The Common Good

Stopping Violence Against Women

Sojomail - July 23, 2003

Quote of the Week James Adair: Budget priorities
Batteries Not Included Enough: Stopping violence against women
Building a Network Big gains in online giving
Liberia Journal Rescuing Ourselves: Can America do more than save its own?
Funny Business Five Jews who have changed the way we see the world
By the Numbers Married with (and without) children
Soul Works Australian poet: The co-dependent cowboy
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Culture Watch Braille version of 'Harry Potter' weighs in at 13 volumes
Web Scene Corporate-run media undermines democracy | Offbeat destinations for your summer road trip

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"Between a few hundred and a few thousand people die every year from terrorist acts. More than 6 million children die every year from hunger-related causes. Where should our government's spending priorities be?"

-- James R. Adair, editor

Enough: Stopping violence against women
by David Batstone

David BatstoneThe Kobe Bryant event dominated the news during the past week. It was hard not to feel pain all around. The young woman who made the accusations against Bryant will face intense public scrutiny and skepticism in the months ahead. If she was indeed a victim of sexual assault, the burden of proving her abuse seems like a burden too large for anyone to bear.

My stomach also felt sick for Mr. Bryant's wife, who sat stoically at her husband's side during the press conference as he admitted his betrayal of their marriage covenant. Even so, she could not hide the depth of her personal suffering. To be fair to Mr. Bryant, his public humiliation also was gut-wrenching. If he is innocent of the charges brought against him, his reputation is now forever tainted. Fairness is absent in the court of public opinion.

Another news item crossed my desk this week that did not receive near the public attention, but was a far more devastating indictment of the violence against women that runs deep in our society. A business in the state of Nevada, I learned, offers men the chance to shoot women for sport. Men use guns loaded with paint ball pellets to hunt naked prostitutes across the open Nevada range. The company - which unabashedly takes the name "Hunting for Bambi" - charges each hunter $10,000 for the right to play the game. Those hunters who successfully shoot their "prey" can "mount" - the euphemism is not subtle - the naked woman on a wall (think of the moose head in the lodge) and to commemorate his exploits take home a photo of himself, gun in hand, next to the mount.

There's some debate on the Internet as to whether the Hunting for Bambi hunts are for real, or just a way to sell soft-porn videos in which women are hunted with paintballs. The Urban Legends site reports that it started off as a hoax but became a real business after public relations led to a large influx of orders. Some of my colleagues checked with a reporter who investigated the business and confirmed its existence as well.

The libertarian voice in my head argues, "Ok, it's awful, but you can't legislate morality for other people. No one is being forced to play this game, after all. The women who participate do so of their own volition, and are paid well for their services. In the state of Nevada, prostitution is legal."

Drawing a moral line in the sand always feels like an arbitrary act, of course. Every other state in the USA has deemed it reprehensible for an individual to make money by selling their body for sex. The people of Nevada (or at least the majority) have decided to accept prostitution as an acceptable commercial activity. In essence, we allow them that choice, even if we feel it cheapens human experience.

But I would argue that Hunting for Bambi degrades human experience beyond any tolerable standard. Making fun and profit out of a masculine urge to harm woman is plain wrong. All too many women already feel like targets are painted on their bodies. An enterprise like Hunting for Bambi simply provides men a mental license to pursue the hunt. Our society has the right, no the obligation, to say, "Enough, we will not allow you to desecrate the dignity of women so."

If you agree with me, and you'd like to say "enough," I ask for your help. On a strategic level, what's the best way that we can collectively rally against the enterprise? (Thanks to pressure from concerned groups, credit card companies stopped accepting transactions from the company.) Letters of outrage to the owners are likely to be greeted with derision. Perhaps we could pressure Nevada public officials to take legislative action. Any other ideas? I'm all ears.

Faith WorksIt's time to amplify the progressive Christian voice!

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Rescuing Ourselves: Can America do more than save its own?
by Tad Daley

Imagine the euphoria that must have swept through the national football arena in Monrovia, Liberia, on June 13. Thousands of refugees had been crammed into the stadium for days, cowering under a driving rain, seeking sanctuary - again - from 14 years of civil war. On three sides of the city, rebel forces had been killing civilians indiscriminately. Inside the two things most in evidence were rotting corpses and armed thugs.

