchise voters 
who are poor and people of color. The Washington 
Post reported that the prevalence of old, dilapidated 
voting equipment in poor communities nationwide make 
black votes three times more likely to be thrown out 
than white votes. Worse yet are alarming reports of 
black voters in Florida being intimidated and even 
obstructed from casting their ballots. A Justice 
Department investigation of these problems has begun, 
and must be completed.

Voter registration should be much simpler, and 
voting itself should be made easier by instituting 
the day off, or voting over a weekend as many 
countries do. And it's time to either reform or 
abolish the Electoral College, a vestige of an 
aristocratic era that must come under the scrutiny of 
a more democratic nation.

To the extent possible under the First Amendment, 
there should be restrictions on media projecting 
results until all polls have closed nationwide. 
A large part of the confusion election evening 
was caused by early media "calls" followed by 
retractions. 

And finally, there could be no better time for a 
bipartisan commitment to eliminate the excessive 
influence of money in politics. The candidates, 
political parties, and outside interest groups 
spent nearly half a billion dollars on the 2000 
election. Campaign finance reform should be a top 
priority of the new administration and Congress.

But in addition to these critical questions about 
the process of American politics, there are even 
deeper concerns about its content. The election of 
2000 must honestly be viewed as a tie - a virtual 
dead heat, and a rather unenthusiastic one at that. 
While there are certainly committed partisans on both 
sides, most Americans were not terribly passionate 
about their choices this year. Many voters were 
undecided until the very end, many more spoke in 
"lesser of evils" language, and most wondered if 
this was really the best America had to offer.

Simply put, the two traditional political options 
in America (Democrat and Republican, liberal and 
conservative) have failed to capture the imagination, 
commitment, or trust of a majority of people in 
this country. Neither has found ways to solve our 
deepest and most entrenched social problems. 
Record prosperity hasn't cured child poverty. 
Family breakdown is occurring across all class 
and racial lines. Public education remains a disaster 
for millions of families. Millions more still don't 
have health insurance or can't find affordable housing. 
The environment suffers continuing degradation, 
while our popular culture becomes more and more 
polluted by debased and violent "entertainment." 
Our foreign policy lacks principle and purpose, 
but so do our own local communities, as people are 
more and more isolated, busy, and disconnected. 
The political Right and Left continue at war with 
each other, but the truth is that it is these 
ideological false choices themselves that have run 
their course and become dysfunctional.

America's political tie calls for a new "moral 
politics" that won't simplistically argue between 
personal and social responsibility, but instead 
will weave them both together in a search for 
common ground. It won't assign all the answers 
to the government, the market, or the churches 
and charities but will patiently and creatively 
forge new civic partnerships where everyone does 
their share and everybody does what they do best. 
It won't debate whether our strategies should be 
cultural, political, or economic but will show 
how they must be all three.

Finally, a new politics won't be led just by 
elected officials, lawyers, and their financial 
backers. Look for community organizers, social 
entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, and faith-
based communities to help show the way forward. 
Pay particular attention to a whole generation of 
young people forged in community service. They may 
be cynical about politics but are vitally concerned 
with public life. The politics we need now will arise 
more from building social and spiritual movements 
than merely lobbying at party conventions. And 
ultimately it will influence the parties, as 
successful movements always do.

The new president and Congress face a historic 
challenge. But I believe the nation's political tie 
might be a moment of opportunity. It shows the old 
options and debates have created a deadlock. This 
very crisis could open the way for some new and 
creative thinking and organizing. And that could 
be very good news indeed. Our political leaders must 
now learn that the way to reach common ground is 
to move to higher ground. And we citizens should 
start by showing them that way.

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information at:

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****************************************************************

F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++
U.S. Election Finally Resolved

DATELINE:
December 30, 2004
 
 WASHINGTON-After four years of legal wrangling,
 George W. Bush was finally declared the winner of the
 2000 presidential election yesterday.
 
 Bush, a Republican, will take the oath of office at
 noon today and serve until Jan. 20, 2005, a term of
 about three weeks. Then he gives way to the winner of
 the 2004 presidential election, New York Sen. Hillary
 Rodham Clinton.
 
