It seems rather ominous that the same day I start a new monkey-powered web site I read about Jane Goodall leading the charge to force Hollywood to retire all chimpanzees from lucrative movie, TV, and commercial deals. Of course I’m in the creative business, so that’s completely different.
OK, I’m a bit confused about two current events.
The first is the one that’s been all over the news today, Robert Novak’s July Chicago Sun-Times column based on a White House leak that blew a CIA operative’s cover. Though Novak says, “There is no great crime here,” (CNN) the potential leak could be a felony. Two things confuse me on this one: 1) If this is such a big deal and the column appeared in July, why are we just hearing about it now. 2) If this is such a big deal, why isn’t Novak in trouble for publishing the link.
Second confusing current event is this who no-call list fiasco. The courts are holding it up because telemarketing calls are a protected first amendment right? Being irritating and annoying is a first amendment right? That is mind-boggling.
OK, this isn’t a confusing current event, more like a heart-breaking event that I just read about while checking the news. Two American M-16 rifles were recovered today from captured Iraqis. The rifles belonged to two U.S. soldiers who were reported missing June 25 and found dead June 28. Some of their personal items were found in a house-to-house search on June 27.
I don’t remember hearing about this story back in June, but this seems to be more than a typical killed in action situation. These two U.S. soldiers were taken captive and killed. Those are pretty intense guerrilla tactics. Usually it’s inflict as much damage as possible, which would usually mean killing those soldiers as soon as possible. But the fact that they were abducted is disturbing. It’s one thing for guerrillas to sneak and pick off a few soldiers, maybe detonate a remote bomb. But to have the force or the guts or the element of surprise to actually take members of the greatest armed forces in the world hostage is a bold move.
That says to me that something is wrong. These two soldiers were obviously out-matched. To me, that’s a clear-cut case of either poor planning or not enough troops on the ground in Iraq. Either way, it’s not cool.
What Would Happen if a Bomb Wiped Out the Government
Interesting article from Atlantic Monthly about contingency plans in the event of a 9/11-scale crisis that could wipe out the Federal government.
Interview outlining a unique and committed community based church.
The hiker who amputated his own arm to survive spoke with reporters for the first time today. It’s a queasy story, but amazing. I can’t help but wonder when we’ll see the TV movie.
I Think I’m a Communist – Interesting article from Relevant Magazine covering some thoughts I’ve always harbored about communism and the early church. The comments that follow the article are interesting as well.
My So Called Rights – Another good Relevant article about how, as Christians, we forsake all rights to follow Christ. Especially interesting in light of war. Lately I’ve been justifying war as a defense of our basic human rights. I think this article would imply that Christians give up their basic human rights. Not exactly something we American Christians like to think about.
And in other news, animals are now fighting the war for us. Well, not really, but it’s interesting to see the different animals that are being employed to help keep soldiers safe. Dolphins are hunting for landmines, seal lions are keeping a lookout and then cuffing divers, and pigeons are playing the role of the proverbial canary and alerting troops of chemical weapon attacks. There’s even a report of monkeys who can disarm mines. It’s a nice deal when the animals can face danger and keep us safe, and for the most part (who needs pigeons?), the animals aren’t hurt either. I suppose PETA isn’t happy about it. Pray for Mojo.
Tomorrow is September 11. As if you need a reminder. Anniversary fatigue set in a few days ago, and I’ve hardly paid attention to the articles, books, TV shows, commercials and other assorted patriotic memorials. It’s not a day I’m looking forward to, and not for the reason most people dread the anniversary. Most people dread the reminder of the horror of that day. I find horror in the event as well, but I’m just as troubled by the results of that September morning.
Since last year our country has swung into action to protect the American way of life. But what are we protecting? Our right to be completely insensitive to world affairs? Our right to profile and abuse people based on their skin color? Our right to sell 9/11 greeting cards? Our inalienable right to put out memorial cans of pop? What’s so great that we’re trying to protect?
There’s all kinds of freedoms and rights we have in this country that are worth rallying behind. But instead we’ve made a poor show to the world. We’ve sought revenge. We’ve pummeled some of our own, ripping them from taxis and beating them, firing shots in the night at any passing turban, assuming a darker skin tone is proof of terrorist tendencies. We’ve been the bully in world affairs, dropping bombs where we want to drop bombs and threatening to drop more bombs where we want to drop more bombs. A pregnant Afghan woman lost her baby and is lucky to be alive today after shrapnel from an American bomb was lodged in her throat. We wave our big, mighty stick of justice at Iraq, pointing to all their misdeeds, all the while forgetting that we were the ones who gave them the chemical weapons we accuse them of using.
Four planes were hijacked last year and obliterated because around the world the U.S. is seen as the oppressor. In the year since we’ve done nothing but bring truth to that caricature. If we’re such a Christian nation, as so many religious leaders and politicians up for reelection would have us believe, then where is the Christian love and forgiveness? Where is the grace? We seem to have plenty of it for our fellow Americans, but we can’t spare a dime for our brothers around the world. We suspect our Arab American brothers. What happened to Christ’s command to love our neighbor? What happened to the Good Samaritan? An Arab man, complete with dark skin and turban, is the modern equivalent of the Good Samaritan. The rich man passing by on the other side is you. The Levite who refused to help is me.
As all the patriotism swells tomorrow night, we’re very good at loving ourselves. We’re very good at making heroes out of everyone, whether they’re deserving or not. But we haven’t changed as a nation. We’re more defensive, more vindictive, less trusting, and less loving. We’re willing to shed a tear for our stars and stripes, say the pledge and say it loud, pin a ribbon and puff up with pride. But we’re not willing to show the world the love of God we claim this country was founded on.
