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Joan Chittister: America, be American

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  • World View
    The United States of America is looked at... as the most dangerous and destructive nation in the world by civilized global societies. An appeal for America
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4 5:41 PM
      "The United States of America is looked at... as the most dangerous
      and destructive nation in the world by civilized global societies."

      An appeal for America to be American
      By Joan Chittister, OSB

      09/30/04 "National Catholic Reporter" -- I have discovered that
      there is a lot you never find out, even about your own country,
      unless you go somewhere else.

      For instance, Aug. 31 during the Republican National Convention, 203
      Asian scholars from 13 countries published a public declaration,
      endorsed by 42 Asian organizations, appealing to U.S. voters "not to
      vote for a president who will turn Asia and the global society into
      America's enemy." The statement, they tell us, was released
      simultaneously in both New York and Japan, a nation that understands
      first-hand what war can do to a people for generations.

      "Another America is possible," the declaration insists.

      Maybe you heard about it but I didn't. Instead, they handed the
      document to me in Tokyo, amazed that I knew nothing about it at all.

      Which, it seems to me, too, is strange, given the fact that the
      declaration purports to be the work of groups such as the
      International Movement for a Just World, the Women's International
      League of Peace and Freedom, the Friends Service Council,
      Sociologists Without Borders, the Center for Research on the
      Environment, the Japan Lawyers International Solidarity group and
      the Korean Professors Union.

      It is embarrassing to have to explain how it is that a "free press"
      is simply free to disregard so important a story. After all, John
      Kerry had said early in the campaign that world leaders preferred
      his presidency to four more years of another Bush regime.

      The Bush camp challenged Kerry to prove the assertion, of course.
      They had no reason to believe that other world leaders weren't fully
      committed to the policies of George Bush, they insisted, and, in
      fact, knew that it was just the opposite. It took months before the
      press even attempted to test the truth of the statement but when
      they did, lo and behold, they finally announced that "30 out of 35
      major countries were solidly pro-Kerry, and only Poland of all the
      countries of Europe, was pro-Bush."

      This statement of Asian concerns they never published at all.

      In the light of these recent findings of world-wide defection from
      present U.S. policies, I read it carefully. After all, even if the
      American response to such an appeal is "Who cares?" -- which in John
      Wayne's America, it may well be -- someone ought to at least
      acknowledge the concerns.

      Most surprising of all, perhaps, is the fact that it is neither rant
      nor screed. It simply appeals to Americans to preserve the moral
      leadership that Americans have been seen before now to exert. The
      declaration makes four major points:

      1. With the war in Iraq, America's leadership and its influence have
      crumbled worldwide. The Iraqi war, they say, is "immoral, unlawful
      and unjustifiable."

      The real news about such a position as this is not that others are
      saying what the circumstances clearly demonstrate but that
      Americans, who claim to be the ultimate defenders of the rule of
      law, don't seem to mind the fact that they are in violation of
      international law. Nor does it bother them that the war was launched
      on insufficient and old -- very, very old --data. Nor does this
      church-going nation seem to think that the moral dictums they teach
      their children -- as in "thou shalt not lie," for instance, -- has
      anything whatsoever to do with politics and the standards we set for
      our politicians even when thousands and thousands of innocent people
      die because of it.

      2. The unilateralism and militarism of the United States in this mis-
      directed war has evoked "broad and seething rejections from all
      corners of the globe." It is, they argue, only the first attempt of
      this new kind of United States to achieve US domination of the

      Most ironic of all, they maintain, is the fact that because of US
      militarism, the world is much less safe than it ever was before the
      US launched its new doctrine of preemption. There is "unprecedented
      political unrest to the Middle East," they argue. And, most ironic
      of all, this campaign to "make the world safe for democracy" is now
      being used as an excuse for whatever political goals other
      authoritarian governments may have-as in the amendment of the Peace
      Constitution and the military rearmament of Japan.

      They maintain that in its anger over 9/11, the United States has
      simply unleashed another arms race all around a world that is now
      using the fear of "terrorism" to justify it.

      3. In a globalized and interdependent world, they insist, they have
      a right to make this appeal because this election is no longer a
      local affair.

      What we do politically, as they see it, effects their countries as
      much -- sometimes more -- than it effects us. If the United States
      maintains its present policies, they mourn, "peace and democracy in
      Asia will be only a dream long gone" as other governments use the
      same tactics to eliminate human rights and suppress their own

      "By the rest of the world, your country is looked at as an Empire,"
      the document goes on, "looming large over the globe with pre-emptive
      strike doctrines and blind anti-terrorism policies depending heavily
      on macho military measures and ignorance of human rights ..."

      It is easy to see how this letter could have been written to Julius
      Caesar, or Nikita Kruschev. But to George Bush II? To us? Have we
      really fallen this low? "The United States of American is looked
      at," the document says, "as the most dangerous and destructive
      nation in the world by civilized global societies."

      4. Another America is possible, they remind us. The one that
      struggled against Hitler and Stalin, against Nazism and Communism,
      for the rights of all people everywhere.

      It is an appeal for America to be American.

      From where I stand, this is one of the saddest letters I have ever
      read in my lifetime. What else besides arrogance or ignorance can
      possibly account for the fact that as a nation these things don't
      seem to bother us at all? Most of all, how is that such positions
      never see the light of day in the very democratic country that
      stands to lose the most by being unaware of such anger, such pain,
      such global despair?

      You may want to read these documents: The Declaration of Asian
      Intellectuals, a press release explaining the declaration and an
      open letter to Americans.

      A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Sister Joan is a best-selling author
      and well-known international lecturer. She is founder and executive
      director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for
      Contemporary Spirituality, and past president of the Conference of
      American Benedictine Prioresses and the Leadership Conference of
      Women Religious. Sister Joan has been recognized by universities and
      national organizations for her work for justice, peace and equality
      for women in the Church and society. She is an active member of the
      International Peace Council.
      Copyright © 2004 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company

      (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
      distributed without



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