 Facing a drastically shortened presidency, Bush
 attempted to strike an optimistic tone last night. "We
 have a lot to accomplish in the next three weeks,"
 Bush said. "Reforming Social Security alone is
 probably going to eat up four to five hours. Let's get to
 work!" Aides yesterday were calling temporary
 employment agencies in a frantic effort to fill
 Cabinet posts.
 
 Bush's victory ends a four-year court battle between
 him and Democratic candidate Al Gore over the results
 of the 2000 election.
 
 While the dispute raged on, the nation installed an
 interim president: New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre.
 Torre admitted that running a country and a baseball
 team simultaneously has been a strain. "At times,
 it's been difficult to keep the two things straight.
 Although, in retrospect, trading Jesse Helms to the
 Red Sox turned out OK."
 
 Torre's four years in office were marked by continued
 prosperity at home and relative calm abroad.
 His most controversial move was appointing Yankees
 bench coach Don Zimmer to the Supreme Court. Critics
 charged that Zimmer lacked experience. He also spit
 tobacco juice on Antonin Scalia's shoes, angering
 conservatives.
 
 Torre's boldest foreign policy initiative was making
 Cuba the 51st state in an effort to improve U.S.
 pitching.
 
 Torre was planning to vacate the White House by
 midnight tonight, with Bush moving in immediately.
 Eager to give an aura of permanency to his
 three-week administration, Bush rebuffed suggestions
 that he sleep on a bare mattress on the floor and live
 out of suitcases.
 
 Gore, meanwhile, has yet to concede defeat. The former
 vice president issued a statement today saying, "It
 would be improper and disrespectful to the democratic
 process to act hastily before all the facts are
 known."
 
--------------------------------------------------------

F o r  M e r c y ' s  S a k e
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Give hope to prisoners of conscience

"Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in
prison with them; those who are being tortured as though
you yourselves were being tortured." Hebrews 13:3

Each year during the winter holidays, Amnesty International
asks its members to send words of support to those who have
suffered human rights violations. Holidays mean little to
those who believe they have been forgotten by the world. A
simple greeting card, however, can bring renewed hope. You
can let someone know they are not forgotten. This is a
great activity for Sunday school classes, small groups,
or individuals seeking to spread peace on earth, goodwill
to all. 

For details and suggestions, including a special
children's action and updates from last year's recipients,
visit:

http://www.amnesty-usa.org/action/holiday/

A representative of the Human Rights Center (Centro dos
Direitos Humanos) in Brazil said of the many cards they'd
received:

"Your cards and kind messages brought us great joy.
We built them into large Christmas trees, which
decorated the Human Rights Center and other meeting
areas. Photos of children, which some of you sent,
were placed close to the top of the trees for all to
admire....Your gesture of solidarity goes on brightening
Amazonian lives: Our heartfelt thanks!"

---------------------------------------------
H e a r i n g  T h e  C a l l 
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
West Michigan Call to Renewal meets

by Lisa Mitchell 
Grand Rapids Center for Ecumenism (GRACE)

The West Michigan Call to Renewal held its first 
regional gathering, called "Dismantling Poverty/
Building Justice," on Friday, November 10, 2000. 
The purpose for the gathering was to: 1) raise 
public awareness of regional West Michigan poverty 
and justice issues; 2) stimulate and gather many 
more persons willing to put their faith to work; 
and 3) encourage a higher level of advocacy to 
achieve greater justice for the poor in the region.

Jim Wallis was the keynote speaker. He made a wonderful 
"kick-off" and provided the group with inspiration, 
motivation, insight, and energy to begin or continue 
their work. He also addressed coalition building and 
the group divided into smaller groups to discuss the 
strengths, weaknesses, and importance of coalition 
building. There was a series of breakout sessions 
around the six Call to Renewal Covenant themes that 
provided the opportunity for participants to delve 
deeper into what is happening in West Michigan 
related to those themes.

November 10 was an opportunity to build coalitions 
committed to overcoming poverty year-round and 
identify some intentional actions that can be 
implemented regionally through the coalitions 
around these critical issues: Living Wage, Urban 
Sprawl, Mentoring, Transforming Criminal Justice, 
Health Care, and Affordable Housing. These groups 
have met during December and are working on goals 
and objectives for the upcoming year. They hope 
to report back to the larger community on their 
efforts at a similar gathering in November 2001. 

