The Common Good


Sojomail - May 4, 2001

                  ****S O J O   M A I L****

           Promoting values at the crossroads where
           spirituality, politics, and culture meet

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
              Publisher of Sojourners magazine

++++++++++++++++++++ 4-May-2001 +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Mr. President...we're looking bad

 H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *The war was the crime

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *You go first...

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Krishnamurti: Unleashing creative reform

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Please cancel my subscription to SojoMail...wait a second!

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Social impact of proposed tax cuts

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Washington, D.C. rally against tax cuts

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Bikini-clad Virgin Mary stirs protest

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 E y e - W i t n e s s   N e w s
     *Horrific record of Bush appointee to United Nations

 B i z  E t h i x
     *Principles, not the market, should guide globalization

 W e b  S c e n e
     *MIT bucks privatization of knowledge
     *Chronicling the moment when TV shows go downhill


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k

"Mr. President, this is a credibility issue
for the U.S. in the international community.
It is also an issue that is resonating here at
home....We need to appear engaged."

 - EPA head Christine Todd Whitman in a memo
urging President Bush to address global warming,
a week before he decided he would not seek limits
on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants


SojoFest 2001:  A Celebration of Hope

And you're invited.

Join us this summer, July 26-29, outside Chicago
to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sojourners
magazine. We've been working hard and we're ready
to celebrate. Don't miss this chance to reconnect
with old friends and make new ones. Click here to
learn more about the festivities and speakers,
registration options, and facilities:


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
The war was the crime

by Jim Wallis

For many of us, memories of Vietnam are never far below 
the surface. For years, a whole generation of Americans 
dealt with Vietnam every day. Some were in Vietnam 
fighting the war; others were home, fighting against it. 
Later, those who went to war and those who tried to stop 
it could embrace each other - both as "veterans" of Vietnam.
This week, Vietnam was once again front-page news. An 
allegation that former Sen. Bob Kerrey ordered the 
deliberate killing of some 14 Vietnamese civilians in 
1969 was the headline story in last Sunday's New York 
Times Magazine and Tuesday's hour-long program on CBS' 
"60 Minutes II."

In February 1969, a young Lt. Kerrey was commanding a 
Navy SEAL unit on a night mission to a little 
village in the Mekong Delta, an area known to be a 
stronghold of the Viet Cong. One member of the unit 
claims that civilians were rounded up that night and 
massacred at short range. Kerrey and others in the 
unit say that while approaching the village, they were 
fired on, returned fire, and then discovered that the 
dead were civilians. In the fog of time, memory, and 
emotion, the real story will likely never be known. 
The painful truth is that both types of incidents 
occurred in Vietnam - all too often.

Over the years, some anti-war activists have developed 
close friendships with Vietnam veterans. We have heard 
their sobbing nightmares in reliving the horrors of 
that war. We have heard them say, as Sen. Kerrey said 
in his New York Times interview, "I thought dying for 
your country was the worst thing that could happen to 
you. I don't think it is. I think killing for your 
country can be a lot worse. Because that's the memory 
that haunts."

This week brought back all of the semantic euphemisms 
that U.S. military and policy makers developed to justify 
their war against Vietnam. "Free fire zones" - where 
everything alive was considered an enemy to be killed. 
"Search and destroy missions" - where entire villages 
were burned to the ground, either with napalm from 
above or lighters from the ground. The "target box" 
of a B-52 bomber, where everything in a several square- 
mile area was obliterated. And this week brings back 
the realization that between 2-3 million Vietnamese 
were killed in the war, along with almost 60,000 young 

The justifications, political arguments, historical 
analysis, and progress reports used to justify continued 
U.S. escalation in Vietnam were worse than euphemisms. 
They were lies. A friend of mine who went as one of the 
elite Green Berets returned home saying, "The whole damn 
thing was a lie." He was right. Those official lies 
scarred a generation of Americans and turned us against 
our own government. It still affects us.

