The Common Good

Let's not sacrifice our liberties

Sojomail - December 12, 2001


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                   in days of violence and fear

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+++++++++++++++++++++++ 12-December-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++ Let's not sacrifice our liberties +++++++++++++++++++


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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *I saw Mommy kissing...John Ashcroft

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Will our constitutional rights be a casualty of war?

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Rudolph the female reindeer?

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Bills you hate to pay

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Approaching the end of Ramadan
     *Advent with Taize
     *Like a rock (no, not a Chevy truck)...

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *SojoCircles breaks into jail

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

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Who is that female Afghan doctor moving into the 
      new Afghan cabinet...and what is her message to America?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Harry Potter comes home

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Clowns without borders
     *Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
     *Smarter than the NY Times?
     *Scrambled headlines

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

Sen. Cantwell: If we are expanding the watching capacities
of the FBI and the Justice Department, who should be watching
the watchers in our oversight?

Attorney General John Ashcroft: You remind me of a spate of
cartoons that have appeared in the last week, and it's
generally a kid sitting on Santa's knee, and Santa saying,
"I know when you've been sleeping, I know when you've been
awake, I know when you've been bad or good" - and the kid
looks up and says, "Who are you, John Ashcroft?" (Laughter
in the chamber.) 

Cantwell: I'm not sure everybody in America is laughing at that.


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Will our constitutional rights be a casualty of war?

by Jim Wallis

Those of us who were involved in the civil rights,
anti-war, or Central America movements remember FBI
surveillance and disruption programs all too well.
From the harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King through
the Vietnam era, what came to be known as "COINTELPRO"
employed break-ins, wiretaps, and other forms of

In the 1980s, as part of its surveillance of the
sanctuary movement, the FBI sent wired informants into
churches, including prayer meetings. The information
they gathered was later used to indict several leaders
of the movement on sheltering refugees from the wars in
Central America. As these programs eventually came to
light, one result was new requirements for searches and
wiretaps. FBI surveillance guidelines prohibited
agents from spying on domestic religious and political 
organizations without first finding probable cause that 
a law has been broken.

Now, under the ever-widening "war against terrorism,"
news reports indicate that Attorney General John Ashcroft
wants to weaken these restrictions in order to carry out
surveillance of people the Justice Department thinks may
be "possible terrorists" who may be meeting in mosques.
The New York Times reports that while Ashcroft and FBI
Director Robert Mueller favor the change, a number of
senior FBI officials call it "a serious mistake."

It would indeed be a serious mistake. We do not need to
return to the days of FBI infiltration, investigation,
and surveillance. And we should remember that countering
terrorism was one of the excuses given by the FBI in the
'80s for its surveillance of the Central America movement.

In the months since Sept. 11, there has been a growing
assault on civil liberties. More than 1,000 people have been
detained, with the Justice Department refusing to disclose
who they are, where they are, or why they are being held.
Congress has passed and the president signed the so-called
"USA-Patriot Act." This legislation creates a broadly
defined new crime of "domestic terrorism," and then permits
law enforcement officials to wiretap people without probable
cause of crime, permits indefinite detention of immigrants
and other non-citizens, and permits secret search warrants -
under which a house, apartment, or office can be entered 
when the occupant is away and searched, without giving 
advance notice to the individual.

President Bush recently approved the creation of
military tribunals that could try alleged terrorists
using secret evidence, convict, and even execute people with
a two-thirds vote of the military officers on the tribunal,
deprive a defendant of counsel of their own choosing, and
largely do away with the presumption of innocence.

And now we have the new proposal to reinstate covert 
surveillance of religious and political organizations in 
the United States. For those of us who have lived through 
those activities in the past, it brings back all the 
memories of government harassment of dissent. Finding and 
punishing those who committed the attacks of Sept. 11 and 
preventing future attacks is something we all should support.
Sacrificing our constitutional civil liberties to do so
is not.


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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Rudolph the female reindeer?

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game,
while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in
the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers
at the beginning of winter, usually late November to
mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers
'til after they give birth in the spring.

Therefore, according to every historical rendition
depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them,
from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl. We should've
known. Only women, while pregnant, would be able to
drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the
world in one night and not get lost.
Ho, Ho, Ho.

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description, go to: Contact: VMM-USA,
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Fax: 414-423-8964; e-mail:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Bills you hate to pay

According to a survey by Roper Starch, the
bill Americans most hate to pay, by rank:

#1 Credit-card payments
#2 Car loans
#3 Auto-insurance premiums

For which bills do we think we pay too much?

