The Common Good

Telling the Truth

Sojomail - September 26, 2001


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++++++++++++++++++++ 26-September-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++++"Telling the Truth"+++++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Healing, not violence...

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Telling the truth

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *On the far side of revenge

 P. O. V. 
     *Interview with former Senator Mark Hatfield

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


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  Day

We should take our example not from our 
military and political leaders shouting 
"retaliate" and "war," but from the doctors 
and nurses and medical students and firemen 
and policemen who have been saving lives in
the midst of mayhem, whose first thoughts are 
not violence, but healing, not vengeance but 
			- Howard Zinn


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Telling the truth

by Jim Wallis

In Monday's column, I promised to further explore the     
question of how to tell the truth about America's role in
the world during this very difficult time. I said that 
American religious communities have the vocation in 
this crisis to protect innocent lives against military 
retaliation, to defend our fellow citizens who are Arab 
or Muslim, and to take on the prophetic task of 
answering why this happened or, as many have now put 
the question, "Why are so many people angry at us." 
The first two tasks, while major undertakings, are easier 
to define. It is this third challenge that will require our 
best discernment and deepest soul-searching.
Here's a start.

It is indeed impossible to adequately comprehend the 
terrorist attack of September 11 without a deeper 
understanding of the grievances and injustices felt by 
millions of people around the world.  That is the painful 
subject, which the U.S. government refuses to engage, 
the mainstream media does not want to take up, and 
many Americans are unable to hear at this moment of 
mourning, grief, and anger. Indeed, the discussion has 
the potential to further divide, hurt, and blame ordinary 
people who already feel very vulnerable and under 
attack. But if the conversation can illuminate the 
confusion many feel, it could actually help in the 
necessary process of national healing, and offer 
practical guidance for preventing such atrocities in the 
future.  Now is the time to have the courage to face this  
difficult question.

In our necessary task of going to the roots of global 
terrorism, at least three things are important.

First, in the necessary prophetic ministry of telling the 
truth about American global dominance and its 
consequences, let us never even come close to ever 
implying that America - and those 7,000 people and their 
families - deserved that great day of evil. In a powerful 
statement released on September 17 by Palestinian 
poets, writers, intellectuals, and political leaders - who 
all have deep grievances with American foreign policy 
in the Middle East - the line was drawn, "No cause, not  
even a just cause, can make legitimate the killing of 
innocent civilians, no matter how long the list of 
accusations and the register of grievances. Terror 
never paves the way to justice, but leads down a short 
path to hell." Their statement is called, "But then, 
nothing, nothing, justifies terrorism," which serves as 
a fitting final sentence in any discussion about all the 
injustice that lies behind terrorist acts. In all we say 
and do, we must draw that same line.

Second, we must not make the mistake that these 
terrorists are somehow freedom fighters who went too
far. On the contrary, the people that the evidence so 
far points to are not out to redress the injustices of the 
world. Osama bin Laden's network of terror would
simply create new oppressions, as is evidenced in the     
Taliban, the regime that represents their vision for the 
future. Their terror is not about correcting the great 
global gulf between haves and have nots, about the lack 
of just Middle East policies, or about the lack of 
democratic freedoms in corrupt Gulf States. They don't want 
Saudi Arabia to respect human rights, but to be more like 
the Taliban regime under which girls can't go to school, 
acid is thrown on the faces of women without head covers, 
and any religion or lifestyle different from their fanatical 
extremism is exterminated. These terrorists' only "just" 
solution for the Middle East and the whole Arab world is 
to expel all Jews and Christians. 

The root of the terror attacks is not economic injustice, 
the poor and oppressed of the world. It is rather a
radical rejection of the values of liberty, equality, 
democracy, and human rights. However imperfectly we 
have realized those values, however much we critique 
America for not living up to them, this terrorism is an 
attack on those values themselves; it is not violence in 
their name or on their behalf. If we are to tell the truth 
about America, let us also tell the truth about the 
terrorists. We are accustomed to thinking in a 
political/economic framework. This time, we need to shift 
and understand motivations that are more ideological and, 
for us, spiritual.

Third, we must carefully distinguish between seeing 
global injustice as the cause of terrorism, to 
understanding that such injustice is, rather, the 
breeding and recruiting ground for terrorism. Grinding 
poverty, hopelessness, and desperation clearly fuel the 
armies of terror, but a more ideological and fanatical 
agenda is its driving force. Therefore, the call for global 
justice as a necessary part of any response to 
terrorism should be seen not as an accommodation, 
surrender, or even negotiation with the perpetrators 
of horrific evil. It is rather an attack on their ability 
to recruit and subvert the wounded and angry for their 
hideous purposes. Evidence shows that when the 
prospects for peace appeared more hopeful in the 
Middle East, the ability of terrorist groups operating in 
the region was greatly diminished. 