The Pentagon announced that day that the U.S.S. Kearsarge - carrying attack helicopters and 3,000 bristling Marines - was diverted to Liberian waters from its journey home from Iraq. U.S. forces were on their way to a land with which America had deep historical bonds. Liberia was founded by freed slaves in 1822; its capital is named after U.S. President James Monroe.

Was the American military coming to bang a few heads together, protect vulnerable refugees, and bring an end to bloodshed and butchery? No. American soldiers were deployed for one reason - to rescue Americans.

To read the full article, which will appear in the September/October issue of Sojourners, see:

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Five Jews who have changed the way we see the world

Moses: The law is everything
Jesus: Love is everything
Marx: Money is everything
Freud: Sex is everything
Einstein: Everything is relative

Married with (and without) children

Percentage of married U.S. couples that are raising children: 46

Percentage of unmarried, cohabitating U.S. couples that are: 41

*Source: Harper's Index

The Co-dependent Cowboy
by Geoffrey Datson

I'm the co-dependent cowboy
caught rustlin' in your culture
I branded it with stars and stripes
to doubly insult ya.
If I had a history,
you might get where I'm coming from.
Buffalo soldiers
from the bedrock Odeon

We got techno line dancing
before campfire blanket bombing.
Without injuns to be fighting,
we'd be left holding nothing
but a banjo gun portfolio,
from sea to shining sea.
I'm the co-dependent cowboy
you can deep-end on me.

Selection from "The Truth," the poetry of Australian audio poet Geoffrey Datson. "The Truth" was released in Australia only free to air and via the Web. Datson wanted to make the point that it is *not for sale*. He produced the album in response to Australia's entry into the war in Iraq, which was against the wishes of the vast majority of Australian citizens. It was his personal protest. Listen to Datson's own reading of his poetry at:

SurveyMake your voice heard!
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SojoMail readers hit reply

Nonviolent PeaceforceTom Keene writes from Huntsville, Alabama:

I am a born-again, spirit-filled Christian who is gladly planning to vote against Gov. Riley's tax plan. The issue is stewardship, and the state of Alabama, as with all governments, is a pathetic steward of the people's money. And regarding your stereotypical comment on Republicans and tax cuts: God has appointed me steward of the assets and resources of my family, not the federal government. I am thankful that a few Republicans in Washington recognize that. I am so much more successful than the government at distributing these assets using charities of my choice and the free markets that my success can't be quantified.


Carol Tippe writes from Iowa City, Iowa:

It is truly outrageous that low-income families are not included in this child tax credit. My husband and I are giving our child tax credit to our church to support local mission activity here in Iowa City as soon at it arrives! I hope others might think of doing this as well if they can afford to! That money could go a long way in supporting local agencies reaching out to those in need! Thanks to Call to Renewal and Jim Wallis for being a prophetic voice in a sea of struggle.


Brian Brumbaugh writes from Altoona, Pennsylvania:

I realize that Jim Wallis and many others wish to redistribute the wealth of America and in doing so can weaken her, thus making himself and the other socialists of the world the most powerful force on the planet. Wallis' comments that so many working poor are not benefiting from the tax cuts and the "rich" are walking away with all the money is outrageous! This group of people that you claim to be fighting for in this country are not paying any taxes to be rebated back and are not entitled to receive any. But, of course, this is coming from one of the "rich" people, right? My friend, my wife and I have worked very hard for all we have. We pay a great deal in taxes to support all of the social programs in this country both good and bad. We also tithe to many organizations and our church to help others. By "rebating" to those who have not paid it in the first place you only create more dependency on government. But I guess this would be your goal. No matter how much you and others hate this country and our president, we are a vital part of the world.


Jeff Mullins writes from Urayasu, Japan:

The reason that the government decided that low-income families would not receive a child tax credit is because they do not pay federal taxes. How can you give a child tax credit refund to someone who doesn't pay taxes? Let's get the semantics right. This would be a government grant...which I'm all for, by the way.


Chet Baker writes from London, England:

Thank you for what you're doing at Sojourners; Christian activists need to speak with a clear, unified, not-ashamed-to-speak-the-truth voice in this world. I am a new reader with lots to learn, so please forgive me, but I'm still struggling with the reasoning expressed in articles like "400 Americans could save 8 million lives annually," which appeared 07/16/03.