#1 Cable/satellite TV
#2 Auto-insurance premiums
#3 Credit-card interest
#4 Cellular-service bills

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S o u l   W o r k s
Approaching the end of Ramadan

by Rose Marie Berger

Ramadan comes to an end this week. Muhammad said, "For the 
person who is fasting, there are two moments of happiness 
and rejoicing - when he breaks his fast, and when he meets 
his Lord." At Sojourners we have been blessed to be the 
crossing point for people all over the world - Christians, 
Muslims, Jews, and others of good will - who have fasted and 
prayed for peace this season. In our office it has been 
good for us to gather as the sun sets for a small break-fast 
prayer and snacks before heading home.

While the fasting season comes to an end we know that the 
hunger pains of the poor and our own hunger for justice is 
ever with us, but in the midst of it we are commanded to 
laugh and be joyful. Below is a Persian parable from Nasr 
Eddin Hodja on "Rich and Poor."
Famine and calamity gripped the land. Yet for that, not 
everyone was dying of hunger: the rich had stored away 
wheat, oil, dried vegetables, and meats. So the lady Khadija 
said to her husband, "Nasr Eddin, the whole town considers 
you a wise man. Stop just sitting around with your arms 
crossed doing nothing; go to the town square, call the 
people together, and try to convince the rich to give the 
poor something to eat." Nasr Eddin found that his wife was 
very correct in her wisdom. He did as she said. Many hours 
later he returned home, his face radiant. "My wife, let us 
give thanks to Allah the Merciful!" "So you succeeded in 
your task?" she asked. "It was not an easy mission, and I 
was only partially successful," Nasr answered. "What do 
you mean that you were 'partially successful'?" "Well...
exactly that. I have completely succeeded in convincing 
the poor of receiving something to eat!" 

Blessings and peace in this season of joy.

The fourth week's readings are selections from the Quran. 
The full text is included here:


Advent with Taize

Throughout December, the outline of a prayer for Advent -
which can be used by individuals or groups - is available
at the Web site for the Taize Community:

Discover also a 16-minute prayer for Advent in RealAudio at:


Like a rock (no, not a Chevy truck)...

What though the tempest round me roars,
I know the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close.
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

           --traditional American hymn


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S o j o C i r c l e s
SojoCircles breaks into jail

Alonzo Young, senior pastor of Lake Correctional Prison 
in Florida, will be leading and facilitating SojoCircles 
with the inmates in the new year. The prison already has 
12 Sojourners readers who receive complimentary 
subscriptions to the magazine. Alonzo has noticed an 
increase in debate and questions following the Sept. 11 
attacks and the ensuing U.S.-led military attacks on 
Afghanistan. He hopes that SojoCircles will become a 
catalyst in the prison for continued dialogue in these 
times of raised consciousness. 

You can join Alonzo and be part of this growing movement 
in all corners of the world by joining SojoCircles. If 
there isn't a SojoCircle in your area, consider leading 
one yourself. There are resources to help you get started 
and more to keep you going. For more information, send us 
a note at or call us at 800-714-7474.

There are new SojoCircles forming in the following cities. 
Please contact the leader and get involved!

Waco, TX: Ceci Michelotti -
Birmingham, AL: Steve Shanks -
Barbourville, KY: Max Blalock -
Amherst, MA: Jan Powers -
Jaffrey, NH: Bill Beardslee -
Windsor/Ontario, Canada: Anne Shore -
Mindanao, Philippines: Ebenezer P. Nombre -
San Salvador, El Salvador: Sullivan Shirlee -

A complete list of SojoCircles is now online at:

See what others are doing and share your own stories on a 
new forum devoted to SojoCircle discussion online at:



 A new study packet by the editors of Sojourners magazine.
 This 5-session, 48-page study guide - designed for use in
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 circles - is now available. For a table of contents or
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B o o m e r a n g

Huwiya Amrita Burdick of Kansas City, Missouri, wrote:

As a person of faith I am grateful for your support
of justice and compassion and by the intensity of
your commitment to prayer. As a Muslim I am touched
by the people joining in the Ramadan fast, both as
an act of goodwill and as an act of prayer. Even
before Ramadan began, I was drawn to fasting as a
means of very intense prayer for peace in the world.
May all our prayers for resolution to the current
world crises be heard and may we open our hearts to
the way that already lies within to world justice
and harmony.