"60 Minutes'" sole focus on what Kerrey and his young 
soldiers did in Vietnam entirely missed the larger 
issue of what older political leaders did in sending 
them into that war. From the beginning, Vietnam was 
a war against the people - against the entire civilian 
population. Countless civilians - including women and 
children - were slaughtered in the air war from high 
above the rice paddies and village hamlets where no 
screaming faces could be seen, and no crying voices 
heard. The bombing pulverized Indochina with more 
tonnage of bombs and napalm than were used in all 
of World War ll. 

This week brings back the moral and political 
conclusion many of us reached when we were also 
young men - that the crime in Vietnam was the war 
itself, the political and military policies that 
declared a people the enemy. And the war criminals 
were the civilian and military policymakers who 
developed and ordered the types of military 
operations that the SEAL unit carried out. Their 
crimes have never been dealt with, though one of 
the war's prosecutors, former Defense Secretary 
Robert McNamara, has since offered his penitence. 
Yes, the actions of individual soldiers do carry 
moral responsibilities, but in the case of Bob 
Kerrey, as with many others, it is the war - not 
the warrior - that ought to be our focus.

The nation needs to look not just at the Bob Kerreys, 
but at what its young warriors did in our name. 
Only then will the remaining anguish of our 
veterans have a chance of being expiated, and only 
then will we finally resolve that it must never 
happen again.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons,
Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue
over who would get the first pancake. Their
mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, "Let
my brother have the first pancake. I can wait."
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said,
"Ryan, you be Jesus."

- sent by SojoMail reader John Cowan


S o u l   W o r k s
Unleashing creative reform
Questioner: You say that we should revolt against
society, and at the same time you say that we should
not have ambition. Is not the desire to improve
society an ambition?
Krishnamurti: I have very carefully explained what
I mean by revolt, but I shall use two different words
to make it much clearer. To revolt within society
in order to make it a little better, to bring about
certain reforms, is like the revolt of prisoners
to improve their life within the prison walls; and
such revolt is no revolt at all, it is just mutiny.
Do you see the difference? Revolt within society
is like the mutiny of prisoners who want better
food, better treatment within the prison; but
revolt born of understanding is an individual
breaking away from society, and that is creative

Now, if you as an individual break away from 
society, is that action motivated by ambition?
If it is, then you have not broken away at all; you
are still within the prison, because the very basis
of society is ambition, acquisitiveness, greed. But
if you understand all that and bring about a revolution
in your own heart and mind, then you are no longer
ambitious, you are no longer motivated by envy, greed,
acquisitiveness, and therefore you will be entirely
outside of a society which is based on those things.
Then you are a creative individual and in your action
there will be the seed of a different culture.
- Krishnamurti, in "Think On These Things"

**********************SOJOURNERS FORUMS*****************************

Respond to articles from the new issue of Sojourners in 
interactive online forums!

Currently Featuring:

*Faith-Based Brou-ha-ha:
When church meets state, can they cooperate without being co-opted?
   Respond to an interview with John DiIulio, head of the new
   White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

*Emerging Spiritualities
Are our faith communities dying - or simply changing shape?

   Share your thoughts on the relevance of religious
   institutions in a postmodern society

Go to:


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d

by David Batstone

More than a year has passed since we came out with
our first issue of SojoMail. Our subscription base
has been growing by leaps and bounds since day one.
Thanks to so many of you for passing the word around.

Up until now I've devoted myself to making our
e-letter a consistently compelling addition to
your weekly email. Beginning with this issue I'm
going to threaten that precious equilibrium by
launching my own regular column.

I aim to keep my thoughts short and pithy:
commentary on the sights, sagas, and sounds I
have the good fortune to encounter in my nomadic
travels around the globe.

But let me begin this week close to home. Since
the inauguration of SojoMail, I have received a
steady stream of emails from readers threatening
to end their subscription because they've been so
vehemently opposed to something we've published.
Take a look at the first letter in this edition
of "Boomerang" below for one example. Others have
bashed us for printing an interview from Playboy
(sorry, but the magazine has played a part of
the intellectual landscape despite its pathetic
pandering to adolescent sexuality), publishing
columns from thinkers too far right or too far
left, Israelis or Palestinians, capitalists or
socialists. The list goes on.

