The Common Good

The State of Our Union

Sojomail - January 30, 2002



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+++++++++++++++++++++++ 30-January-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++++ The State of Our Union ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Helen Keller: science meets its match

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *The state of our union

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Parable of the rushed Samaritan

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Politicos on the payroll

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *World's funniest joke?

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

 P. O. V.
     *Afghan women: An identity reduced to a burka

C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Great new Aussie flick

 R e l i g i o n   &   P o l i t i c s
     *Howard Thurman: mentor to Martin Luther King Jr.

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Mid-East religions condemn bloodshed

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Online peace meditation
     *Wholistic educational reform
     *Your Enron financial update
     *Famous name changes


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

"Science may have found a cure for most evils;
but it has found no remedy for the worst of them
all - the apathy of human beings."
                           - Helen Keller


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
The State of Our Union

by Jim Wallis

With the highest approval rating of any president in modern
history (85%+), George W. Bush presented his State of
the Union speech amidst an atmosphere of high drama here
in the nation's capital. I had a team from the Canadian 
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) with me in my living room,
interviewing me while we watched the address together. They
were seeking many "different American voices" for a three-
hour program that airs Sunday in Canada. 

My three-year-old son, Luke, was fascinated by their
equipment and microphones, and the Canadian media crew
was quite struck by the frequent sounds of sirens coming
in through the open window on an unusually warm January
night in Washington D.C. I was reminded again of how 
stunned foreign visitors are by the violence and poverty of
American inner cities, especially blocks from the White 
House and the House chamber where Mr. Bush was speaking.

They asked how I deal with relating to the "two 
Washingtons," and what people in a neighborhood like this
might think of the president's speech or American politics
in general. I explained that my poorest neighbors have
never seen their lives change with the succession of 
Republican or Democratic presidents or Congresses and,
consequently, don't get much caught up in a speech like
last night's.

Like most people around the world, these Canadians are very
concerned about terrorism and consider the battle against
it a "just cause." But like many people internationally, 
they also aren't as sure that America's military 
campaign is a "just war." When Bush announced the 
largest increase in military spending in two decades ($50
billion), my interviewer remarked, "That sure is a lot of
money." Indeed.
Canadians will also wonder why everything in Bush's speech
was about America's leadership, America's role, and 
America's responsibilities in defeating terrorism. On 
Sept. 11, America might have joined the world in 
some new sense, but Bush's speech clearly proclaims an 
American agenda demanding international support, much 
more than a truly international strategy where the United
States plays a central role.

After recounting U.S. successes in Afghanistan - destroying
terrorist camps and ending repressive Taliban rule - Bush
admitted that "tens of thousands of trained terrorists" are
still alive and active in networks like al Qaeda. The fact 
that such a danger requires a massive international 
intelligence and policing effort, more than wider wars in
several more countries, was forgotten in a very bellicose
war speech. Naming Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as 
constituting an "axis of evil," is a clear effort to lay 
the foundation for U.S. military strikes that will likely 
take the lives of fewer terrorists than innocent civilians.

The rest of the president's speech tried to turn war-time
popularity into success for his domestic agenda. Many
commendable goals were named - jobs, a clean environment,
home ownership, teacher training, a patient bill of rights, 
prescription drug coverage, early childhood development,
encouraging charities and faith-based groups etc. - but with
no real specifics for implementation. With such high levels
of military spending and last night's commitment to make 
Bush's tax cuts "permanent," it's not at all clear where 
the resources for domestic needs will come. And Bush's
general references to safeguarding pensions funds and 
making American corporations more "accountable" are hardly
an adequate response to the deep challenges that the Enron
scandal poses to the now standard practices of American
business and politics.

One hopes the president doesn't think those needs will
easily be met by his call for two years or 4,000 hours of
volunteer service from every American. Having called for
such commitment all my life, I don't believe the problems
in neighborhoods like mine will ever be solved without a
massive political and societal commitment to match citizen
action. As I told my Canadian visitors, when it comes to 
terrorism, America pledges its full commitment to whatever
resources it takes, but when it comes to poverty, America
calls for volunteerism. The president says we will "act at
home with the same purpose and resolve we have shown
overseas." That promise remains unfulfilled. I was 
especially disappointed that President Bush called for
welfare reform that replaces "dependency on government"
with the "dignity of a job" without an expressed 
commitment to make work really work for the millions of
people who are now off the welfare roles and working, but
remain in poverty.