Paul Jeffrey, Information Officer of Action by Churches
Together (ACT), writing from Peshawar, Pakistan:

In Jim Wallis' latest reflection about what's happening
in Afghanistan, he skates awfully close to confusing
humanitarian and military mandates. While many aid
workers here agree that international military
intervention is needed to stand between the Mujahideen
warlords who historically have ravaged the country with
their bloody feuds, the relief community - especially
the Afghan non-governmental organizations that remain
the front line in the battle against hunger - are clear
that troops are not needed "to provide protection for
relief distribution." The Afghan partners of responsible
relief groups have been able to carry out relief and
development work under trying circumstances inside
Afghanistan for many years, and that capacity needs
to be further exploited now. Blurring the line between
humanitarian and military mandates will be just as
dangerous as blurring the line between humanitarian
assistance and evangelism, something that landed several
western Christians in Taliban jails.

Jim Wallis responds:

Paul Jeffrey makes an important distinction between 
military forces and humanitarian aid. An international 
force in Afghanistan could play a role in helping to 
create a more stable and secure atmosphere.  
Humanitarian groups could then safely do their work in 
distributing food and other aid. I agree that the line 
between the two must be kept clear -- it is not good for 
military forces to be directly involved in aid work. 

And the situation I wrote about last week is becoming 
ever more urgent. On Monday, 10 major U.S. humanitarian 
organizations, including Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, and 
World Vision, wrote to Secretary of State Powell to urge 
that a stabilization force "be fielded as soon as humanly 
possible given the exposure of so many Afghans to death 
at the moment and in coming weeks."  I agree with that call.[]

For more information, and to see the letter sent to Powell, 
go to:


Joe Loconte, William E. Simon Fellow in Religion
and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation, wrote:

It's entirely proper for you to raise questions about
the best way to get emergency assistance to Afghan
refugees. But the headline of your alert - "International
Aid Efforts Hampered by U.S. Military Strategy" - and the
tone of it don't seem justified at all. It is the
indiscriminate violence and aggression of the Taliban
that is hampering aid efforts, not the U.S. military.
Sojourners should devote as much energy exposing the
inhumane tactics of the Taliban - using civilians as
shields, stealing food intended for needy families -
as it does bashing U.S. policy. Until you do, your
moralizing critique cannot be taken seriously.


Denes House of Utica, New York, wrote:

It is beyond amusing to read David Batstone's comments
that "Ariel Sharon and his terrorist network - "secret
operatives" functioning under the guise of an army -
hope for the permanent Israeli control over the West Bank
and the expulsion of the Palestinians, whether by death
or dislocation." Calling Ariel Sharon a terrorist while
not even mentioning Yasser Arafat's terroristic ways
is outlandishly blind-sided. Let's not mention that Arafat
virtually invented the idea of hijacking airplanes. Let's
not mention the fact that when asked to control Palestinian
terrorists he places them under "house arrest." And let's
not mention the fact that the Palestinian's goals are
explicitly the destruction of the Israeli state. But Ariel
Sharon is the terrorist, and Arafat is the sad-eyed

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict goes far deeper and is
far more complex than you have acknowledged, and there
are grave injustices on both sides. What a shame that
you have chosen to wear a blindfold while looking at
this situation.


Tom Boughan of Cowan, Tennessee, wrote:

David Batstone hit it on the nail. The extremists on both
sides want to break down the moderates who want peace.
Ariel Sharon is continuously fighting and blaming Arafat
for all the bombings and won't let Arafat have a chance
to crack down on Hamas - who are his enemies as well as

Then there is Pat Robertson, who takes on the side of
Israeli extremists like Netanyahu and Sharon. Even went
on as much to say the assassinated Hamas leader was a
victim of his own bomb-making and not Israeli's fault.


John Brouwer of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, wrote:

"Faith-based investing" is an oxymoron. Any fund, by
definition, invests only in stocks and securities traded
in a market on a stock exchange. This reduces the company
to a marketable commodity whose value is set by the market.
Once the company is a marketable commodity so are its
employees and the things of the creation it uses.
The biblical truth is that all of creation, including
people, have intrinsic value in themselves - a value
that God created as good and that all of us are
called to maintain.
The market functions as a false god in stating that
people and the creation only have the value that the
market assigns to them. The rich, of course, benefit
enormously from the market as it allows them to exploit
the poor and the creation for their benefit - as poor
people and the creation only have value if the rich
through the market can dictate what that value is.
"Faith-based," "socially responsible," and so-called
"ethical investment" are ways for the rich to put
some frosting on the golden calf so that they can
keep their cake and eat it. Anyone who has two coats,
two houses, two cars, too much! is to give it to those
who have nothing. If you do need to have savings, put
it into community economic development so that
everyone benefits.