Why would anyone of sound mind only want to be 
fed opinions and information that reinforce their 
own point of view? We look to make SojoMail a 
forum. That's why we regularly publish Boomerang 
letters that criticize our own writers and positions 
on political, cultural, and theological matters. 
If you're looking for propaganda for your own beliefs 
and attitudes, there are plenty of media sources 
out there that will give that to you. But I would 
hope you would want to be pushed, challenged, and 
stimulated by the range of thoughts that are 
shaping our values, for both good and bad.

A SojoMail reader sent me this prayer, which
says it all:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half truths, and superficial relationships, so
that you may live deep within your heart.
And may God bless you with tears for those who
suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort
them and to turn their pain into joy.



Sojourners magazine won Best in Class honors at
the annual meeting of the Associated Church Press
last week in Minneapolis and received 10 other
ACP awards for excellence in religious journalism.
The ACP - an 85-year-old professional association
of 175 religious publications - honored Sojourners
with the following:

Awards of Excellence (first place): Best in Class 
[general interest magazine]; In-Depth Coverage [issue 
on Business Ethics]; Humor ["College Bound (and 
Gagged)," by Ed Spivey Jr.]; Media Review Section; and 
Media Kit. Awards of Merit (second place): Magazine 
Editorial ["Our Strategic Interest in Africa," by Jim 
Wallis]; Theological Reflection ["Stories to Live By," 
by Ched Myers]; Devotional/Inspirational (short form) 
["Catalog Jesus," by Julie Polter]; Web Site. Honorable 
Mention (third place): Most Personally Useful Article 
["We All Have to Die...But Does it Have to Cost So 
Much?" by Julie Polter]; Devotional/Inspirational 
(long form) ["City Lights," by Edward J. Farrell].

Check out the award-winning articles at or

Get your own copy, six times a year in your mailbox,
and see what all the fuss is about...


H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
The social impact of proposed tax cuts

The congressional debate on the president's tax cut
continues, with new proposals occurring almost daily.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research
organization and policy institute that conducts
research and analysis on government policies and
programs, especially those affecting low- and moderate-
income people, has been producing a series of very
helpful and informative fact sheets on the tax cut

Here are some helpful guides:

Assessing the Thomas/Ways & Means Bill

Tax Rate Cuts for High-Income Taxpayers?
House/Bush Tax Cuts Will Widen Income Gap

Budget: Top 1% Get More Than Other Initiatives

Black, Hispanic Families & Bush Tax Cut

Fact Sheets on Bush Tax Cut Plan

Overview Assessment of Bush Tax Proposal

12 Million Families Left Behind by Bush Tax Plan


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Rally day to preserve the estate tax and
oppose the Bush tax cut

Thursday, May 10, Washington D.C.

Noon rally at the Capitol featuring:
Sen. Tom Daschle, Marian Wright Edelman,
and Bill Gates Sr.

1-2 p.m. Lobby Day Training
2-5 Lobby Day
4:30-6:30 Reception with Rev. Jim Wallis and others

Save the date and the details will follow.
Sponsored by United for a Fair Economy (UFE),
Responsible Wealth, and Nonprofits for Preserving
the Estate Tax. UFE is a national membership
organization dedicated to building a movement against
economic inequality.

For more information, see


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Bikini-clad Virgin Mary stirs protest

A New Mexico museum defended a depiction of a
bikini-clad Virgin Mary after the archbishop
of Santa Fe added his voice to attacks from Roman
Catholic activists against the artwork.

The controversy swirls around "Our Lady," a digital
photograph that also includes a bare-breasted
angel. The angel is holding up the Virgin Mary in a
stance reminiscent of traditional pictures of Our
Lady of Guadalupe.

Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art said
it had no plans to remove the picture from a year-
long special exhibition, as demanded by protesters.
"We certainly did not anticipate such a strong
reaction," museum director Joyce Ice said. "And I
would hope that people are willing to continue
their discussions in regard to the role of art
and how it plays into community values and the
freedom of expression."

Archbishop Michael Sheehan weighed in with a statement
criticizing the picture as "yet another trashing" of
Catholicism" that "shows the insensitivity to a
large segment of Santa Feans and imprudence in the
administration of a state-funded institution."


B o o m e r a n g

Hart Murphy of San Antonio, Texas, wrote:

The opportunity to read Don Feder's Boston
Herald column is one of the reasons I am
glad I have not lived in Boston for five years.
It is not why I subscribe to SojoMail. The fact
that you have polluted my in-box with Feder's
typically hysterical diatribe "Heather Shags
Rome" leads me to serious contemplation of
canceling my subscription to your publication.

What is the purpose of claiming to offer an
"alternative to the religious right," as
Sojourners so often proposes to do, if one is
going to offer a soapbox to the ridiculous
rantings of a religious right spokesman like Don

What this smells more like is an example of the
strategy of seeking unity among all sections of
the religious right, Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish,
and Islamic, recently promoted under the banner
of "Ecumenical Jihad."


Jason Hubbard of Grand Rapids, Michigan, wrote:

I love Jim Wallis, his writing, and his work.
Jim "gets it" better than almost anyone who is
fighting for social justice. But his recent article
on the Harvard living wage sit-in reads more like
bad liberal PR than his usual broadly informed
prophetic voice....

We need a living family wage for all people who
need a living family wage. But there are millions
of people - retired, single, students, etc. - who
don't need a living family wage. These people
need a place to be useful or a place to learn a
skill. We must demand that obscenely rich
institutions of "higher" learning, like Harvard,
put their best minds to work developing employment
alternatives that will truly bring justice to all
those who labor, especially those with families
to support. But not all jobs are designed to
support men and women with families and we need
to be honest about that reality. My college student
friends who work at a university as janitors
(to pay for school) don't need the salary and
benefits that a 40-year-old with four kids needs.
Harvard should make lower-skilled jobs available
both to students and those adults whose abilities
are maximized at a lower skill level. But to suggest
that it serves the common good to force Harvard to
pay a single childless student the same "living
family wage" that a head of household needs and
deserves is absurd.


Bernard T. Adeney-Risakotta of Indonesia wrote:

The article on the campaign for a living wage at
Harvard left me dizzy. Of course I am delighted
if Harvard will pay their workers a living wage
(and incidently their non-tenured professors as
well). $10.25 per hour is great if you can get it,
especially for relatively unskilled labor. The
dizzying part is comparison with wages in Indonesia.
Household helpers here are paid $10-20 PER MONTH
for full-time, live-in work. That comes out to
about 10 cents an hour at the upper end. Skilled
carpenters, plumbers, and construction workers now
make less than $2 per day, while unskilled workers
are lucky to get $1 to $1.50 per day. Professors,
even those with Ph.D.s from Western universities,
rarely make as much as $200 PER MONTH, about $1 per
hour for the lucky few who make that much. Of course
the cost of living here is also unbelievably low,
at least if you don't need Western-style luxuries.
I don't doubt that there is a justice issue at
Harvard for the poor folks who make a miserable
$7.50 per hour (only $1,200 per month). Many
Indonesians would NOT want to trade with them.
But a view of this justice movement from across the
Pacific leaves one feeling dizzy.


George Kleinert of Detroit, Michigan, wrote:

Richard Clark's knee-jerk rejection of the film
"Ride With the Devil" proves Ang Lee's statement,
"...the American Civil War was...where the Yankees
won not only territory but, in a sense, a victory
for a whole way of life and of thinking." There are
other reasons besides support of slavery to be
sympathetic toward secessionist partisans. Are we
to believe that General Sherman's march and Northern
carpetbaggers were good things in any sense of


Leland Somers of Vallejo, California, wrote:

The religious right has always hated and feared
the ideas embedded in the Bill of Rights, which
clearly calls for a complete separation of church
and state. Notice it doesn't call for a separation
of religious and personal convictions as the
principles of action, but it does build a well-
thought out and carefully considered wall between
the two institutions as institutions - church
and state....

I do listen and watch some of these people on radio
and on TV. I'm not so stupid as to suppose that
the carefully honed words do not hide a racist,
homophobic, and misogynist agenda that is there
in plain view for all to see.

I do not want my tax dollars to go to any of them
or any of the organizations that they support,
UNLESS there are strict rules strictly enforced
about how the money is used, where it is used, what
it is used for, and that it only supports programs
that supply real human needs regardless of race,
religion, national origin, citizenship status, sex,
or sexual orientation - with no proselytizing.
If you can show me a fundamentalist religious
organization that can meet these criteria, then
I'll show you a real miracle.


Dora Johnson of Washington, D.C., wrote:

Methinks Mr. Wallis doth protest too much! I don't
see right-wing/left-wing comments in the Boomerang
messages sent about his support for government and
faith-based partnerships....I understand that the
times they have a-changed, and that Jim Wallis
believes that we should at least try this venue.
What I don't hear, and haven't from the beginning,
is a healthy skepticism about this potential

Perhaps he needs to be reminded that throughout
all those years of so-called liberal agendas, the
church never stopped working for the poor (Sojourners
was/is a good example). The church also never quite
aligned itself with the power structure - even then.


Stephen Berk of Carlsbad, California, wrote:

My problem is not with faith-based initiatives per
se. I have supported them for years, and I've done
research and written on them. What I am dismayed
about is the way that many in the faith-based (Christian
community development movement), many of them
good personal friends of mine, are singing Bush's
praises, turning Republican, and in effect allowing
Bush to co-opt a very vital movement. Bush has
already proved himself reactionary on environmental
and labor issues. He is close to a great many people
in right-wing movements like the Federalist Society,
which would stack the federal judiciary with Social
Darwinist conservatives out to turn back the clock
on civil rights, civil liberties, and a host of
other things progressives have long fought and bled
for. I am not at all encouraged by Bush's appointments,
many of whom are among the most doctrinaire right-
wingers and privatizers.

I agree that the secular Left tends to be biased 
against religion in public life (though the Nation, 
citing the influence of Jim Wallis, recently 
editorialized in favor of faith-based initiatives). 
But given the tremendous influence of the religious 
right on the Bush administration, I can't deny the 
Left their antipathies to his embrace of public faith.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. Want to make your voice heard? Send
Boomerang e-mails to the editor:




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E y e - W i t n e s s   N e w s
Horrific record of Bush appointee to United Nations

By Sister Laetitia Bordes, SH

John D. Negroponte, President Bush's nominee as
the next ambassador to the United Nations? My ears
perked up. I turned up the volume on the radio. I
began listening more attentively. Yes, I had heard
correctly. Bush was nominating Negroponte, the man
who gave the CIA-backed Honduran death squads open
field when he was ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to

My mind went back to May 1982 and I saw myself facing
Negroponte in his office at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
I had gone to Honduras on a fact-finding delegation. We
were looking for answers. Thirty-two women had fled the
death squads of El Salvador after the assassination of
Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 to take refuge in
Honduras. One of them had been Romero's secretary. Some
months after their arrival, these women were forcibly
taken from their living quarters in Tegucigalpa, pushed
into a van and disappeared. Our delegation was in Honduras
to find out what had happened to these women.

Negroponte listened to us as we exposed the facts.
There had been eyewitnesses to the capture and we were
well-read on the documentation that previous delegations
had gathered. Negroponte denied any knowledge of the
whereabouts of these women. He insisted that the U.S.
Embassy did not interfere in the affairs of the Honduran
government and thus we should discuss the matter with 
the latter.

