The Common Good


Sojomail - September 17, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

          Promoting faith, reason, compassion, and justice
                   in days of violence and fear

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
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SojoMail will continue to be delivered to
you daily this week...responding to the
events of September 11th, the suffering
left in its wake, the threat of a global
war, and the historic shaping of our
moral character, now and for the future.

Note: Due to high amounts of Internet traffic
and related problems, you may have missed one
or all of last week's Special Edition SojoMails.
We apologize for any difficulties and invite you
to visit our back issues page at:

or visit our special "Responding in Faith" page at:


++++++++++++++++++++ 17-September-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Strain at a gnat...

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Let freedom ring

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Making symbols of peace

 P. O. V.
     *Passionate letter from Afghan opponent to bin Laden

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *New poll: How far would U.S. public support military action?

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Wisdom, idiocy from the pulpit

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


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  Day

"If you think you are too small to make a difference,
you haven't been in bed with a mosquito."

                   - Anita Roddick, Founder,
                     The Body Shop


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Let freedom ring

by David Batstone

God gave human beings the free will to make
choices - good ones and bad ones - for true
love can only spring from freedom. That is a basic
belief of all the Abrahamic religions. It was
a big gamble, and some days we wonder whether
God should not have programmed the human software
with far more limits. But look what would be
diminished: the beauty of human creativity,
relationship, self-discipline, and giving.

Abstract theological musings? Perhaps. Yet the
concept takes on a very tangible meaning as we
Americans choose our destiny in response to the
events of September 11. From the highest reaches
of government on down we heard calls this past
weekend for greater restrictions on our freedoms
as citizens. We are being warned that "life will
never be the same again," and we can't expect to
continue to live in a free environment that makes
us vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

I grant you, if we put tight restrictions
on the freedom of assembly we might be more
successful in rooting out terrorist cell groups.

If we draw the gates shut on immigration and
foreign visitors, we might reduce the likelihood
of enemy intrusion from the likes of bin Laden.

If we limit free speech and publication we might
more closely control the flow of ideas that
may be subversive to our "American way of life."

If we eliminate civil liberties that protect
personal privacy and the rights of ethnic groups
against prejudicial monitoring we might more
quickly identify dangerous rogues.

Add it all up, and it sounds exactly like the
kind of authoritarianism and anti-democratic
structures most Americans say they are willing
to die fighting against. If we make those
choices, we will have lost the war even as we
prepare for battle. I would rather gamble on
freedom then live as a slave to our fears. At
stake is the beauty of life itself.




S o u l   W o r k s
Making symbols of peace

by Aimee Moiso

In the days since the terrorist attack, I've been
racking my brains trying to figure out what kind
of symbol we could use to show our support of peace
in the world. I want to show my unwavering desire
for peace, above all. Not more  violence. Not
military solutions. Peace.

Today I had an inspiration: A Thousand Paper Cranes.

Many of you probably remember the story - after
the bombing of Hiroshima, there was a girl named
Sadako in Japan who acquired leukemia from the
radiation. A friend reminded her of the Japanese
legend that said if she folded a thousand paper
cranes, the gods might grant her wish to be well
again. As I recall, she died before finishing. But
when people around the world heard her story,
thousands and thousands of paper cranes were
folded in remembrance. And the paper crane became
a symbol of peace.

I am going to fold a white paper crane in remembrance
of peace today, and pin it on my lapel for days
and weeks to come. I invite you to do the same.
Perhaps we can start a movement for peace through
the paper crane again.

For those of you who've forgotten your Origami,
instructions can be found at:


P. O. V.
Plea from an Afghan opponent of bin Laden

The author of the following perspective, Tamim
Ansary, is a writer of marvelous children's and
educational books. He is a U.S. citizen who moved
to the U.S. from Afghanistan in 1966 - and he is
a strong opponent of Osama bin Laden.

September 14, 2001

Dear Friends:

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing
Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens,
on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this
would mean killing innocent people who had nothing
to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we
have to accept collateral damage. What else can
we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit
discussing whether we "have the belly to do what
must be done."

And I thought about the issues being raised
especially hard because I am from Afghanistan
and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've
never lost track of what's going on there. So
I want to tell anyone who will listen how it
all looks from where I'm standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama
bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that
these people were responsible for the atrocity
in New York. I agree that something must be
done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan.
They're not even the government of Afghanistan.
The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics
who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a
political criminal with a plan.