Like many threads running through SojoMail, this reasoning, simply stated, would require the government to legislate that those at the top of the capitalist heap contribute a greater share of their earnings toward the good of others. Each of the 400 Americans in the article, with average annual incomes of $174 million, contributes to the public good via his or her 18% taxes somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million annually - a sum neither I nor the average person could likely contribute to the tax pie in 10 lifetimes. There is a sense in which these 400 are the people contributing most, in terms of funding through taxes, to the lives of those who are struggling financially. Yes, these people do keep more than they need, but hey, so does the average American. The grossness of it is only a matter of degree. If everyone were an average earner, we would have a smaller GNP, and less money to distribute to the poor. This gives rise to the moral question of whether these 400 super-earners, and indeed anyone who has more than they need to survive, should give more to those who have less.... Does the solution for this loss lie in railing at that same secular government to tax the wealthy minority of non-Christians, or do real solutions come from within the church, whose average member in America (and I'm guessing 100% of contributors to this e-zine) has income greater than that of more than 90% of the rest of the world? Where are the real resources, and whose is the ultimate responsibility for change?


Frank G. Freeman, president of the Family Life Foundation, writes:

I enjoy SojoMail and use it in some of my discussion groups. Re: the Bush tax cut: If anyone would go back in history they would notice that every time the Republican party is in power, it is always the middle-class workers and lower class that suffer. It is always the upper rich class that wins. I am noticing that it is no different with the Bush administration in power. Once again the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.


Natasha Carrillo writes from Granada, Spain:

Once again I found David Batstone's writing ("What's eating you?") very timely and indicative of the days in which we live. I have the luck of living in Spain where you can still walk to the store and eating fast food is still considered a luxury. This said, I would recommend Sojo readers to pick up Eric Schlosser's book "Fast Food Nation" to learn why and how fast food and the all-American lifestyle began. Not only did it make me realize what I was eating, but it showed me how this mentality has changed the beef industry and our way of thinking and seeing the rest of the world as a "McWorld."


Carolyn Presley writes from Elburn, Illinois:

Thanks so much to David Batstone for being candid about the socially acceptable - especially within the church - sin of gluttony. I write this as I sit overstuffed (knowing better) with walnuts and a delightful salad. Thank you for the reminder. You keep sharpening the sword, David.


Ellen Shannon writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan:

I was disheartened to see your well-intentioned but alarming pieces on obesity and "gluttony." Please do not join the throngs who believe that being lean is a sign of higher consciousness. There is a move afoot in the U.S. to blame fat people for rising health-care costs instead of pointing the finger at the faulty investments made by health-care insurance companies.

[David Batstone] may unintentionally reinforce institutionalized "fat phobia" and other discriminatory attitudes against fat people. The hostile climate fat people experience when searching jobs, using airplanes, enrolling in exercise programs, seeking medical care, etc., is an ugly element of American culture that is fostered by corporate cultures. This hostility should be addressed by Sojourners as a social justice issue rather than encouraged by the tone and focus of the writing describing obesity. It is not helpful to create articles that judge, label, and prescribe without addressing the social justice component of this issue.


George Roberts writes from Spartanburg, South Carolina:

Anne Yohn's poem in SojoMail [7/9/03] so wondrously says, so simply says, what will save us all from the wrath of war: "I love you, oh, I love you...." Truly, with love in our eyes, our hearts, minds, and spirits, how can wars be waged? Thank you for publishing such a beautiful poem, and thank you, Ms. Yohn, for your words of beauty.


Jeffrey Swigart writes from Washington, Illinois:

I am writing in reply to Stephan Melancon, who wrote the following on "The women who cry out and demand to be admitted to the ministerial priesthood would do well to consider the words of John Paul II: 'The distinction of roles in no way favors the superiority of one over the other: the best gift of all, which can and should be desired, is charity. In the Kingdom of God, the greatest are not the ministers, but the saints.'"

I reply, the men who cry out and demand to maintain their monopoly on the ministerial priesthood would do well to consider those same words of John Paul II.


