The Common Good

Marge Piercy: 9/11 Memorial Poem

Sojomail - September 10, 2003

www.sojo.net09.10.2003
Quote of the Week Tony Campolo: Jesus who?
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Make sacrifices? Start with Rumsfeld and the tax cuts
Soul Works Marge Piercy: 9/11 memorial poem
By the Numbers Affordable rent gap widens for poor
P.O.V. Bill Moyers interview
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Israel Journal Hillel Cafe

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK ^top

"I find it strange that the last place I can really quote Jesus these days is in American churches. They don't want to hear 'overcome evil with good.' They don't want to hear 'those who live by the sword die by the sword.' They don't want to hear 'if your enemy hurts you, do good, feed, clothe, minister to him.' They don't want to hear 'blessed are the merciful.' They don't want to hear 'love your enemies.'"

- Tony Campolo, quoted in Christian Week magazine

HEARTS & MINDS ^top
Make sacrifices? Start with Rumsfeld and the tax cuts
by Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

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President Bush's speech to the nation on Sunday night was forced upon him. He didn't ever admit it during the speech, but continuing events in Iraq reveal fundamental miscalculations and multiple policy failures on the part of his administration. Those failures have left the White House looking out of control of the situation in post-war Iraq, and they demanded the speech. Instead of at least acknowledging miscalculations on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, the reception of the Iraqi people to their American "liberators," the unexpected level of resistance to American occupation, the cost and scope of reconstruction, the American unilateralism the has made needed international help so difficult to obtain, and the abysmal lack of a post-conflict plan (to name just a few), the president just called for more "sacrifice."

But who will do the sacrificing? President Bush asked for $87 billion more to pay for the American occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. News reports already reveal the comparative costs and "sacrifices" of this enormous expenditure: The entire proposed fiscal-year budget for the Department of Health and Human Services is $66 billion; for the Department of Education, $53 billion. The total amount for all 50 states to meet their projected budget shortfalls this year is $78 billion.

Clearly, the sacrifices for the war in Iraq will be borne by those in most need who will bear the brunt of inevitable spending cuts to vital social programs, and by future generations who will ultimately pay for the record-setting deficits. Who will bear no sacrifice is also clear - the beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts and the recipients of the lucrative contracts for Iraqi reconstruction that are going to carefully selected American corporations. Those who will not sacrifice, in other words, are the wealthy and powerful allies of the Bush administration - and their core constituency. It is not hyperbole to say that those beneficiaries of war-time tax cuts and contract deals should now be called war profiteers.

So, I propose two sacrifices the Bush administration should now make, if they expect the rest of the nation to share in the sacrifices of rebuilding Iraq. First, the White House should admit its miscalculations and policy failures. And those responsible for the failures should be the first to sacrifice. Therefore, the chief architects of the failed Iraqi policy - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, should both be asked to resign. These chief unilateralists have presided over the policy failures and, if a better direction of international cooperation is to be restored in Iraq, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz must step aside. At least one leading member of Congress has already called for their resignations. Religious leaders and others should take up that call.

Second, if the White House calls for sacrifice are to have any moral credibility, the administration's tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans must be immediately rescinded. Neither the poor, nor our children and their children, should be forced to pay for the war in Iraq, while those with the greatest ability to sacrifice are reaping a whirlwind of benefit. That is morally unconscionable and the only responsible course of action now is to repeal the egregious tax cuts.

Whether the resignations of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz or the repeal of the tax cuts are politically likely at this moment (and they aren't) is not the point. There are fundamental issues of moral accountability here that go beyond political calculation. And those questions of accountability will be especially vital during an election year.


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SOUL WORKS ^top
9/11 memorial poem: No One Came Home
by Marge Piercy

1.
Max was in bed that morning, pressed
against my feet, walking to my pillow
to kiss my nose, long and lean with aqua-
marine eyes, my sun prince who thought

himself my lover. He was cream and golden
orange, strong willed, lord of the other
cats and his domain. He lay on my chest
staring into my eyes. He went out at noon.

