One Citizen's Shining Light

On Feb. 9, 2003, Orion magazine took out a full-page advertisement on page five of The New York Times. The aim of "A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America," written by farmer, essayist, and patriot Wendell Berry, was to stir the national soul in the tradition of Thomas Paine's great revolutionary booklet Common Sense.

"A Citizen's Response," opening with lines from Katherine Lee Bates' 1913 version of "America the Beautiful," is a counter-volley to the National Security Strategy published by the White House in September 2002. "If carried out," wrote Berry, [the National Security Strategy] would amount to a radical revision of the political character of our nation."

Berry's four-part manifesto probes the definitions of terrorism and security; the role of a government in combating evil; national security based on charity, civility, independence, true patriotism, and rule of law; and the failure of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to reject war as a vehicle to peace.

One small example of the explosiveness of Berry's insights is his comment on secrecy. "The responsibilities of the president are not mine, and so I hesitate to doubt absolutely the necessity of government secrecy," writes Berry. "But I feel no hesitation in saying that, to the extent that a government is secret, it cannot be democratic or its people free."

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2003
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