The Common Good

Lessons from Sept. 11

Sojomail - September 11, 2002


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+++++++++++++++++++++ 11-September-2002 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++++ Lessons from Sept. 11 +++++++++++++++++++++++

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

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Sept. 11: Lessons to Learn

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Blockbuster Video: A better INS?

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Families of 9/11 victims build a movement against war

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *No sweat: Exercise levels drop for teenage girls

 B i z   E t h i x
     *Freedom from telemarketing tyranny

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Poetry by Catherine Phil MacCarthy

 P. O. V.
     *Suing the University of North Carolina: Author talks back

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Hip hop, psalms, and lamentations: Lauryn Hill

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

 W e b s c e n e
     *How do jurors decide who should live and who should die?
     *Responsible business practices...yes, they do exist!
     *Conspiracy theory 101
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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"A person should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful that God has implanted in the human soul."

- Goethe


*Ed. Note: We've been duped! Last week's Shakespeare quote turned out to be from everyone but William. We pulled the quote from a secondary source that erroneously attributed it to Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." Our fault for not looking at the primary source, and apologies to anyone who passed the tin penny on to their friends!


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Sept. 11: Ten Lessons to Learn

by Jim Wallis

In a SojoMail column last fall, I wrote that Sept. 11 could either become a teachable moment and a doorway to transformation - or an excuse for our worst instincts and habits. It all depends on whether we learn the right lessons and make the right choices. One year later, here are 10 lessons we must learn if real change is ever to come.

1. Treat the threat of terrorism as very real. Don't underestimate it or politicize it. Cells of terrorists around the world are trained and ready to strike again. To prevent further terrorist violence is a worthy cause. The question is not whether, but how. I live with my wife and four-year old son on a terrorist target, only 20 blocks from the White House. I want to stop potential terrorist threats against my family and other innocents with all my being - but not in ways that risk and kill other people's four-year-olds.

2. Avoid bad theology. The American Bush theology sees a struggle between good and evil - we are good, they are evil. And everyone else is either with us or against us. If we can't see the face of evil in the events of Sept. 11, we have been corrupted by the post-modern world of moral relativism. But we are not the good. That's bad theology. Jesus teaches us to see the beam in our own eye, and not just the mote in our adversary's eye. George Bush is a Methodist, but he sees no beams in the American eye. But there is also a bad anti-American theology that suggests that evil resides only in Washington, D.C. Bin Laden is not a freedom fighter. He cares nothing for the have-nots of the world. He's only recently become interested in the Palestinians. His is a twisted ideology and pathology of hate, vengeance, and lust for power. And he would turn Islam into a religion of violence against innocents. We must act so that the world will not be remade in the image of the terrorists; and we deny the terrorists their victory when we refuse to be changed into people God has not called us to be.

3. Listen to the different perceptions of Sept. 11 around the world. Random, senseless violence, which can take loved ones at a moment's notice, is not a new experience for most of the world's people in places like Sarajevo, San Salvador, Johannesburg, or Jerusalem. Even the inner-city youth of Washington, D.C., were not as traumatized by Sept. 11 as their suburban counterparts. Our illusions of invulnerability must be shattered - so we can join the rest of the world.

4. Let's define terrorism the right way, and allow no double standards. Terrorism is the deliberate taking of innocent lives. It applies to individuals, groups, and nations alike - all of which can and have supported and committed acts of terrorism. Those who turn airplanes into missiles to attack skyscrapers full of people, those who become suicide bombers, and those who order military strikes against apartment buildings full of civilians and children are all terrorists, not religious devotees, martyrs, or defenders of national security.

5. Attack not only the symptoms, but also the root causes of terrorism. Poverty is not the cause of terrorism, but impoverishment and hopelessness are among terrorism's best recruiters. We must drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed. Justice really is the best path to peace, and there is no security but common security.

6. The solutions to terrorism are not primarily military. Drying up the financial resources of terrorism, coordinating international intelligence, and multi-national policing are much more effective weapons against terrorism than bombing Iraq. Dealing with root causes is the best strategy of all.