He never came back. A smear of blood
on the grass at the side of the road
where we saw a huge coyote the next
evening. We knew he had been eaten

yet we could not know. We kept looking
for him, calling him, searching. He
vanished from our lives in an hour. My cats
have always died in old age, slowly

with abundant warning. Not Max.
He left a hole in my waking.

2.
A woman leaves her children in day care,
goes off to her secretarial job
on the 100th floor, conscientious always
to arrive early, because she needs the money

for her children, for health insurance,
for rent and food and clothing and fees
for all the things kids need, whose father
has two new children and a great lawyer.

They are going to eat chicken that night
she has promised, and the kids talk of that
together, fried chicken with adobo, rice
and black beans, food rich as her love.

The day is bright as a clean mirror.

3.
His wife has morning sickness so does
not rise for breakfast. He stops for coffee,
a yogurt, rushing for the 8:08 train.
Ignoring the window, he writes his five

pages, the novel that is going to make
him famous, cut him loose from the desk
where he is chained to the phone
eight to ten hours, making cold calls.

In his head, naval battles rage. He
has been studying Midway, the Coral
Sea, Guadalcanal. He can recite
tonnage, tides, the problems with torpedoes.

For five years, he has prepared.
His makeshift office in the basement
is lined with books and maps. His book
will sing with bravery and error.

The day is blue and whistles like a robin.

4.
His father was a fireman and his brother.
He once imagined being a rock star
but by the end of high school, he knew
it was his calling, it was his family way.

As there are trapeze families, clans
who perform with tigers or horses,
the Irish travelers, tinkers, gypsies,
those born to work the earth of their farm,

and those who inherit vast fortunes
built of the bones of others, so families
inherit danger and grace, the pursuit
of the safety of others before their own.

The morning smelled of the river,
of doughnuts, of coffee, of leaves.

5.
When a man fell into the molten steel
the company would deliver an ingot
to bury. Something. Where I live
on the Cape, lost at sea means no body.

You can't bury a coffin length of sea
water. There are stones in our grave
yards with lists of names, the sailors
from the ships gone down in a storm.

MIA means no body, no answer,
hope that is hopeless, the door
that can never be quite closed.
Lives are broken off like tree limbs

in a storm. Other lives simply dissolve
like salt in warm water and there is
no shadow on the pavement, no trace
They puff into nothing. We can't believe.

We die still expecting an answer.

6.
Los desparecidos. Did we notice?
Did we care? in Chile, funded,
assisted by the CIA, a democratic
government was torn down and thousands

brought into a stadium and never seen
again. Reports of torture, reports of graves
in the mountains, bodies dumped at sea
reports of your wife, your son, your

father arrested and then vanished
like cigarette smoke, gone like
a whisper you aren't quite sure you
heard, a living person who must, who

must be somewhere, anywhere, lost,
wounded, boxed in a cell, in exile,
under a stone, somewhere, bones,
a skull, a button, a wisp of cloth.

In Argentina, the women marched
for those who had disappeared.
Did we notice? That happened
in those places, those other places

where people didn't speak English,
ate strange spicy foods, had dictators
or Communists or sambas or goas.
They didn't count. We didn't count

them or those they said had been
there alive and now who knew?
Not us. The terror has come home.
Will it make us better or worse?

7.
When will we understand what terrorists
never believe, that we are all
precious in our loving, all tender
in our flesh and webbed together?

That no one should be torn
out of the fabric of friends and family,
the sweet and sour work of loving,
burnt anonymously, carelessly

because of nothing they ever did
because of hatred they never knew
because of nobody they ever touched
or left untouched, turned suddenly

to dust on a perfect September
morning bright as a new apple
when nothing they did would
ever again make any difference.