When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you
think bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think
"the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in
the concentration camps."

It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing
to do with this atrocity. They were the first
victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if
someone would come in there, take out the Taliban
and clear out the rats nest of international
thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and
overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're
starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated,
suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations
estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans
in Afghanistan - a country with no economy, no
food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban
has been burying these widows alive in mass graves.
The soil is littered with land mines, the farms
were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a
few of the reasons why the Afghan people have
not overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan
back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been
done. The Soviets took care of it already.
Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering.
Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into
piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals?
Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off
from medicine and healthcare? Too late. Someone
already did all that.

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier
bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not
likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban
eat, only they have the means to move around.
They'd slip away and hide.

Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled
orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even
have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and
dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against
the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually
it would only be making common cause with the
Taliban - by raping once again the people they've
been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then?
Let me now speak with true fear and trembling.
The only way to get bin Laden is to go in there
with ground troops. When people speak of "having
the belly to do what needs to be done" they're
thinking in terms of having the belly to kill
as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome
any moral qualms about killing innocent people.

Let's pull our heads out of  the sand. What's
actually on the table is Americans dying. And
not just because some Americans would die
fighting their way through Afghanistan to bin
Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks.
Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd
have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us?
Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have
to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand
by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting
with a world war between Islam and the West.

And guess what: that's bin Laden's program. That's
exactly what he wants. That's why he did this.
Read his speeches and statements. It's all right
there. He really believes Islam would beat the
West. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if
he can polarize the world into Islam and the West,
he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a
holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people
with nothing left to lose, that's even better from
bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong,
in the end the West would win, whatever that would
mean, but the war would last for years and millions
would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has
the belly for that?

Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
U.S. Public...How far would you go toward war?

Would you support or oppose the U.S. taking
military action if you knew each of the following
would happen? How about if....

The military draft would be reinstituted...
Support: 77%
Oppose: 18%
No opinion: 5%

U.S. ground troops would be used in invasion...
Support: 80%
Oppose: 18%
No opinion: 2%

The U.S military action would continue for a matter
of months...
Support: 86%
Oppose: 11%
No opinion: 3%

The U.S. military action would continue for a number
of years...
Support: 66%
Oppose: 30%
No opinion: 4%

1,000 U.S. military troops would be killed...
Support: 65%
Oppose: 30%
No opinion: 5%

Source: USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll...Sept. 14-15, 2001


R e l i g i o n   &   P o l i t i c s
Wisdom, idiocy from the pulpit

by Stephanie Salter
San Francisco Chronicle

In this week's pronouncements, Falwell placed blame
for the terrorist destruction on the ACLU, gay rights
and pro-choice advocates and all who work to keep
church and state separate. His rationale: God has
specifically protected the United States since "her
inception" but has grown angry at our increasing
secularism and, apparently, has disconnected his
celestial security gate to let all manner of
murderous infidels have at us.

The way Robertson sees it, the U.S. Supreme Court
shares the blame because the court has "essentially
stuck its finger in God's eye" by legalizing
abortion and curbing prayer in public schools....

I'll take the 82-year-old likes of the Rev.
Billy Graham over Jerry and Pat any day. In peace
or war. Frail of flesh and admittedly "an old man"
now, Graham reminded our nation why he has held
the respect of presidents and the proletariat
through almost seven decades of national ministry.
He delivered a keynote sermon at the National
Cathedral in Washington, D.C., that was devoid
of superstitious quid pro quo and tortured

Practical man that he has always been, Graham
emphasized what it is we Americans can know - that
national tragedies such as ours this week can
teach us "a lesson about our need for each
other....The perpetrators who have taken this
on to tear us apart - it has had the opposite

Like Falwell and Robertson, Graham declared that
we do indeed "need a spiritual renewal and revival
in this nation." But...he has no intention of
trying to shame or scare us into such a renewal.
Instead, he asked us to remember the most basic
symbol of our dominant national faith.

"From the cross," he said, "God declares, 'I
love you.'" 

To read Stephanie Salter's entire column go to:

                RESPONDING IN FAITH

For resources, reasoned responses and statements
by churches, organizations and individuals, visit
SojoNet's crisis response page at:


B o o m e r a n g

Bob Childs of Riverview, New Brunswick, Canada, wrote:

I have been a Sojourner subscriber for a number of
years. I have always found hope and support in your
messages of justice.  I thank you for your SojoMails
this past week.