7. It's time to move beyond the old debates of pacifism vs. just war, and focus on the promising common ground of conflict resolution. We must ask what are the transforming initiatives and practices that will actually prevent, reduce, contain, and, ultimately overcome the inevitable eruptions of violence in our world.

8. It is time to end the era of unilateral action by any nation, even the world's last remaining superpower - no matter how strong it seems to be. Nobody can go it alone. No victory over terrorism is possible without a whole new level of international judicial, political, and financial collaboration. Only a real world court to weigh facts and make judgments, with effective multinational law enforcement, will be able to protect us.

9. This is not a time for peace-loving, but rather for peacemaking, which is much more demanding. And peacemaking is, finally, less a position than a path - the path Jesus has clearly instructed us to take. That path cost him dearly, and no doubt will us too. But the alternatives are both impractical and frightening.

10. Finally, the fight against terrorism is a spiritual struggle, not just a political one. It causes us to ask what is really important, what our closest relationships really mean to us, and what we are really doing with our lives and the gifts God has given us. Like firefighters who make pilgrimages to Ground Zero, we are all pilgrims now.

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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Blockbuster Video: A better INS?

You read about all these terrorists - most of them came here legally, but they hung around on these expired visas, some for as long as 10-15 years.

Now, compare that to Blockbuster: You are two days late with a video and those people are all over you. Let's put Blockbuster in charge of immigration.


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Families of 9/11 victims build a movement against war

The memory of Craig Amundson, an Army specialist who worked as a creative illustrator at the Pentagon, lives on. It lives not only in the hearts of his family but also in a national organization that Craig's brother, Barry Amundson, 32, and Barry's girlfriend Kelly Campbell, 30, helped to form in the months after Sept. 11 and the United States' subsequent bombing of Afghanistan.

The advocacy group is called Peaceful Tomorrows, which seeks nonviolent responses to terrorism. Started last winter by Campbell and the Amundsons, as well as several families of other victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the East Coast, Peaceful Tomorrows has raised both consciousness and ire by speaking frankly about their opposition to a vengeful war on terrorism and by traveling to Afghanistan to meet with family members of victims of errant U.S. bombs.

To read the entire feature, go to:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
No sweat: Physical activity drops for teenage girls

*Less than 1% of 9- and 10-year-old girls said they had no regular exercise activity

*By age 16 or 17, 56% of black girls report no such activity

*By age 16 or 17, 31% of white girls report no such activity

*Over the 9-year-long course of the study, exercise activity declined by 83%.

*Source: New England Journal of Medicine


B i z   E t h i c s
Freedom from telemarketing tyranny

by Judith Gorman, AlterNet

One piece of good news on Sept 11: You won't be getting any calls from telemarketers.

The swell folks at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) have issued the following advisory: "As we approach the first anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, there has been some debate on what is commercially appropriate on that solemn day....The DMA is suggesting that its members either refrain from conducting unsolicited email and telephone marketing campaigns on Wednesday, Sept. 11, or conduct those campaigns with the utmost caution and respect on this solemn day of remembrance."

How tasteful. That's the good news. The bad news is that for the remaining 364 days a year, we will be subjected to a farrago of sales pitches that would put P.T. Barnum to shame.

Find out how to free yourself from this source of domestic irritation at:


S o u l   W o r k s
Magnetic Field

by Catherine Phil MacCarthy

At the bottom of the bog,
I lost my bearings:
Everything I had to go on

for a map, the shimmer
of poplar and birch
against the evening sun,

our small stream,
gorse shrubbing the bank,
disappeared with a squelch of my rubber boot.

I was knee deep
in a seepage of mud and peat,
among rushes and yellow flags.

No one to be seen for miles,
except horses in the next field
grazing under pines,

tales of a man
swallowed whole and never seen again
fresh in my ears.

Everything that was
air and sky in me
sucked in mud at my heels

and everything in me
that loves the bog
praying for rock.

"This Hour of the Tide: A Collection of Poems by Catherine Phil MacCarthy," is available at:

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P. O. V.
Suing the University of North Carolina: Book author talks back

by Michael Sells

An advocacy group is suing the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill for selecting my book "Approaching the Qur'an: the Early Revelations" as required summer reading for incoming students. The group charges that UNC indoctrinates students with a book offering deceptive claims about the peaceful nature of Islam, violating the separation of church and state.