======

*Copyright 2002. Marge Piercy, Box 1473, Wellfleet MA 02667

**Marge Piercy's poem originally was published in (and made available to SojoMail by) The Shalom Center's email bi-weekly, THE SHALOM REPORT: http://www.shalomctr.org


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BY THE NUMBERS ^top
Affordable rent gap widens for poor
The National Low Income Housing Coalition's annual "Out of Reach" report, released Tuesday, shows costs associated with renting a home are rising as incomes are falling. The study assumes that a family should pay a maximum 30 percent of its income on rent and utilities. ...The affordability gap is widening when compared to last year. The 2002 study said a typical poor family could afford $584 a month while costs were $899. For more information, see http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001720491_housing09m.html

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P.O.V. ^top
An interview with Bill Moyers
by Grist magazine

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Grist: In the year and a half since the launch of your PBS program "NOW," you have done extensive reporting on the Bush administration's environmental record. At a time when most news outlets have focused on war and recession, you and your team have been among the few journalists who've consistently taken a hard look at these policy rollbacks. What has been motivating you?

Bill Moyers: The facts on the ground. I'm a journalist, reporting the evidence, not an environmentalist pressing an agenda. The Earth is sending us a message and you don't have to be an environmentalist to read it. The Arctic ice is melting. The Arctic winds are balmy. The Arctic Ocean is rising. Scientists say that in the year 2002 - the second-hottest on record http://www.gristmagazine.com/heatbeat/weather013103.asp - they saw the Arctic ice coverage shrink more than at any time since they started measuring it. Every credible scientific study in the world says human activity is creating global warming. In the face of this evidence, the government in Washington has declared war on nature. They have placed religious and political dogma over the facts.

Grist: Can you elaborate on their religious and political dogma?

Moyers: They are practically the same. Their god is the market - every human problem, every human need, will be solved by the market. Their dogma is the literal reading of the creation story in Genesis where humans are to have "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing...." The administration has married that conservative dogma of the religious right to the corporate ethos of profits at any price. And the result is the politics of exploitation with a religious impulse.

Meanwhile, over a billion people have no safe drinking water. We're dumping 500 million tons of hazardous waste into the Earth every year. In the last hundred years alone we've lost more than 2 billion hectares of forest, our fisheries are collapsing, our coral reefs are dying because of human activity. These are facts. So what are the administration and Congress doing? They're attacking the cornerstones of environmental law: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act]. They are allowing l7,000 power plants to create more pollution. They are opening public lands to exploitation. They're even trying to conceal threats to public health: Just look at the stories this past week about how the White House pressured the EPA not to tell the public about the toxic materials that were released by the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Grist: I'm interested in your explanation of why - I haven't heard this dogma-based argument before. More often, critics interpret the White House environmental agenda as political pragmatism, as simply an effort to stay in power and pay back corporate contributors.

Moyers: This is stealth war on the environment in the name of ideology. But you're right - there is a very powerful political process at work here, too. It's payback time for their rich donors. In the 2000 elections, the Republicans outspent the Democrats by $200 million. Bush and Cheney - who, needless to say, are oil men who made their fortunes in the energy business - received more than $44 million from the oil, gas, and energy industries. It spills over into Congress too: In the 2002 congressional elections, Republican candidates received almost $15 million from the energy industries, while the Democrats got around $3.7 million. In our democracy, voters can vote but donors decide.

To read the entire Moyer's interview, link to:

http://www.gristmagazine.com/maindish/griscom082603.asp


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BOOMERANG ^top
SojoMail readers hit reply

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Greta Nisson writes from Monterey, California:

As a child and as an adult, I was the victim of bullies and helplessly witnessed the bullying of others. At least one of the other victims and I were taught pacifism but were unprotected by either our families or ordinary members of the churches, who sometimes witnessed the sadism. I am convinced that a miracle informed another intended victim how to escape one incident alive, but my willingness to fight for my life saved me.

