spirit we have, not the work we do, is what makes us important to the people
Sister of Erie, Sister Joan is a best-selling author and well-known
international lecturer. She is founder and executive director of
Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality,
and past president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses
and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Sister Joan has
been recognized by universities and national organizations for her work
for justice, peace and equality for women in the Church and society.
She is an active member of the International Peace Council.
by Joan Chittister,OSB
Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., suggests a show of
“in your face” to the French for failing to support America’s desire to go to
war now, immediately, at this minute and because we said so. Her proposal asks
for financial aid for families who want to remove from U.S. cemeteries in France
their World War I and II war dead, of which there are 74,000, for reburial in
the United States. (Brown-Waite filed the bill, the American
Heroes Repatriation Act, on March 13.)
I think we’re all supposed to breathe a sigh of relief at
such a suggestion. As in “that’ll show ‘em.” I haven’t heard a get-even proposal
of quite the same quality since I was in grade school. At least not since the
renaming of french fries and french toast to freedom fries and freedom toast in
the congressional dining room.
Such moves strike me as considerably below the level of
gravity demanded of a U.S. Congress on the brink of exterminating a country.
In the first place, the
land on which U.S. soldiers are buried in France is the United States. France
gave us the land in perpetuity at the end of the wars in which U.S. troops
joined brave Europeans who had been resisting armed aggression and fighting to
preserve democracy and freedom for all of us for two years before we ever
entered the fray.
In the second place, the
war in Iraq and the World War II are anything but analogous. In France, we were
defending the world from blatant, bold and flagrant military aggression. No one
could deny the need for some kind of self-defense. In Iraq, on the other hand,
we created a monster who has now refused to be a pawn. It isn’t what Hussein has
done, it’s what he might do that troubles us. And we ought to know: We made
Saddam Hussein a buffer between Iran and us. We armed him. We gave him the
chemical weapons, the “instruments of mass destruction” he now says he doesn’t
have and which we now fear. But we never said a word when he used them against
the Kurds instead of against the Iranians. We share a good deal of
responsibility for the present situation. We say that he has weapons of mass
destruction and that we are afraid he will use them. Yet, ironically, we are the
only nation on earth ever to have used weapons of mass destruction. No wonder so
many other nations fear an unbridled United States.
Finally, we argue for
“freedom of speech” and the principle of “popular vote.” Are we now saying that
we support it only when people use it to agree with us, that anyone who votes
against us is, by virtue of that very fact, wrong, evil, enemy? Have we
forgotten how many times the United States used its veto in the Security Council
to block the Soviet Union during the Cold War?
If this is the level of
congressional discussion these days, it is embarrassing.
By the way, my uncle was
killed in WWI -- in France -- and I do not want his remains brought back here. I
want them right where they are: a symbol of human interdependence and a reminder
of the end of every war, foreign graves in foreign nations.
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