The Common Good

A Campaign for Compassionate Priorities

Sojomail - October 6, 2005


10.06.2005 www.sojo.net
Quote of the Week : Reckless generosity
Hearts & Minds : Drawing a line in the sand
Politically Connect : Guantanamo's lies
Culture Watch : Fifty years after the poetry reading that changed America
Spiritual Practices : Peacemaking and vocation
Global Vision : World Bank mining projects won't wash
By the Numbers : CEO hall of shame
Multimedia : Letters from Baghdad
Warning: Satire : Rapture Safety cards prepare parishioners, airline-style
Boomerang : Readers write
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK ^top

"To attack poverty by preaching voluntary poverty seems like madness. But again, it is direct action....To be profligate in our love and generosity, spontaneous, to cut all the red tape of bureaucracy! The more you give away, the more the Lord will give you to give. It is a growth in faith. It is the attitude of the [person] whose life of common sense and faith is integrated. To live with generosity in times of crisis is only common sense. In the time of earthquake, flood, fire, people give recklessly; even governments do this."

- Dorothy Day

Found on: Daily Dig



HEARTS & MINDS ^top

BUDGETS ARE MORAL DOCUMENTS: Drawing a line in the sand
A campaign for compassionate priorities
by Jim Wallis

There are moments in every generation when a society must decide what its real moral principles are. In the aftermath of the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, this is one of those moments in history. Yet, while the nation is still stunned by the pictures we saw of thousands of people wandering homeless and hungry on roads and railroad tracks, cowering on rooftops, wading through waste-deep water, or camping in stadiums turned into shelters, leading politicians in Washington are oblivious to everything but their ideological blinders.

I'm asking you to help ensure decisions to be made by Congress in the next few weeks that impact all people in our country - especially "the least of these" - are not ignored. I'm asking you to speak and act to prevent unjust budget and tax plans now on the table. Priorities that ignore and hurt those most in need while enriching the wealthy call out for religious resistance. We must proclaim that budgets are moral documents - and current proposals fall short. As we recover from these natural disasters, with the nation at war and deficits rising at record rates, Congress is still planning $35 billion in cuts for Medicaid and Food Stamps, low-income health care and nutrition programs, and more - plus $70 billion in new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Just this week, President Bush asked Congress to increase its social program cuts from $35 billion to $85 billion.

We must draw a line in the sand now against these unjust budget priorities. Many of you committed to a moral vision of personal involvement to change our nation's priorities by taking the "Katrina Pledge." It is time to act on that pledge - or commit to it for the first time. Your witness is needed at this crucial time to urge a better moral and political logic for our nation - toward a vision for a new America. In the name of social conscience, fiscal responsibility, equality of opportunity, protection of communities, and the very idea of a common good, it is time for the moral center of American public opinion to stand up and say, "Enough!" In this moment of history, we need politicians and policies who serve the needs of our country rather than increasing the wealth of a few. Please read the following alert to send a message to your members of Congress and for more information on how you can act with a National Call-In Day - as well as writing letters to the editor.

But that is only step one. We must also put forth a vision for the future that restores values and priorities to strengthen the common good, and lifts up solutions to poverty that honor the best of our humanity and hope. This is a teachable moment, but it requires good teachers. The religious community must offer leadership this week and month - and in coming years.

Sojourners and Call to Renewal are honoring this vision by launching a "Covenant for a New America," based on two basic principles:

The critical needs of poor families must become the top priority of our government. The blatant inequalities of race and poverty in America - especially in the critical areas of education, jobs, health care, and housing - that have come to the surface must now be addressed. How we help families build assets and take responsibility for their futures must be central to the discussion.

Each "side" of our political landscape ignores too many valid concerns of the other side. Poor families do not need us to take sides. Much could be accomplished with a merging of personal and social responsibility, a commitment to reverse family breakdown, and a more honest assessment of both the personal decisions and social systems that trap people in poverty. The lives of poor people must no longer just prompt a debate between the left and right; but rather, overcoming poverty must become a bipartisan commitment and a nonpartisan cause.

The "Covenant for a New America" is a commitment to teach and lead; to change perspectives and priorities; and to find common ground for the common good.