While I do not claim there is a one-solution-fits-all solution to the question of how young people respond to violence, adults using scripture to advocate pacifism often forget that the early Christians were often killed in spite of prayers. Unless adults are actively involved in protecting children like Donis, these adults will seem to be telling the children that no one thinks that it is important that they live. I suspect that adults who do not offer to take blows for the children are not actually pacifists and are avoiding facing the children's reality. With the lowering of the cost of cell phones, children might be given them with the police and pacifists' numbers on speed dial. The pacifists might have a person on call 24 hours a day to help the children face potential violence. Without measures like that, it is likely that these children will look to violence and gangs as a way of staying alive.

-------------

Kevin Williams writes from Minneapolis, Minnesota:

You should rename your magazine to "Bushhaters." All you and your readers talk about is your hatred for the Bush administration. I've never hear a group who claims to be so Christian spew so much hatred.

-------------

Donna Vogelpohl writes from Sapulpa, Oklahoma:

Rik Wenger's comments in Boomerang could have been my own. I was raised Pentacostal Assembly of God. I think that is about as fundamentalist as you can get, and I left that belief system behind 20 years ago.

I really enjoy Sojourners even though I am utterly ashamed of the term "Christian" when I see what Bush has done to it along with the same ilk for the last 2000 years. Jesus was willing to die and forbid the apostles from harming others on his behalf.... I call myself a Jesusonian - for I truly believe in the life and teaching of Jesus. Thanks.

--------------

Thomas Heck, professor emeritus of Ohio State University, writes from Santa Barbara, California:

I like the interfaith tone of SojoMail. In my way (as a Christian) I am always thinking about cultivating common ground for the major religions - the Abrahamic ones in particular. There is one common ground that Jews, Muslims, and Christians in fact do agree on: that the region of Israel/Palestine is "holy land." Believing in equal access for all to this common heritage, I have put up a Web site [http://www.holylandprotectorate.org] suggesting that this region should be accorded the same status as Antarctica, namely, a nationality free zone. I have even crafted a sample re-draft of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, substituting "Holy Land Protectorate" for "Antarctica." The idea may be shocking to some. It calls for evenhanded justice and tough-love today, hopefully followed by peace for the grandchildren tomorrow. Please have a look, think and pray over it, and spread the word if you agree.

-------------

Michael and Karen Bagdes-Canning write from Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania:

Maybe we missed your point, but we were really disappointed that Sojourners felt the need to give voice to yet another rip on marriage [last week's "Funny Business"]. Your choice to print that tired old joke only helps perpetuate the notion that marriage is good for the woman and bad for the man. To find it in a publication such as yours, which we have come to know and love, is disheartening. The truth is that a good marriage is good for the man and the woman and is often the start of many "happiest days of our lives." We can't speak for all married couples but we can say that our marriage of 25 years has been a blessing to both of us.

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Anne M. Mulderry writes from Kinderhook, New York:

A sexist joke from Sojourners? How sad it makes me to reflect upon the failure of even people actively concerned with justice issues to fail to recognize that marriage contracts ended/end the chances of so many women for happiness. The significance of the white/black contrast may be beyond a child's understanding, but surely it should not be beyond your editors.'

--------------------------

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:

boomerang@sojo.net

ISRAEL JOURNAL ^top
Hillel Cafe
by Yitzhak Frankenthal

It is now 11:59 p.m., half an hour after the suicide bombing at Hillel Cafe.

Just the night before, my wife and I and two of our friends were sitting at the cafe until around 11:40 p.m. The place was packed. I can now hear the sirens of the ambulances racing through the streets of Jerusalem. I cannot get the images out of my head; images of severed arms, decapitated heads, people with nails and pieces of iron stuck in their bodies, broken tables, the cake and sandwich bar shattered into thousands of pieces. What happened to the sweet waitress who was serving us? What happened to the young busboy? We were sitting in the middle of the room; all those people came there for a good time and were carried out in coffins. Is the high ceiling still in place? The glass wall shattered into millions of shards, covering body parts and swimming in the blood that spilled on the floor like water. "Shema Israel, hear O Israel," we pray - but Israel is not listening.

Read the rest of the story at:

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=news.display_archives&mode=current_opinion&article=CO_030910



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