I just want to give my support to you to continue to
speak the word of faith in these trying times. With
all the rhetoric calling to "unleash the dogs of war"
it will become increasing more difficult to speak up
with that word of faith.

Thank you again for your courage and wisdom in
these times.


Maggy Shannon of Macon, Georgia, wrote:

Nothing that the United States did or failed to do
justifies the attacks on Tuesday. However, if the we
retaliate, we will only create cause for more violence.
A better response would be to catch the wrongdoers and
prevent them from doing any more harm, and then changing
our foreign policy so that the reasons for their anger
disappear. By taking such action, we uphold our own
values while avoiding further destruction. This would
be a first step toward a sensible foreign policy that
exchanges short-term, shortsighted solutions for a
long-lasting peace.


Cara Hochhalter of Charlevoix, Michigan:

Thank you Sojourners for saying what I have
been feeling all week...and not been hearing at
all on the TV! Embarking on a violent war is
exactly what the terrorists seem to want from
us. It seems to me what is in order are immediate
meetings with world leaders and intelligence
networks. Quietly figure out where these cells
are, then arrest them and take them to world court.
How on earth to we get President Bush to listen
to this strategy and to realize the folly of
only a military response?


Herb Buwalda of South Bend, Indiana, wrote:

Re. last week's Quote of the Week: "Absent national
political leadership, the burden of rallying the
nation fell as usual upon the TV anchors...."

I'm sorry. In times of crisis and agony, this kind of
quote is quite sickening and cynical. I expected better
from Sojourners. Why would you bother repeating such
a thing at such a time? Suggestion: encourage us to
pray for peace in the world everywhere instead.

Larry Brickner-Wood of Durham, New Hampshire, wrote:

Thank you so much for the daily edition of SojoNet
last week. I have used various pieces throughout
the week to circulate throughout our campus
community and local towns. The interfaith and
interdenominational calls for prayer, reflection,
peace and compassion are strong reminders that
this is a time to reach beyond the boundaries and
borders we have constructed; that even as we seek
the comfort of tradition and routine, familiarity
and consistency, we are also called to write new
chapters of faith, and look at the ways we have
brought emotional, physical and spiritual violence
to each other, often in the name of religion, and
often because we have not seen beyond sectarian
walls. Thank you for being a candle in the shadows
this past week.


Bula Maddison of Berkeley, Calfornia, wrote:

I had a horrible dream last night where an amiable
conversation with a colleague and friend morphed
into a frightening scene in which my friend was
first assuming and then coercing my consent to
what was to me a repugnant design, while I lay
in that nightmare state of paralysis, unable
to cry out. It's not hard to discern in this my
feeling of powerlessness to resist the tide of
opinion engulfing our nation. And so, to close the
dream, let me say:

If we're going to stand together as Americans, let's
stand grieving, yes, for those who were maimed and
lost in New York and Washington on Tuesday and in
sorrow for their grieving families and loved ones.
And let's then pour out our grief and our sorrow to
embrace all of suffering humanity.

If we're going to sing together as Americans, please
oh please let's not sing "The Battle Hymn of the
Republic," as we heard from Washington Cathedral on
Friday. Nor is "America the Beautiful," as was widely
proposed for Friday evening, the song I'd choose for
our moment. If we're going to sing together, I pray
that we forego the songs that are easy to sing, and
sing a hard song. I suggest we listen closely while
we softly sing together the song that Marian Anderson
has inscribed in the imaginations of so many Americans,
a song that inquires about complicity in institutionalized
violence: "Were you there when they crucified My Lord?"


Nigel Mander from New Zealand wrote:

CNN's Cristiane Amanpour interviewed on New Zealand
television said the horror in Manhattan and DC
this week was not only the biggest piece of terrorism
ever to occur on U.S. soil but also the worst piece of
terrorism ever - anywhere in the world. Fine words,
and plausible if one hasn't lived long or read much

Think back, if you can, to 1945. Did people in
Hiroshima and Nagasaki not feel terror? And were there
not MORE people affected than happened this week?
What about what happened in Dresden a little before

Is the difference that in 1945 a war had been declared
and in 2001 war had not been declared? America's
democratically elected president now says this is war,
too. Or is it that nuclear wars don't count because
only one country has ever used a nuclear weapon in war
time, and that country makes the rules?

I DO appreciate democracy - it gives me the freedom
to ask questions, and I will ask them in pursuit of
truth and justice.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. Want to make your voice heard? Send
Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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