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Alternative Culture Articles

September 23, 2001

Emergencies and Excuses
By Royce Carlson

I can hear it now - the leaders of our country will soon be saying something like, "Now is not the time to be concerned about (- your social or environmental cause here -), we have a war to fight." Fear of appearing unpatriotic by challenging the status quo is causing self-censorship as well. Why? Well, itís an emergency!

Declaring an emergency has been used as an excuse for bad behavior many times in the recent past. What was the U.S. governmentís excuse for not signing the Kyoto Protocol? Itís an economic emergency. Whatís the excuse for proposing drilling for oil in national wildlife refuges and monuments? Itís an energy crisis. Emergencies can bring out the best in us - and the worst.

There is no doubt that the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have precipitated a very real emergency. It is clear that action must be taken against terrorism. But, do we need to drop all concerns about political, social and environmental issues in order to take this action? Do we need to abandon our moral principles? I hope not. Yet, that is what appears to be happening.

Any issues other than saving our own asses go by the wayside in a hurry when thereís an emergency. If you are starving, dying, under threat, or even just angry, itís amazing how fast good habits and spiritual principles can go down the drain. For example, many self-declared Christians canít wait to ignore the teachings of Jesus when it comes to retaliation for the terrorist attacks. Do they believe that Christ wasnít serious when he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and to turn the other cheek, and love your enemy? I donít claim to be Christian but maybe someone can show me where Jesus says itís o.k. to kill people.*

With few exceptions, the mainstream U.S. news media is climbing all over itself to prove how patriotic it is by avoiding the mention of any criticism of the Presidentís developing plans to deal militarily with the recent tragedy. Isnít the most important job of news media to dispassionately present well-rounded, un-biased coverage of events? Some have become little more than cheerleaders for the Bush administration because of this emergency situation.

Whatís at stake here?

We have a U.S. Senator proposing attaching the entire ANWR drilling bill as an amendment to a defense authorization bill claiming that drilling in ANWR is a national security issue. If we do not support the amendment, we risk being accused of being unpatriotic. What additional pristine natural lands will be destroyed to provide oil for military purposes? What environmental regulations will be relaxed?

The government is considering actions that will increase security against terrorist attacks. How will their choices affect our freedom to move about in our own country? How will it affect the lives of American citizens who happen to look like they are from the Middle East?

Policies will likely be made that will allow law enforcement greater latitude in gathering information about the activities of U.S. citizens. How will these policies affect our privacy? How will the governmentís actions affect our free speech rights?

It is possible that the government might order military action against the countries that harbor terrorists. In that case thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of innocent people could be killed. Is this morally right? What are the dangers of this approach? Will our allies abandon us? Will half the world rise up in opposition to our actions? Could a world war result?

These are the kinds of questions that we must never stop asking. In a democracy, the government is supposed to reflect and respond to the wishes of its citizens. If we do not make our wishes known, our government will act without direction from the people it supposedly represents.

We must not stop our critical observation of our governmentís actions. This is what democracy is supposed to be about. If the U.S. is to continue to be a democracy, then all citizens must be willing to stand in opposition to policies and actions that they think are wrong and they must be willing to speak out about it, even in times of emergency. We must stick to our highest standards of behavior, especially during emergencies. Otherwise, we may lose freedom, democracy and the beautiful country we are all trying to protect.

Here are some links that you can visit with information on how you can act for peace.

The War Resisters League has a list of upcoming and ongoing protests, vigils and actions that promote peace rather than vengeance. - A petition urging President Bush to avoid going to war.

From the Center for Visionary Leadership comes a list of 
inner and outer work that we each can do during the current crisis.

Act For Change - Listing of political actions that you can get involved in.

National March in Washington DC Saturday, September 29. A demonstration to address the immediate danger posed by racism and the grave threat of a new war.

*If you are Christian and are offended by this, I apologize. I do not want to offend. I want to help. I paraphrased some of this but I didnít make it up or take it out of context. Here are the actual quotes from Jesusí sermon on the mount as written in the King James Bible:

Matthew 5:9 -

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:38,39 Ė

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:43,44 Ė

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.

I include this paragraph as well:

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Ė Matthew 5:19

Why not get out a Bible and read the entire sermon? I would think that Christians would actually want to do what Christ commands rather than ignore it. I donít know, call me crazy!

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Royce Carlson