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
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
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.
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.
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: