Syracuse Post-Standard, November 25, 2001

War and Thanksgiving

To the editor:

As the sun shines on this Thanksgiving morning I ponder the idea of giving thanks. Like others, the suicide attacks of September 11 and ensuing war have led me to question what is truly important in my life.

I am thankful to live in the United States, to have the ability to express my beliefs through writing, speaking, organizing and demonstrating. I am thankful that I will gather with family and friends to share the bounty of the earth. I am thankful that I live in a pleasant home, have plenty of food to eat, am able to engage in productive work and to enjoy activities with people I love.

My appreciation of all these privileges–for until they are available to all people everywhere, they are indeed privileges–motivates me to look at the serious problems confronting our nation and the world.

For many years it has been easy for me to see the negative aspects of our nation and to feel deep pain about the way we relate to the rest of the world. Arrogance, intolerance, bullying and exploitation stand out as some of the attitudes and behaviors which particularly trouble me. When I speak about those concerns, I am often met with looks of disbelief or platitudes about the cruelty of the world.

To be meaningful, the beliefs which we proclaim as a nation–freedom, justice and equality–must not stop at our national borders. The United States can’t ensure that these ideas will be accepted elsewhere. Tyrants come in all ethnicities, religions and parts of the world. But our nation can play a crucial role in laying the foundation for a world based on these values. To do this we must confront the truth of the U.S. role in the world–and in doing so, we must face some difficult facts:

Confronting these unsettling realities requires the best in us as a nation. The attacks of 9-11 are a wake-up call. Our government’s response thus far has ignored these underlying issues, wanting instead to paint this as an epic struggle of good vs. evil. A true campaign to end global terrorism would require a more thoughtful and broader effort. Bombings, special forces and draconian restrictions on civil liberties will not make us safer in the long run, but will undermine much of what we cherish as a nation.

These misguided policies will be turned around only by the organized demands of conscientious citizens. It will take people who are not only willing to appreciate and express thanks for the great things about our country, but who are also willing to honestly address our many shortcomings. This is the true challenge confronting us and the world, and I hope that we are up to facing it.

 

Sincerely,

Andy Mager