Practically speaking, one idea for our response to the 
terrorism of Osama bin Laden might be this: Even if the 
multi-national effort now underway limits its campaign 
- as it should - to successfully rooting out the 
networks of terrorism and not punishing the people of 
Afghanistan, that will not be enough. To be a real 
international effort against terrorism, it must 
demonstrate a new compassion, generosity of spirit, 
and commitment to justice precisely toward those 
people who have been abandoned and abused. Yes, let 
us stop bin Laden's plans to hurt more people, but then 
let us undertake a massive and collective effort to keep 
the people of Afghanistan from starving this winter. Such a 
dramatic and public initiative would clearly demonstrate the 
relationship between halting terrorism and removing 
injustice. Suffering people everywhere would see the clear 
signal, and the recruiters of pain would be dealt a death 


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S o u l   W o r k s
On the far side of revenge

by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet. This poem is from 
his collection "The Cure at Troy: After Philoctetes 
by Sophocles."




P. O. V.
Interview with former Senator Mark Hatfield

The former U.S. senator isn't about to second-guess
President Bush. But he hopes that our nation's response
to the September 11 attacks goes beyond military retribution
and prompts some national soul-searching about what
really gives us strength.
by John Schrag
Willamette Week

Question: Isn't there a great chance that the attacks
will cause people to lash out indiscriminately
against others who are perceived as the enemy?

Hatfield: Let me tell you an experience that makes me
who I am. I was a sophomore at Willamette when the word
came that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. In Salem we had
a place called Lake Labish, which was just to the north
of Salem, where a colony of Japanese-Americans had truck
gardens, growing celery and radishes, and those kids
went to Salem High School. All of them were my
classmates, my friends. And many of them, as I, went to
Willamette. Then the day came when Earl Warren, of
California, later chief justice, and Governor Charles
Sprague of Oregon - both of them what I would call
moderate-liberal Republicans - telegraphed President
Roosevelt to "get the Japs out of state." And that's
the word they used. They sent testimony to the
Congress, and it said "Japs" were a danger. So
President Roosevelt issued the order.

Question: And you were aware this was going on?

Hatfield: Oh yes. Many of us went to the railroad station
right across from campus to wave goodbye to our
classmates....We had people with veterans caps, and
they were standing around taking names.

Question: Of the people waving?

Hatfield: Yes. Now, having seen that, I can picture the
women with the black shawls over their heads and others
who appear to be Muslim or appear to be Afghani. And
having seen or experienced that, I can't help but say,
as an old codger, let's raise a warning flag.

Question: In your years in the Senate, how much
understanding did you and your colleagues gain about
the religion of Islam and its intersection with our
foreign policy? 

Hatfield: ...That is one of the most neglected areas
in academia and politics. It's going to affect our
lives every bit as much as when Ottoman arrived at
the gates of Paris....We look at a map, we see
[Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak as a friend and
we see him as what we might call a secular Muslim,
and he's obviously threatened from the right, from the
fundamentalists. As they got Sadat [assassinated in
1981], they'll get Mubarak. Or at least there's a
good possibility that they will assassinate him and
they will have a Khomeini-type leader. We see today
that Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab
Emirates have give us air space and use of their
bases. But how long? How long will they be able to
keep that political power? And when they don't keep
it, it will be put back into the hands of your
religious Muslim groups. So pretty soon, we're going
to look at that map and see all of our oil - that's
going to get our attention - and we will then say,
'How did this happen?' Even in this breathing time we
have, I doubt if anyone is really analyzing in-depth
Islam as a whole. I don't have the answers. But I
know the difficulties that ignorance brings.

Question: Anything else you'd like to add?

Hatfield: I once spent a day at Mother Teresa's
compound in India and asked her, after getting
overwhelmed by the poverty, 'Don't you grow weary
when you see how much you have to do, and how
little you are able to do?' She said 'No. The Lord
did not call me to be successful. The Lord called me
to be faithful.' And, boy, that just hit me between
the eyes. We're a success-oriented country. I am
hopeful that this is such a shock that people
will begin to ask those questions, and there will
be forums that will pick it up and the pressure
will build that the organized community will
have to listen to these questions.