-----------------------------------------------------

S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Taizé Online

Taizé draws on an international, ecumenical, and
young community. The worship community centered
in southern France is known for a message
and songs that unite across denominational
boundaries.

News from Taizé by e-mail is available in English,
French, German, Italian, Polish, and Spanish. To
subscribe, go to:

http://www.taize.fr/taizenews.htm
          
-----------------------------------------------------------

B o o m e r a n g
++++++++++++++++++

Ken Tittle wrote:

Glad to see Sojourners cognizant of disability
issues. Interested readers will find a Sojourners-
influenced self-empowerment or community organizing
approach to disability and faith at our extensive
Mariposa Ministry Web site:

http://www.satcom.net/mariposa.

I also highly recommend an intellectually provocative
book by Brett Webb Mitchell, "Dancing with Disabilities."
The book discusses the potential role of including persons with
disabilities in transforming the "post-Reformation
era" church. Good Sojourners stuff.

-------------------------

Richard Wigton of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, wrote:

I can't begin to tell you how offended I was
to see you quoting Gloria Steinem in last week's
SojoMail. Gloria Steinem is a pro-abortion
radical feminist who has made very hostile
statements about Christianity in the past. You
even directed your subscribers to the Web site
where we could read an interview with her. Are
you out of your minds? Why give this woman a
forum in a "Christian" publication? Would a Jewish
publication quote David Duke & publish the Web site
where to see an interview with him? I think not!
I was disappointed previously when you published
a poem by a Buddhist nun. And now we get quotes
from Steinem!

----------------------------

Susan Easton of Hillsborough, California, wrote:

In last week's article on St. Chad, you overlooked
some of the more obvious parallels between this
English prelate's story and our modern dilemma.
It was the ordinations of those who elevated Chad
into higher ecclesiastical office which seem to
have been called into question. The way I read it,
the whole issue flared up on account of these
fellows not having enough holes punched in their
church hierarchy membership cards. Though it was
their intent to consecrate Chad, confusion arose
on whether or not they had the appropriate legal
authority when it came to "the laying on of
hands."

---------------------------------

Dave McCarty of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, wrote:

Evangelicals have bought into a strange notion that
political conservatives who are evangelicals, or hold
political positions of evangelicals, will heal our country.
Utterly naive and unproven assumption. We evangelicals have
destroyed our right to be heard by the watching world, due
to our hypocrisy and our impotency. We are rightfully
dismissed.

Who did I vote for?  Harry Browne, Libertarian. Although
Harry might not be an evangelical Christian, concerned as I
am about the poor and the unfairness experienced by people
of color, I believe that big government unwittingly creates
MORE problems than it solves. At 58 I've been a lifelong
Republican, always vote, and always vote Republican. Not
any more. The Republicans have not really helped the poor,
ended racism, reduced the size of corrupt, inept government,
any more than the Democrats. We evangelicals who are
concerned about biblical justice need a new political
paradigm: the best government is the government that governs
least.

---------------------
Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang
e-mails to the editor: "boomerang@sojo.net"


****************Sojourners Online Store **************************

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******************************************************************

T e c h  E t h i x
++++++++++++++++++
E-commerce: friend or foe of the environment?

By Stephen Leahy

On the surface, e-commerce appears to offer a big
environmental bonus by eliminating hundreds of thousands
of trips to the mall. A closer inspection, however,
reveals a net environmental impact that's decidedly mixed,
according to Scott Matthews, a research scientist involved
in assessing environmental impacts of technology at Carnegie
Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

On-line shopping does reduce commuting in gas-guzzling SUVs
and the need for yet more retail stores. But every book
ordered on the Web is heavily packaged and travels on a
transportation network that taps many resources.