I ask you to take step one - drawing a line in the sand against budget and tax cuts - in coming days and weeks. This must be done in the name of making the livelihoods of poor people our top priority. Then, join us over the next months to develop a new policy platform in the "Covenant for a New America." We'll be asking for your ideas to help move the national discussion about the common good toward renewed commitment to our neighbors in need. Stand up against a budget lacking moral vision - and prepare the way for a better America.

+ Please send a message to your members of Congress now.

+ Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

+ Participate in call-in days on October 17-18.

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POLITICALLY CONNECT ^top

Guantanamo's lies
by G.T. Hunt

"I don't want to be part of the lie anymore."

This was what a young man at Guantanamo said when his lawyer asked him why he was willing to starve himself to death. For several weeks, at least a fifth of the prisoners refused food, and some were being kept alive only by medical procedures forced down their throats - literally.

I'm not sure which lie the young man meant. He may not have even known that the government has been putting out false figures which understate the number of hunger strikers by a wide margin, and has been refusing to tell lawyers which prisoners are fasting, or even which prisoners are in the hospital. He probably meant the big lie, that all of the more than 500 men at Guantanamo are known to be terrorists.

Or maybe he meant the lie that no person can be deprived of liberty by the United States without due process of law.

+ Read the full article

Read more:

Senate supports interrogation limits

Army captain details 'confusion' over interrogation standards


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CULTURE WATCH ^top

Fifty years after the poetry reading that changed America
by Keith Jennings

Fifty years ago, on Oct. 7, 1955, five unknown poets stood among 150 friends in a small art gallery in San Francisco and declared war on America. The event, which was billed, "6 Poets at 6 Gallery," included readings by then-unknown poets Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder. It was on this night that Ginsberg first read his now classic poem, "Howl," to an awestruck audience.

The 6 Gallery reading launched the literary careers of these young poets and began a San Francisco Poetry Renaissance that evolved into what would become known as the Beat Generation. Unfortunately, the 50th anniversary and ad hoc celebrations of this seminal event in American literary and pop culture history will go largely unnoticed by an America in need of the challenge thrown out by the Beats.

+ Read the full article


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SPIRITUAL PRACTICES ^top

Peacemaking and vocation
by Jim Forest

Peacemaking is an essential dimension of any Christian vocation. One sees by studying the lives of the saints how many ways there are to be a peacemaker. There is no single norm. Nor can those who renounce violence claim there is an automatic sanctity in such a renunciation. What one does in life is more significant than what one refuses to do, though there are many occasions in each life in which saying "no" is essential. For those who are troubled by the moral implications of war and who may be either be subject to conscription or already wearing a military uniform, there are several alternatives to consider....

With or without the support and understanding of friends and family, the questions remain intimately one's own. What will you do? About war? For peace? With the rest of your life? How can I best follow Christ? The basic question is much larger than whether or not to be a soldier. It's a question of basic direction. It is a question of putting everything, including citizenship and political opinions, in the context of faith.

Whatever choice we make, we must always bear in mind our responsibility to love even our enemies and to recognize Christ in the stranger. "What you have done to the least person," Christ reminds us in the Gospel, "you have done to me" (Matthew 25:40).

+ Read the complete article


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GLOBAL VISION ^top

World Bank mining projects won't wash

Last year, the World Bank refused to adopt the standards recommended by its own review of its mining and oil lending. The review found that, although fighting poverty is the World Bank's stated mission, its extractive industry loans often harm the environment and human rights while failing to help the poor.

How's it going since? Not so well, according to a recently leaked World Bank ombudsman report on the first major mining project approved since, a gold and silver mine in rural Guatemala. The board of directors of the Bank's private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, wondered at the outset whether the $261 million project was worth it, as it would create only 160 long-term jobs and pay Guatemala only 1% of its revenues.

Guatemalan Catholic clergy have also advocated against the mine, educating parishoners about its environmental risks. Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini received death threats after leading a January protest against the mine. In a later protest, one person was killed, and dozens injured, in clashes between local Mayans and company security forces.