For the entire interview with Mark Hatfield, go to:


B o o m e r a n g

Lois Lorentzen of San Francisco, California, wrote:

I heartily applaud David Batstone's 10 planks
of a platform and for the daily voice of sanity in
SojoMail. Sign me up for this movement of true


Gary Olsen-Hasek of Gresham, Oregon, wrote:

I'm troubled by the discussion about bringing "the
perpetrators" to justice so as not to kill "innocents"
in military raids. This argument ignores the fact
that if the living "terrorists" were captured and
given trial in a court of law, they more than likely
would be condemned to death. It has been my
understanding that many Sojourners folks are against
the death penalty. For those who are Christians, I'd
like to read much more about the relevancy of Jesus'
call to be peacemakers, to love enemies and be
ministers of God's reconciliation even to those the
U.S. decides to "root out and destroy."


Lewis Nerenberg of Montara, California wrote:

About David Batstone's "Building the stage for a 
movement" (SojoMail 9/25/01): Yours is the most 
rational summary I've seen, period!


Renee McLean, of Lake Macquarie, Australia, wrote:

Understanding is not the same as agreeing.
Acknowledging the history of a situation does
not equal justifying the outcome. In response to your
readers who fear that SojoMail's historical, informed, 
and compassionate approach has in any way justified those
who killed on September 11, I want to say that every
moment presents a chance to change direction. That applies
equally to the Taliban as it does the U.S. government
and other world governments who may now be thinking of
violence, or individuals thinking to take out their
fear upon those who seem different. And from what I
can see, that is what Sojourners has bravely,
and with so much integrity, been calling for.


Jennifer Glenister of Australia wrote:

I wonder do Americans have the courage to confront the
violence perpetrated on a daily basis upon many 
peoples of the world by America. Are Americans aware
that more than a million Iraqis have died as a direct
result of sanctions imposed by the U.S., sanctions
that withhold medicines, vaccines, and pain killers
to sick children and people dying of cancer? Are
Americans aware that America attacked the Sudan
illegally, and killed God knows how many Muslims
again? Are Americans aware that 50 years ago the
American administration supported a band of violent
religious fanatics who invaded the sovereign territory
of Palestine, killed many of their people and
occupied their lands? The victims of this illegal
invasion were Muslim, and the perpetrators were
Jewish. Perhaps if Americans knew what had been done
in their name, what is being done today, and what 
will be done tomorrow, they might understand
why the Muslim world hates America so much.
In Australia, where I live, the truth of America's
actions in the world is printed in the press.
Such information does not get into the American
press. I know, because I lived in Massachusetts for
10 years.... I had to get the truth about America's
role in the world by reading Australian and
British newspapers, not The New York Times or The
Boston Globe.


Elizabeth Thompson of Lincoln, Massachusetts, wrote:

Working with battered women, we often find them
asking "why does he hate me so much?" They think if
they change, they can change the behavior of the
violent aggressor. The people who are writing in to
you asking "why do they hate us" and saying that the
U.S. needs to examine its role in the crimes of September
11 need to reframe their question, as Jim Wallis
does. The question is not what did we do to provoke
(deserve?) this, which is what they imply. The
question is what can we do to make a better world -
all of us, together. The issue is not now and had
better not become one of quid pro quo; it is one of
working for joint goals and shared peace and prosperity.


Pam Jambeck of Minnesota wrote:

I couldn't agree more with Mtumiki Njira of Malawi
who states that America is now a part of the rest
of the world in having to "suffer" some losses. After
being humbled from the blow, one would think we
should not talk about how "great" we are. Rooting out
evil within our own country should be the first
order on our agenda. Terrorists exist here. We support
arms sales to other countries. We allowed the School
of the Americas to exist. Our own suppressed prejudices
have emerged, showing us that we aren't as "open" as we
claim to be. We have some very radical religious
right(eous)ists who sound scary. Why can't we ever see
the "bad" parts of our very wonderful country?

There are other democratic countries (or even
socialistic ones) who have put their ideals into
practice and are not messing with other parts of the
world. Many of our excessive capitalistic invasions
are sickening even to some of us. They are
particularly abhorent when one travels to another
country and sees the American icons amid the
other culture. Let's continue to be the melting pot
of the world, but keep the highest ideals as stated in
our Bill of Rights, so that all Americans (and all
peoples) can experience the freedoms and blessings
of a very rich nation.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily 
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice 
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