"It's unlikely e-commerce will save the planet as some have
claimed," says Bette Fishbein, a senior fellow at Inform, an
environmental research organization in New York City. "There
might be some reductions in energy use, but there's a huge
increase in packaging, and shipping by air results in much
more air pollution. Office paper use has doubled since the
wide-spread use of computers - so much for the promise of
the paperless office."[]

Get the whole story at:

http://www.enn.com/features/2000/12/12112000/ecommerce_40648.asp

-----------------------------------------------------------------

C u l t u r e   W a t c h
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
A wrap on rap in the year 2000

By Eric K. Arnold

No matter how much hip-hop attempts to
elevate, it remains shackled to cliché.
Throughout the year, rap and violence continued
to be linked in the media. Headlines screamed
about the deadly conflict between rival record
labels in Hunters Point; the five people stabbed
at a Cash Money-Ruff Ryders show in Boston; the
riot that ended the Oakland Coliseum Cash Money
show before the group even went on; Puffy's wild
ride with Jennifer Lopez following a nightclub
shoot-out; and the controversy surrounding basketball
star Allen Iverson's homophobic, misogynist lyrics.
Behind every successful rapper was a legal case,
it seemed, from Eminem's arrest on charges of
pistol-whipping his estranged wife's lover to
ODB's going AWOL from rehab to Dre's suing
Napster.

Like many big news stories this year, the Napster
issue became as much a P.R. battle as a legal issue.
And as the presidential election proved, what you
see on the news doesn't always accurately reflect
reality. Peeping beyond a corporate media-informed
worldview, this year there was a tremendous upsurge
of political content in hip-hop not seen since the
Reagan era. At the vanguard were Dead Prez, whose
"Let's Get Free" created a nationwide buzz among
grassroots activists with blistering socio-political
commentaries like "They Schools" and "I'm a African."...

In hip-hop, as in life, "it ain't all good," to
paraphrase De La Soul and Chaka Khan, but it ain't
all bad either.

http://sfbg.com/noise/10/hiphop.html

-------------------------------------------------------------

F a i t h   a n d   P o l i t i c s
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
China blows up hundreds of illegal 'churches'

By David Rennie in Beijing

December 12, 2000; The London Telegraph

Chinese authorities in the city of Wenzhou have torn
down or blown up more than 200 illegal churches and
temples. A further 239 small places of worship in the
east coast city, many of them linked to the
underground Roman Catholic church, have been forced
to close. China's millions of underground Christians,
especially those who have defied Beijing to remain
loyal to the pope, face a bleak Christmas....

This autumn, China reacted with fury to the pope's
decision to canonise 120 Catholic martyrs on Oct 1,
China's National Day. Most of the martyrs were killed
in 1900 by the Boxers, fanatical xenophobes whom
Beijing calls patriotic heroes. China called the
new saints a collection of notorious criminals
and rapists.

Christianity, especially Catholicism, has traditionally
been regarded as a foreign, "imperialist" import, in a
note of fierce nationalism underlying the atheist
communist dislike of all religion. Frank Lu, director of
the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights
and Democratic Movement in China, said last night that
the latest campaign against religion in Wenzhou, in the
eastern province of Zhejiang, had begun in August, and
intensified in recent weeks.

Mr. Lu said: "Wenzhou is an important centre of Chinese
Catholicism." Wenzhou, a chaotic boom town of shoe
factories, sweatshops, and dealers in pirate goods, has a
long history of Christianity because of its trading links
with the outside world. Last year, Wenzhou police
arrested three leading members of the underground Roman
Catholic Church. Those detained included an 81-year-old
bishop, Lin Xili.

The places of worship closed and demolished in Wenzhou
were reported to include Buddhist and Taoist temples as
well as Catholic and Protestant churches. Officials
admitted blowing up Catholic establishments in neighbouring
Fujian province last summer. The 449 centres that were
targets of the latest campaign had all failed to
register with the State Administration for Religious
Affairs, officials said....

There are 12 million registered Christians in China.
Missionary organisations put the true total at nearly
five times that.

***********************************************************

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*************************************************************

W e b  S c e n e
+++++++++++++++++++
Jubilee Beyond 2000

More than 70 leading aid agencies and rights
groups have joined forces with One World - an
Internet site devoted to human rights and sustainable
development - to mark the end of the Jubilee 2000
campaign by launching a global Internet portal linking
campaigns and actions related to debt. Go to:

http://www.oneworld.org

DebtChannel.org is intended to bring together stories
and information from around the world to form the
most comprehensive collection of material on debt on
the entire Web. As well as providing content from
organizations based in both the North and the South,
the portal promotes voices from the South, "creating
a space for them to tell of their experience of this
issue and what should be done to address it".

http://www.debtchannel.org

--------------------------------------------------------------

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