Bob Osborne writes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

Re: Stephan Melancon's Boomerang last week: In a perfect church, roles should not matter, but throughout the church's history it is the hierarchy that have not shown humility in their interactions with the laity. The abuse of temporal power, which led the church to oppose democracy and pander to the royalty of Europe, is one example, as is the difficulty the church had in responding to the modern world. John XXIII's attempt at "opening the windows" with Vatican II is now being gnawed away at by those in the curia who wish to keep power in the church concentrated in their small circle. At the diocesan level, we see some bishops who regard the "image" of the church as more important than a humble asking of forgiveness for the covering up of abuse scandals. They dare not risk the favor of politicians who support the church's stand on abortion, but on issues from war to justice, are as "anti-life" as one can get.


Tim Nyberg writes from St. Paul, Minnesota:

When reading about certain Jewish groups condemning Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion" (because it appeared anti-Semitic in that it suggested that the Jews killed Christ), I couldn't help but think that if Christ were here on earth today, the religious right (those to whom Gibson is looking for support of the project) would probably be the ones calling for Christ's death. His message was not popular then, and it certainly wouldn't be today. Sadly, the political and social actions of the religious right and evangelical Christians in general - like the Pharisees of old - don't seem to have much to do with following the teachings of Christ.


Nikki Pipe of Vermillion, South Dakota, writes:

The articles in SojoMail bring a new spirit when so many other publications seem to get caught up in political correctness. Bruce Cockburn's song, "Love Loves You Too" more than inspires those of us who are still looking for that "spark of life and spirit."


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:

SojoBlendDoes your church, office, or school serve fair trade coffee?
There's an appalling imbalance in the coffee industry today. While Folgers' sales topped $1 billion and executives at Folgers' parent company, Procter & Gamble, pocketed nearly $37 million in 2000, the average coffee farmer earns about $300 a year.

Something needs to change! Sojourners - in partnership with PuraVida - provides SojoBlend coffee (fair trade, organic, and shade grown). PuraVida guarantees coffee farmers a set price at least four times higher than the industry average, regardless of world price fluctuations. They also go one step further and contribute 100 percent of profits to grassroots ministries in Costa Rica.

  • Ask your pastor to promote justice while brewing the day's coffee at church events.
  • Ask your employer to wake up workers with coffee that makes a difference.
  • Ask your school to offer a responsible coffee option for all-night study sessions.

For more information, e-mail, call 800.714.7474 x235, or visit .

Braille version of 'Harry Potter' weighs in at 13 volumes
by Elizabeth Armstrong

Most days, each reconditioned Heidelberg cylinder press churns out 8,000 pages an hour as National Braille Press workers collate magazines, manuals, and popular children's books by hand.

These next few weeks, however, the staff of 49 is producing an unusually high volume of pages from this converted piano factory near Boston's Symphony Hall.... A first printing of 500 copies will fill the needs of 10 percent of the entire K-12 market of braille readers in the U.S., and the work involved is no small task.

After the text is transcribed into the correct notation - which involves spelling out words that don't contract in braille, such as "Hermione" or "Hogsmeade" - pages are punched, proofed, and pressed through the old Heidelberg cylinders. Volunteers then help the staff collate, fold, and staple the books by hand (machines would smash the braille). Finally, the 500 copies, each of which amounts to a 13-volume stack of paper more than a foot high, are shipped.

In the end, the books will be priced the same as non-braille versions - just under $30. "The cost doesn't even cover the paper," says Diane Croft of National Braille Press. "But we're a nonprofit, and it's our job to raise the difference. No one should be penalized for having to read braille."

To read the entire feature, link to:

Spirit of FireSpirit of Fire: Faith, Art, and Action
New from the editors of Sojourners!

This art-filled resource explores the passionate and often contentious relationship between art and the church. Topics include the connections between creativity and spirituality; beauty, political resistance, and the artistic vocation; and models for bringing art to church and to the street.

100 pages. Price: 1-9 copies: $14.95 each; 10-49 copies: $12.95 each; 50-99 copies: $10.95 each; 100+ copies: $9.95 each.

Order your copies today at:

*Corporate-run media undermines democracy

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is a national media watchdog group advocating independence and criticism in journalism. It advocates for greater diversity in the press and scrutinizes media practices that marginalize public interest, and minority and dissenting viewpoints. See more at:

*Offbeat destinations for your summer road trip around the USA

This site features articles about destinations, routes, and attractions across the USA, as well as the Web's largest gallery of funny road signs. Link to:

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