The book, however, makes no claim about the Qur'an as a whole. It presents the passages that are most known to Muslims, the first learned and most often memorized. It no more preaches Islam than selections from Biblical literature used in Western civilization and humanities courses preach Judaism or Christianity.

Many associate an effort to know about or understand an Islamic text with anti-war activism or being weak on terrorism. Yet, before Sept. 11, while others were dismissing the threat brewing in Afghanistan as "wagging the dog," I had denounced the intolerance of the Wahhabi version of Islam supported by groups in Saudi Arabia and had called for the overthrow of the criminal Taliban government. The most detailed prescient warning came not from those anti-Islamic writers who are being hailed as vindicated prophets, but from a Muslim, Ahmed Rashid, in his 1999 book on the Taliban.

Behind the lawsuit is an old staple of missionary polemic: Islam is a religion of violence in contrast to Christianity, a religion of peace. The critics cite verses that demand a fight against the infidel - case closed. Most Muslims, however, interpret these verses as reflecting early conflict between Muhammad's followers and his opponents. They no more expect to apply them to their contemporary non-Muslim friends and neighbors than most Christians and Jews consider themselves, like the Biblical Joshua, commanded by God to exterminate the unbelievers - man, woman, and child. There are extremists who see themselves as new Joshuas, just as there are Muslim extremists who turn the Qur'anic verse into a license for violence. One revivalist interpretation portrays the West as a modern embodiment of those Meccans who attacked Muhammad and his followers. That particular interpretation can indeed turn into an ideology of anti-Western jihad. But we can only distinguish it from the other interpretations and locate where it is, who espouses it, and what conclusions they draw from it, if we avoid assuming all Muslims interpret the Qur'an in the same way.

If we treat someone as an enemy long enough, we can easily make him an enemy, even if he wasn't in the first place. The broadcast of such charges in Bosnia helped persuade many Christians that the neighbor, friend, or in-law who would come by at Christmas and Easter to offer greetings and express respect, was, by the very nature of his faith, out to destroy them. The Bosnian Muslims holding candles on Sept. 11 distinguished between those Christians who tried to annihilate them in the name of Christianity and Christianity in general. Their greatest victory in the face of that assault was their refusal to lose their souls to a reflexive hatred of the religion in whose name it was carried out.

The separation of church and state is the anchor of diverse society. Any threat to that separation threatens us all. We vitally need a careful national discussion of issues of religion and violence. The UNC assignment presents some of the most influential texts in human history, along with their historical and literary context, without judgments on their truth or falsehood. College students are more likely to read the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai and the Sermon on the Mount in a Western Civ course, than they are the gruesome account of Joshua's divinely ordered slaughter of the Canaanites or the violent passages of Revelations popular among Christian white supremacist militias. Any discussion of the peaceful or violent nature of the Qur'an will be more informed if based on prior acquaintance with what in the Qur'an makes it appeal so deeply to so many.


Professor Michael Sells, Haverford College, is author of "Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations" (White Cloud Press, 1999).


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Hip hop, psalms, and lamentations

Music Review: Lauryn Hill, MTV Unplugged 2.0

by Bethany Versluis

"Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need. And I've just retired from the fantasy part," says Lauryn Hill in the way only divas can on her new album "MTV Unplugged 2.0," released in May. It's been a while since we've heard so much as a peep out of the 27-year-old hip-hop queen, but in that time Hill's been intoxicated with the gospel. Most fans are surprised to unwrap a double-disc album that plays more like a four-hour sermon, with 13 new songs and nine preachy interludes.

To read the entire feature as it appears in the Sept/Oct issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:


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B o o m e r a n g

Michael L. Westmoreland-White, Ph.D., writes from Louisville, Kentucky:

Excellent article by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall featured in last week's SojoMail.... I believe they are right in saying that Saddam Hussein is vulnerable to a sustained nonviolent revolution.

But there are some flaws in Ackerman and DuVall's argument. They present such a nonviolent revolution as an alternative to military invasion by the Bush administration. But who is going to teach nonviolent direct action to Iraqi dissidents? And which group of dissidents? And how do we convince the Bush administration to wait while a nonviolent movement is formed and trained and given time to topple Hussein?