The one thing I truly hate to see is those images. The events of last year replayed again and again, captured on film and regurgitated for all to see, engineered to pull at your heart and squeeze a tear from your eye. Superimposed with flags and statues of liberty and excuse me while I vomit. I watched with voyeuristic shock as a 747 disappeared inside one of the towers of the World Trade Center, only to be replaced with belching flames. I don’t want to see that image ever again. But tomorrow it will reply again and again. Four-year-olds will see it and look to the sky every time they hear a plane, tugging on their teacher’s clothes and asking if the plane is going to crash, going to come down on them.
Our media-driven culture wants to bring healing, but a montage of patriotic death will only fuel zealous actions of bitter selfishness. Hug your children tomorrow. Buy a homeless guy a burger. Be kind to an immigrant. Smile. But don’t bury your head in a memorial edition of the paper. Don’t buy the book. Screw the DVD. And whatever you do, unplug the TV.
In the midst of letters of anthrax and soldiers with M-16s at the airport, it’s a little difficult to get you arms around the current situation in America. The land of the free and home of the brave has become the land of fearful and home of the terrorized.
And in part, we do it to ourselves. Time reported that the FBI was called in when a woman found a mysterious white powder on her keyboard. False alarm. She’d been eating a cookie. It’s rare comic relief like this that makes me feel better, but then I start worrying that all Americans could be this stupid.
One thing I have learned this past week is that now every American has a tiny taste of what it’s like to live somewhere else. We are a privileged nation. As much as I complain about my loans, my bills, my desperate poverty — I am rich. The fear and apprehension that’s sweeping across the land is a tiny inkling of what some people go though every day. They live in fear and oppression. Bombs go off in their streets all the time. Watching someone die is a common occurrence.
In many parts of the world you don’t have the option of eating in or going out. You don’t get to decide if Friday night will be a movie night or a game night. You don’t get to decide if you’ll watch the big game on Sunday afternoon or mow the lawn. You don’t have the option of taking your beloved to the park for a romantic afternoon.
Some people in the world have bigger problems. They worry about their children having enough food, and don’t have time to worry that they’re not eating. They work long hours in poor conditions for minimal earnings, and put it all towards medicines for ailing relatives. They’re oppressed and afflicted by dictators, drug dealers, over-zealous police forces, and yes, terrorist groups.
No one else in the world lives in the comfort we have in the United States, comfort that was made a little less comfortable on September 11. And as much as I hate to say it, we need to realize that God didn’t put us here to be comfortable. He didn’t tell us that we’d always be happy, always be safe, always content.
It’s time to leave our superpower uppity-ness behind us, and embrace a world of hurting people. Are you scared as you stand in line at the airport, eyeing the National Guardsmen and their rifles? Do you fear for your loved ones as they leave the house in the morning? Do you pause before opening your mailbox, wondering what diseases may be coming first class? Do you brace yourself before turning on the news or looking at the front page of the paper? Now you have a small taste of the every day existence of the common person. The Bible calls us to be in this world–and notice that the command refers to the whole world, not just the comfort of America. Life is not microwaves and fast food and instant cash. It is pain and hardship and suffering and the persevering love that someone how comes through. Ask anyone in the world.
Last Saturday I spent the day driving from St. Paul to Detroit, and then flying back to St. Paul. It was a long day, but gave me a chance to reflect on some of the events at hand.
The day after we began striking Afghanistan, several hundred protesters showed up outside the Federal building in Minneapolis to protest. There was a good mix of college students and older people (“long-haired hippies who protested the Vietnam War,” as someone on the bus put it, in a tone that made the Vietnam War sound like the Second Coming of Christ). They carried signs that said “An Eye for an Eye Makes a World Blind,” and “Drop Food, not Bombs”–which I found ironic considering we are dropping food.
On my way home I saw lots of American flags–patriotism like we’ve never seen, even during the Gulf War. I also saw close to a dozen billboards reading “In God We Trust. United We Stand.” I’m still not sure what to think
When I pulled up to the $2 tollbooth on I-90 just east of Chicago, I noticed that the woman taking my money was wearing rubber gloves. I’ve never seen that before.
When my dad dropped me off at the airport, there were three National Guardsmen in camouflage, talking to a police officer. When I got to the security checkpoint, there were three more standing around observing, all with pistols at their sides. I made it through the metal detector fine, but they still made me spread my arms and ran the wand over me. Anything time the wand beeped, they felt the metal to make sure that’s all it was–including the snap on my jeans. When the guy was almost done, he asked me to lift my feet, and he ran the wand over the soles of my shoes. I watched others go through the checkpoint–anyone with a belt had to remove it, and I saw a number of people have to put their shoes through the x-ray machine.
When I did finally board the plane, I had to check my backpack. Purses, laptops, and diaper bags were the only carry-ons allowed. I put a couple books and a notebook in a plastic CompUSA bag, and felt like a refugee.
When I got off the plane in Minneapolis, we weren’t greeted by anyone. Passengers only. As we rounded the corner and walked down the stairs to the baggage claim, three more National Guardsmen were standing guard–but these guys had M-16’s over their shoulders. One of them looked like he was 18.
It’s a different world.
Today I’m beginning to notice how easy it is to forget about the terrorist attacks of September 11. We seem to have moved on. It’s no longer monopolizing the news. While it’s certainly not far from people’s minds, we are moving on. It’s amazing that something so immense can slip into the background as we move forward.
I suppose it helps that the promised U.S. retaliation hasn’t yet come. That will certainly be a reality that will sink in painfully when it finally happens. The scary thing to think about is that U.S. special forces are probably in Afghanistan as I write this, at the least doing reconnaissance missions and gathering intelligence. That idea seems so out there, yet it’s true.
The world today amazes me.