Facts, however, reveal quite the contrary. During 
Negroponte's tenure, U.S. military aid to Honduras grew 
from $4 million to $77.4 million; the U.S. launched a 
covert war against Nicaragua and mined its harbors; and 
the U.S. trained the Honduran military to support the 

Negroponte worked closely with Gen. Alvarez,
Chief of the Armed Forces in Honduras, to enable the
training of Honduran soldiers in psychological warfare,
sabotage, and many types of human rights violations,
including torture and kidnapping. Honduran and
Salvadoran military were sent to the School of the
Americas to receive training in counter-insurgency
directed against people of their own country. The CIA
created the infamous Honduran Intelligence Battalion
3-16 that was responsible for the murder of many
Sandinistas. Gen. Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, a
graduate of the School of the Americas, was a founder
and commander of Battalion 3-16. In 1982, the U.S. 
negotiated access to airfields in Honduras and
established a regional military training center
for Central American forces, principally directed at
improving fighting forces of the Salvadoran military.

In 1994, the Honduran Rights Commission outlined the
torture and disappearance of at least 184 political
opponents. It also specifically accused Negroponte
of a number of human rights violations. Yet, back
in his office that day in 1982, Negroponte
assured us that he had no idea what had happened to
the women we were looking for....

Now in 2001, I'm seeing new ripples in this story.
Since President Bush made it known that he intended
to nominate Negroponte, other people have suddenly
been "disappearing," so to speak. In an article published
in the Los Angeles Times on March 25, Maggie Farley and
Norman Kempster reported on the sudden deportation of
several former Honduran death squad members from the
United States. These men could have provided shattering
testimony against Negroponte in the forthcoming Senate
hearings. One of these recent deportees just happens
to be Gen. Luis Alonso Discua, founder of Battalion
3-16. In February, Washington revoked the visa of
Discua, who was Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations. 
Since then, Discua has gone public with details of U.S.
support of Battalion 3-16.

Given the history of Negroponte in Central America,
it is indeed horrifying to think that he should be chosen
to represent our country at the United Nations, an
organization founded to ensure that the human rights
of all people receive the highest respect. How many
of our senators, I wonder, let alone the U.S. public,
know who John Negroponte really is?


B i z   E t h i x
Principles for globalization

Globalization has to be led by ethical principles,
and not simply left to the dictates of the free
market, if it is to truly serve humankind, say
participants at a Vatican conference. The Pontifical
Academy of Social Sciences called 33 academics to
a plenary session in April to consider ethical
guidelines for the phenomenon. Jesuit Johannes
Schasching of the Katholiche Sozialakademie of
Vienna, Austria, summarized the consensus in a series
of guiding principles:

1) globalization must be an instrument to increase
humanity's welfare.
2) the free market does not automatically guarantee
the common good; instead, it needs laws and regulation.
3) this regulation cannot be solely limited to the
national realm but needs international agreements and

4) control of the global market must be guaranteed not
only by national and international authorities but
also by the forces of civil society.

5) special attention must be given to developing
countries. The advantages of globalization cannot be
limited to a few privileged regions, such as the United
States, the European Union, and Japan, but must be
extended to those nations that are not yet ready to
enter the realm of global competence.

6) the sum total of economic and social measures must be
based on an ensemble of ethical values, the first of these
being the defense of human dignity.


W e b  S c e n e

*MIT bucks privatization of knowledge

Many universities see the Internet as a way to
deliver revenue-generating distance education. But
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced
plans to make course information freely available
and "build on the American
education of open dissemination of educational
materials and innovations in teaching." Read about
MIT's initiative at:



Let's toss a bone to all those Mac users:
match your strategic thinking against the computer
with this chess game, which features a host of
configuration options and features. Best news of
all: it's freeware! Check; your move:


*Chronicling the moment when TV shows go downhill

Fonzie's water-ski jump over a man-eating shark
is considered by many to be the beginning of the
end of Happy Days. "Jumping the Shark" is a Web site
named for that infamous leap, and it features the
episodes when TV shows peaked and then headed south.
You can vote and speak out on the moments when
hundreds of TV shows went sour - from the A-team
to Zorro - and follow the entertaining comments
of others. Now that's entertainment! Go to:


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