Helga Petri writes from Germany:

It always strikes me how hypocritical the attitude of the U.S. government is. The U.S. has mass destructive weapons in abundance, and so do several other countries. Should the rest of the world make plans to attack the U.S. and those other countries? It's true Saddam Hussein is a very dangerous dictator, but to overthrow his regime a plan for the time after him is needed. As far as I see there are no such plans. Over here most people don't support Bush's plans. I believe there are other methods of getting rid of him than sending troops and killing so many innocent people. The uprising has to come from his own people. As far as I'm informed, the majority there stands behind him. There is a lot of hate in the world against the USA. As long as there is no justice and as long as the US government acts as ignorant and arrogant as up to now, this hate will be increased.


David Nybakke writes from Bloomington, Illinois:

I heard this quote from people working in a cause of world hunger: "The barbaric events of September 11 will have a devastating impact on the world's poor. On that date there were 1.2 billion people who subsisted on less than $1 a day. Within a year that number will increase by 10 million as developing nations see their already fragile economies undermined by the global economic downturn." I wonder how true that "prediction" is.


Beth Rockwell writes from Erie, Pennsylvania:

I am very tired of the unfettered use of the word "terrorists." It is used to describe those who disagree with any given policy or action. If it were used in its strict definition, it might be useful. However, it rarely is, even though many of us try to use it properly.

I urge those who fall into the political, widespread use of the word to reflect and reconsider. We need to find another way to express actions that cause fear, or menace, or frighten others; it is [used] to intimidate in order to attain one's goals or advance one's cause. By this definition, the U.S. is considered by many in other countries to be the biggest and worst terrorist country of all. After all, those seen by persecuted innocent people in Nicaragua as terrorists were called by the U.S. president "freedom fighters," comparable to the colonists who rebelled against England. The use of terrorism by the Contras is well documented, and involved the U.S. and its own lawbreakers - only one of many, many examples of U.S.-sponsored terrorism. I believe the U.S. is today sponsoring the use of terrorism by Israeli troops against Palestinian civilians.

Please, let's define our use of the word instead of falling into the propagandistic blanket use by politicians to justify any action, regardless of legality or human rights.


John P. Deever writes from Washington, D.C.:

Incredibly, SojoMail reader Greg Gelburd writes about Oliver North: "It's interesting who Christ calls to serve Him and, at least on a personal level, he's a great believer."

North, now on a book tour for "Mission Compromised" - his ghostwritten fictional account of his own time in the White House - may think he has been called by Christ, but he is not the kind of person Sojourners' readers would want to quickly forgive, I should hope.

North is a liar and a cheat: "When George Bush, Bill Casey and Oliver North initiated their plan of fraud and drug smuggling, they envisioned using 500 men to raise $35 billion. When Iran Contra finally fell apart, they ended up using 5,000 operatives and making $350 billion in illegal secret operations." (

North is a war criminal: "'If it was proven that Oliver North knew about the atrocities that were committed by the Contras, yes, he could also have been held accountable before the ICC, had it existed at the time,' says William Pace, head of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court," Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 2000.

The man has blood on his hands and any Christian who cannot see this is under a terrible burden of self-deception.


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:



W e b s c e n e
This week's best of the Web

*How do jurors decide who should live and who should die?

In "Deadly Decisions," American RadioWorks examines cases in which death penalty jurors misunderstood or even disobeyed the laws designed to guide their decisions over life and death. Is it a matter of jurors being influenced by their own fears and prejudices when faced with sentencing people to death? To read about "Deadly Decisions" or listen to the Real Audio files, go to:


*Responsible business practices...yes, they do exist!

Since 1992, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has helped companies of all sizes and sectors achieve business objectives and efficiencies in ways that respect ethical values, people, communities, and the environment. Its Web site offers one of the best online tools and news for business and ethics. Go to:


*Conspiracy theory 101

Seems like everyone on the Web has a conspiracy theory. But not quite so well diagrammed as this one. Check out the dots connecting the bin Laden family to the Carlyle Group first. Go to:


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