Harland Hopkins of Houston, Texas, wrote:

Re: David Batstone's column on "stem cell politics":
The most obvious and the least openly discussed ethical
question regards who owns the results of this research.
The cloning of an embryo reported recently was heralded
as one step closer to cloning human beings. Be they
embryos or stem cells, they are human. Who can own and
make a profit from human life? This cannot be allowed.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Who is that female Afghan doctor moving into the new 
Afghan cabinet...and what is her message to America?

by Penney Kome
Calgary, Canada

Death threats did not deter her. Bombing raids just
slowed her down. But the prospect of serving in the
provisional Afghanistan government gives her pause.

Dr. Sima Samar, 46, runs four hospitals and 10 clinics in
Afghanistan and another hospital in Quetta, Pakistan,
through her Shuhada Organization. She also heads 48
schools in Afghanistan, which are attended by more than
20,000 students. "Some of my students walk three hours
each way to attend school," she said, "every day."
More than 1,000 Afghan refugee girls attend
Samar's schools in Quetta. She started the first one
in 1987, "and we have graduated three batches of girls
now," she said.

Dr. Samar emphasized that her own education was in
Afghanistan, "in co-educational schools. I got my
medical degree at Kabul University in 1982." She grew
up in a democracy. "Afghanistan's constitution gave
women the right to vote and hold office. We had women
in government. We were a poor country but a peaceful

Then the Russians invaded, and the country was thrown
into war. Life became chaotic. Russians controlled the
cities and Mujahideen controlled the rural areas. Urban
hospitals deteriorated and rural healthcare centers
were destroyed by bombing.

At that point, Afghan cities were still standing.
Political, educational, and healthcare systems were
still in place. For almost a decade, Mujahideen
factions (many of whom had been armed and trained by
the U.S.) ravaged the country in a ferocious civil war.

But women's status really suffered during the civil
wars after the Russians left. "The Mujahideen rejected
everything the Russians liked," said Dr. Samar.  They
closed the schools. "The only schools were religious
schools." And all the Mujahideen factions imposed
restrictions on women.

"The people of Afghanistan were really hostage to this
seige. There was massacre in Afghanistan, and
destruction in Afghanistan, and there was burning and
killing. And the United States kept quiet."

Once again Afghanistan faces the gargantuan task of
rebuilding. Dr. Samar is hopeful for the future. Asked
what she would tell the American people if she could
only say one thing, she said, "The people of the United
States should push their government to not make the same
mistake as it did before." When the Russians pulled out
in 1992, "they really left us behind. The United States
closed all of its aid agencies and just walked away from
Afghanistan." If the U.S. and other world powers do not
aid in rebuilding Afghanistan, she said, the same thing
will happen all over again.


C u l t u r e  W a t c h
Harry Potter comes home
by Danny Duncan Collum

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W e b   S c e n e

*Put on a happy face...

Clowns Without Borders brings the circus to town by 
sending performers to refugee camps and zones of 
conflict. They provide a chance for communities to 
celebrate together and forget for a moment the 
tensions that darken their daily lives.


*More on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Get links and information about the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict, including organizations you can join or 
support, and ways to get acquainted with Palestians. 
The site's creators believe a key toward finding a just 
solution is the increasing involvement of Jews in America 
and Israel. See the contents of "The Origin of the Palestine-
Israel Conflict," published by Jews for Justice in the 
Middle East.


*Smarter than the New York Times?

How often do we read stories that offer details we can't 
argue for lack of perspective? This Web site provides an 
instant counterpoint to articles that appear in the New 
York Times. Whether one agrees with the analysis or not, 
these daily "journalistic meditations" are a great mental 



Imagine a world in which news headlines like "Hubble
Telescope Rattles and Computer Mice Are Recalled" were the
norm. The site takes keywords from real news stories, then
scrambles and reassembles them into strange, absurd, and
often hilarious headlines. Go to:


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