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BY THE NUMBERS ^top

CEO hall of shame

CEO pay skyrocketed still further in 2004, according to a recent report - and higher-than-average pay went to execs at companies that underfunded worker pensions or dodged taxes. Defense contractor CEOs got even higher raises than average (even if those bulletproof vests were recalled for safety reasons). The ratio of average CEO pay - $11.8 million - to average worker pay - $27,460 - shot up from 301-to-1 in 2003 to 431-to-1 in 2004.

+ See the Executive Hall of Shame


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MULTIMEDIA ^top

Letters from Baghdad

Christian Peacemaker Team member Anita David has been reading her "Letters from Baghdad" on Chicago Public Radio. Anita reads from the letters she sent to friends during her time with the team from June to August 2005. They describe her anger, joys, frustrations, fears, and the realities of life in Baghdad today.

+ Listen online


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WARNING: SATIRE ^top

Rapture Safety cards prepare parishioners, airline-style
from larknews.com

PINE BLUFF, AR - Last Days Bible Church has taken a novel step to prepare people for the Rapture: under each seat in the sanctuary is an airline-style safety card giving instructions for what to do when the Rapture takes place. Ushers hold up the Rapture Safety cards and give a complete safety demonstration before each service, even pointing out exit routes for people who are not taken by the Rapture.

"When the Rapture happens we want saved and unsaved people alike to get through the experience safely," says Eckers. "We're especially concerned that no one get trampled, because, of course, the ushers will be gone."

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BOOMERANG ^top

Readers write

Rebecca Ryburn writes from Yorktown, Virginia:

With the current monumental demand for skilled construction workers, why would wages go down ["Tell congress to restore fair wages for gulf coast workers!" Action Alert 9/30/2005]? I believe wages will rise as a result of this horrible catastrophe. The suspension of Davis-Bacon allows non-union companies to bid on federal contracts, putting more construction companies to work in the area. The demand for skilled workers is so high right now wages should not go down. The president angers and exasperates me daily, but he may have it right on this one.

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Ron Friesen writes from Phoenix, Arizona:

I believe that April Swonger manifests the true spirit of Jesus ["Boomerang: April Swonger writes from Nampa, Idaho," SojoMail 9/28/2005]. She is like the widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury as she went to worship. I worship with a congregation of people who have little of this world's goods and most have some form of limited ability. (I decline to use the term "disability" - all of us are "disabled" in some manner.) Yet they joyfully give of their time, talent, and treasure for the sake of the kingdom. May there be many more Aprils among us! I believe they already exist, but the press doesn't have time to talk about them - they are more interested in the shiny people. Which is why Jesus' words about those on the bottom being placed on the top are so poignant in light of April's commitment. God honors your faith, April.

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Shelley Sandow writes from Forest Park, Illinois:

Added to a survivor's grief over losing someone in an unnecessary war or mishandled natural disaster may be the thought of the loved one's "dying in vain." But none of these deaths or injuries is in vain. Each casualty increases our awareness that we the living must find better ways to exist with each other and our planet. The war's terrible deaths, wounds, and illnesses tell us that militarism is not the solution to international problems. Deaths from "man-made-worse" natural disasters tell us that caring for corporations more than for people and our environment is deadly.

The families of those who died may have prayed for any outcome other than the one they now face, but I hope they don't feel that their loved ones are victims. Rather they are martyrs for a better America and world, because their loss confronts us with the cost of greed and addiction to power for its own sake. Another martyr, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said more than once, "Unearned suffering is redemptive."

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Johan Hammerstrom writes from Washington, D.C.:

I just want to thank Sojourners for all that you do, for being a witness and leader for people of faith. I love reading your e-mail alerts and find them to be timely and often prophetic. I have only one request: more scripture! I deeply enjoyed Dean Nelson's references to Psalm 121 and Exodus 3-4 in the article, "The apocalypse next door" [SojoMail 9/21/2005]. Quoting scripture not only reconnects us to our faith, but even more importantly, it is a source of strength, inspiration, and guidance. The more we can rely on scripture, the stronger we will be in our faith.

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Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Because of the volume of letters we receive, concise responses that include a name, hometown, and state/province/country are the most likely to be published. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. E-mail: boomerang@sojo.net



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