I really like presidential talk about values, and we saw
some fine language last night about turning away from the
ethic of "if it feels good, do it," and moving from "the
goods we can accumulate" to "the good we can do." I 
particularly liked the call for a "culture of 
responsibility" that "serves goals larger than self." We
indeed must "change our culture." But values have to be
implemented to have any value. And a country dominated
by a commitment to endless war abroad and volunteerism at
home will fall far short of the best values expressed last 

S o u l   W o r k s
Parable of the rushed Samaritan

Nearly 30 years a study was conducted at Princeton
designed to figure out the conditions under which good
people would act for good, or at least be helpful.
Two psychologists asked seminarians to walk over to
another building on campus to give a short speech,
either about their motives for studying theology or
about the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. The
psychologists had planted an actor along the way, stumped
over, coughing and obviously in bad shape. The
two experimenters had led half of the students to believe
that they were late for their speaking appointment, and
half that they had ample time. So, taking into account
what they were thinking about on the way (theology versus
the Good Samaritan) as well as how much time they had,
what do you think determined whether students would
help the man in need?
Contrary to expectations, the content of the speech
made no difference. People asked to give either speech,
including the Good Samaritan, were no different in how
many stopped to help. What mattered a great deal, by
contrast, was whether students were in a hurry. Of those
who were told that they were in a hurry, only 10 percent
stopped to help. Of those told that they had plenty of
time, 60 percent stopped to help.

Are you always in a rush? What might be the message
for you?

                         Not by bread alone
Lent is a truly remarkable time for all Christians and "Living the 
Word: Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary" is an excellent 
resource for pastoral reference or personal devotion during this 
Holy Season. To receive this wonderful resource in time for Lent, 
order today by clicking on:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Politicos on the payroll

Politicians who get the most money from top U.S.

Lawyers/law firms:          8.4m   Jean Carnahan (D-MO)
Retirement groups:          4.9m   Paul Wellstone (D-MN)
Health Professionals:       4.9m   Greg Ganske (R-IA)
Real Estate:                4.1m   Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Securities/Invest.          4.0m   Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Insurance                   3.8m   Max Baucus (D-MT)
Transport Unions            3.6m   Don Young (R-AK)
Commercial Banks            3.0m   Phil Gramm (R-TX)

To see direct giving to politicians broken down into the
top 25 industries, go to:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
"World's funniest joke"? gotta be kidding!

The world's funniest joke, voted on by popular demand over
the Internet, was announced by the British Association
for the Advancement of Science (BA) after an experiment
lasting three months. And the winner is:

Famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his gruff
assistant Doctor Watson pitch their tent while on a camping
expedition, but in the middle of the night Holmes nudges
Watson awake and questions him.

HOLMES: Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you

WATSON: I see millions of stars, and if there are millions
of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it is
quite likely there are some planets like earth, and if
there are a few planets like earth out there, there might
also be life. 

HOLMES: No, Watson, you idiot! Somebody stole our tent.

The BA said the joke was the most popular among 10,000
submitted, being chosen as the best by 47 percent of the
100,000 people from more than 70 countries who took part.
The jokes can be seen, made, and rated at:


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B o o m e r a n g

Bob Childs writes from Riverview, New Brunswick, Canada:

Thank you for David Batstone's article "The Search for a 
Corporate Soul." I believe it is one of the most important 
issues facing all of us today, whether we live in the U.S.A.
or any other country in the world. I agree with David:
"At root, the corporate crisis is as much spiritual as
it is moral." Walter Wink brings this home to us in his
several books on the issue: "When the Powers Fall"; "Naming
the Powers"; "Unmasking the Powers"; "Engaging the Powers";
and "The Powers That Be." I would recommend we all not only
read these books, but begin a study group on them. I have.


Marlon Millner writes from Washington, D.C.:

Jim Wallis' recent commentary on whether Enron
executives go to church, and if they do, what would
the preacher say, comes at an ironic time, especially
given the recent report that recently resigned CEO
Kenneth Lay is the son of a Baptist preacher. He and
Dad must have never talked about money matters.


Jay Warthen writes from Vidalia, Georgia:

Human bodies waste away without basic vitamins and minerals,
corporate bodies likewise. The golden rule stands as the
most essential component of corporate health. "Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you." Someone at
Enron decided to do otherwise and led others into a
corporate sickness that turned out to be a sickness unto
death. May others take note. Build your business culture
on a philosophy that can stand the stress of any storm:
the golden rule.


Amrita Burdick writes from Kansas City, Missouri:

In my reading I know of no Quranic description of Jews
or Christians as "perverted!" I am wondering if Vicki
Sander (Boomerang, 1/23/02) can give a reference for
this? If, as I suspect, she hasn't read the Quran and
is operating on hearsay, I'd like to recommend a couple
of books as a gentle introduction for the Western reader:
"A Muslim Primer: Beginner's Guide to Islam," by Ira G.
Zepp, Jr., and "Heart of the Koran," by Lex Hixon.


