Today is September 11

Never forget — the title of someone else’s blog post for today. So many things we must never forget: the American Revolution, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, Jr. Now 9/11. Must we spend our lives remembering atrocities?

I remember September 11, though I was not in New York City or Washington, DC. I remember the terrible sights of that day. I also remember the fear, and the anger, and the awful sensation that the world had been tipped upside down and the future was unknown. I remember another thing, I remember the feeling of patriotism and of drawing together as a people. Somehow, in that terrible day, there was a feeling that we were in it together and it would be alright.

Somewhere along the way, that feeling of patriotism and solidarity got twisted with a desire for revenge and the positive feelings slipped away into a swamp of fear and war-mongering.

We never will forget, but our children will. Even though we tell them to remember, how can they remember something that never happened?

If we only remember the atrocities, how can we find peace? Where is peace in this violent world?

Many religions preach peace, but they have not succeeded in bringing peace to the world. How can we reconcile our need to remember and honor the dead with peace?

Sunday Service: Justice

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

Image via Wikipedia

Before I get started on my Sunday Service topic, I want to share something with you. A friend of mine wrote a meditation, of sorts, on joy and St. Francis of Assisi. I found it very moving and want to share it with you. It is Lord, Make Me Instrument of Thine Peace. I think it’s appropriate for the rest of the post, anyway, considering what St. Francis had to say about wealth and economic justice in his time.

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Today I participated in a discussion about justice, particularly economic justice. I want to share some of my thoughts on economic justice with you.

  1. We live in a capitalist, democratic society.
  2. Wealth that is justly acquired (no ethical, moral, or legal principles were broken in its amassing) is the property of the person who acquired it.
  3. Some people are unable to amass the same amount of wealth as others.
  4. Society has a duty to help those who cannot help themselves. Everyone has basic human rights to food, water and shelter. In modern society, everyone also has a right to education and healthcare. Society must provide these basic rights to those who cannot obtain them on their own.
  5. Individuals and groups of individuals acting independently (charities) are incapable of meeting the needs of everyone.
  6. Government, acting according to numbers 1 and 2, has a duty to provide for the basic needs of those who cannot provide for themselves.
  7. This takes the form of taxes and these taxes pay for food stamps, welfare, healthcare, education, and more. These services are often provided to society as a whole, especially the last two, education and healthcare.
  8. Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome. Every child deserves the same chance as every other child, but adults are not guaranteed to have the same goods as every other adult.

What are your thoughts on justice? On economic justice? Please share, if you are comfortable, in the comments.

Newspaper Column: War and Mother’s Day

Julia Ward Howe

Image via Wikipedia

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe had an idea. If enough mothers prayed and worked for peace, would it bring about the end of war? And so began the celebration of Mother’s Day.

Over one hundred years later, we know that mothers praying for peace was not enough. Mother’s Day has been co-opted by the corporations as another day to buy stuff, and war has not ended.

How many people have died by violence since that day in 1870 when Mrs. Howe published her proclamation, which ends:

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Of course, such a congress of women never convened.

Last week, after almost ten years of hunting him, Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan. His death or capture was most definitely necessary. But I believe that his death was not a blow for peace, but a further encouragement to those who believe that violence is the answer.

Today in the United States, women and men are considered equal, with no thought in public life given to any differences between them. But at the time of Mrs. Howe’s proclamation, men and women were considered to have separate spheres of influence and abilities. In asking women to convene for peace, she was asking them to leave the sphere of female influence, the household, and enter the sphere of male influence, public life.

There are people today who would be upset I assigned to men alone the willingness to kill for power and revenge. A belief in separate spheres of influence extending into public life and excluding women from the political life of this country died many decades ago with the advent of the suffragists, the right to vote, and feminism.

I do believe, however, and you may agree with me, that there are some areas in which men tend to feel more comfortable than women. One of those areas is violence. There are more men in prison than women, and more men in prison for violent offenses than women. So how can all of us peace-loving folk, both men and women, achieve peace when other men are striving for violence?

There are no easy answers, but, please, be peaceful in your own heart, and make your own place a peaceful one, and peace will grow in the world.

Bombs

According to an Economist article, new types of bombs are being developed by militaries around the world. While possessing more destructive power, these bombs can also be targeted much more precisely, so only the desired bunker or building floor is bombed. This is also supposed to target only soldiers, not civilians.

While all the foregoing may be true, I noticed a glaring omission in the article. These better bombs are still designed to kill people. Wouldn’t it be better not to need them at all?

What a naive thing to say, you are thinking. But of course. In the world we live in, countries must be prepared to defend themselves against those who wish them evil, and must even, perhaps, be prepared to engage in aggression. However, I firmly believe that even so, we must act with compassion and with peace in our hearts, so that someday, no bombs are ever needed again.

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