Anne-Marie Hislop writes from Davenport, Iowa:

I wonder why it is that when we translate the Quran
into English we still use "Allah" for God? Does this
practice serve to foster the perception of Muslims
as 'other'? It seems that most media - from local TV
reporters to SojoMail - retain the use of Allah where
the word "God" would suffice. This fosters for
the average listener the impression that Muslims
worship a being who is different from the God that
Christians and Jews worship.

Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



P. O. V.
Afghan women: An identity reduced to a burka

by Laila Al-Marayati and Semeen Issa

A few years ago, someone from the Feminist Majority
Foundation called the Muslim Women's League to ask if she
could "borrow a burka" for a photo shoot the organization
was doing to draw attention to the plight of women in
Afghanistan under the Taliban. When we told her that we
didn't have one, and that none of our Afghan friends did
either, she expressed surprise, as if she'd assumed that
all Muslim women keep burkas in their closets in case a
militant Islamist comes to dinner. She didn't seem to
understand that her assumption was the equivalent of
assuming that every Latino has a Mexican sombrero in
their closet.

Read the entire article as it appeared in the LA Times:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Great new Aussie flick

"One Night The Moon," starring Kelton Pell, Paul
Kelly, Kaarin Fairfax, and produced by Rachel Perkins
(producer of "Radiance") may never make it to
mainstream U.S. movie theaters. So watch for it at arts
theater houses and specialty video stores!

The Australian-made movie is based on a true story of an
Aboriginal tracker. A musical tragedy set in 1932, the
story revolves around a young girl so entranced by
the moon she climbs out of her bedroom window and follows
it. When her parents find her missing they call in the
police to send out a search party. But when the police
arrive with an Aboriginal tracker - the father reacts,
insisting no "blackfella" is coming onto his land."

Critics report that the story line and music capture
you emotionally, while the scenery is breathtaking.

Read the ABC (Australia) review at:


R e l i g i o n   &   P o l i t i c s
Howard Thurman: mentor to Martin Luther King Jr.

"I don't believe you would get a Martin Luther King Jr.
without a Howard Thurman," says Walter Fluker, director
of The Howard Thurman Papers Project at Morehouse College
in Atlanta, Georgia.

Raised by his grandmother, a former slave, Thurman
graduated from Morehouse College and went on to become
a noted scholar, the first African-American
dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, author
(he wrote 21 books and hundreds of sermons and articles
about the connection between spiritual renewal and
social change), mystic, and theologian.

To read an interview on the legacy of Howard Thurman:


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Mid-East religions condemn bloodshed

by Heba Saleh, BBC

Leaders from the three main religions of the Middle East
have issued an unprecedented joint declaration pledging
their commitment to ending violence in the region. Signed
in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, the declaration
came at the end of talks chaired by the Archbishop of
Canterbury, George Carey, and hosted by the Grand Imam
of Al-Azhar, Sheik Mohamed Sayyed Tantawy.

The assembled Jewish rabbis, Muslim sheikhs and Christian
clerics said that bloodshed must not be allowed to
pollute the Holy Land. They pledged to use their religious
and moral authority to work for peace and to live together
as neighbors. The religious leaders also called on all
parties to refrain from incitement and demonization - and
to take steps to return to negotiations.

Described as moderates, the rabbis who have come to
Alexandria represent a broad cross-section of Israel's
religious Jews. The Muslim delegation is considered to
have influence in Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority. No
one at the Alexandria meeting had any illusions that a
religious declaration would end the Middle East conflict,
but the hope is that the message of tolerance will
resonate in a region where political and religious
hostilities are so deeply intertwined.

For more on this article, go to:


W e b   S c e n e

*Online peace meditation

Take a break from your busy day and take in a
deep breath of peace. This Web site provides a
place to relax and take a moment to focus on
peace, for oneself and for the world:


*Wholistic educational reform

There's another perspective to the standards and
accountability model of education reform embodied
in the "Leave No Child Left Behind Act." For a look
at education reform through the lens of holistic
principles and whole organizational systems, visit
the Whole Systems Education Projects:


*Your Enron financial update

The sudden fall of Enron has raised its share of
thorny issues among investors, lawmakers, and
government investigators. You can keep up with the
latest news and analysis surrounding the case at
CNN Money's special online report:


*Famous name changes

Did you know John Wayne's real name was Marion
Morrison? Find out the often-unglamorous real names
of famous actors, singers, athletes, politicians,
and others.


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