My original essay is marked with my name or "C", Steve's response is marked with his name or "S" and finally my most recent response (this essay!) is marked as Cary Current or "cc" and is in bold. Confused yet?!


We Can Be Better:

More Hopes for the World

Cary: ...I know that I raised issues of what America has done in its foreign policy not to defend the actions of those on 9/11 but rather to illuminate two things: (1) if war was waged on us each time we committed an act of terrorism, we would have been in war for decades (+) now, and (2) while the methods of expression were entirely wrong, there are good reasons why people would want to hurt the U.S. We have been the terrorists of the world for long enough.

Steve: These are opinions! Not facts. Your statements would only be true if they were indeed factual. But since they are opinions they are not actualities.

Cary Current: I will agree with that – these are my opinions. Educated opinions based on facts but opinions nonetheless. The only way to go from opinion to “factual” agreement is to define acts of terrorism I think. So how do you define terrorism? I believe you have agreed in the past that our behavior in other countries has been less than stellar. Keeping in mind that I in no way condone terrorist acts, are you saying that you do not understand how our capitalist behavior around the world could have ruffled some feathers, even rightly so?

C: Jerre and Steve were discussing standard of living. I think that again the issues are two-fold. First there is what our expectations for a nice standard of living perhaps should be: as Steve said, water, food, medicine when needed, education, work. Even these things are somewhat luxurious – and only "expected" in so-called "First World" countries. But even here we don’t all have these things. Why? Who has all the resources?

S: First world, third world. These are terms that are used to show exactly that: Standard of Living. Some very basic facts are true about labeling. Labels are generally based on truths. It is not wrong to expect certain things in certain societies.

CC: It is not wrong to expect different things in different societies based on cultural and other differences in belief systems. But I don't accept that anyone has a greater right to the resources or freedom in this world. And I want to expect better from myself and others as human beings – not as nations or ethnic groups or anything else. As people.

S: This is what people come together as a group for. Protection, personal aid, group labor, whatever the reason it is our nature to gravitate towards others of the same ilk. This isn’t wrong and because others, either by birth or choice, have not reached the same level of comfort, is not the responsibility of those who have.

CC: I don’t know exactly what our responsibility is to people around the world. Should we be sure they are all fed? What food? Every culture has different tastes, taboos and traditions around food. What “standard of living” do we hope to bring other countries to? Should we supply them with the Internet? I feel inherently that our behavior towards many around the world is wrong. Is this opinion? Certainly! It is a feeling that I have in my gut, and heart, and head. And if I didn’t pay any attention to that I wouldn’t be a good person. So is it based on facts? Well, it is based on information and on my value system. But I do find that the more I know, the more questions I have. I want to help others but I know that there are many cultural issues and challenges. Many traditions and religions say (in their own ways): Do no harm. That is my goal. I want to do more but I know that I must start with that.

S: Wanting to and trying to help is a worthwhile thing. But we are not required to do so in our country. UNLESS those who wish it to be different make it so by forcing government officials to change their policies/laws/values.

CC: Many grassroots political revolutionary movements in other countries have been squelched by the U.S. government. We have supplied illegitimate governments with great resources. We have interfered in Civil Wars. We have put leaders in place because we didn’t like the Democratically elected leader. (Examples: Guatemala, Cuba, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Dominic Republic, Korea, Equador, El Salvador, Shah of Iran.) Am I saying we should not help if people are being killed or tortured? No. But we have traditionally been involved only when it benefits the U.S. So I don’t buy the argument that we cannot stand by while people are hurt. Because we do – when they don’t have oil or U.S. business that needs to be protected.

S: Since all of these things are generally based on public opinions it is important for us as a social group to let our politicians know how we feel about issues. The standard of living in this and many other countries could be greatly improved for many of our less fortunate citizens if those "with" do something for those "without". But of course this all would come with a price and that would make it a difficult and long term process.

CC: I let my politicians know. I am politically active. It would be difficult for us to let our leaders know our views though since our views are so disparate.
But I completely agree with you that if there wasn't that 1% that had 90% of the wealth, we would be much better off. I believe it can change.

C: That leads into the second issue: the reality of the situation. Many people in the U.S. believe that they "need" that Big Mac or that Palm Pilot. Due to a bombardment of advertising and PR we have blurred the line between wants and needs and that is why the issue of standard of living is unclear. I know I have things at home that I don’t need to live, to be fed and warm, even to be comfortable. So what is considered a low standard of living in middle class/lower middle class areas in the U.S. is a pretty high standard of living when you compare it with numerous other societies, particularly of course in the so-called "Third World".

S: Burger King rules!

C: I could certainly go on but I want to get to the heart of my essay. Steve has expressed his strong support for this war. He and others have said that we need to respond to the terrorism, that to not go to war is to show tacit support for the attacks of 9/11. They claim it is self-defense but self-defense is when you are protecting yourself. We are not protecting ourselves and as I have said before war will not bring back the people who died. Why are we really there? Retribution. Revenge. Hatred. Or is it more complicated? Political angling? Power? Oil? Making the world safe for capitalism?

S: Freedom is and always will be a cause worthy of a fight. The safety and freedom of this country has been threatened in a terrible and pervasive manner. So the fact is very clear that we ARE protecting ourselves. Again we must speak of social groups. Why do we come together as humans into large groups. Protection. Safety in numbers. We pay a lot for that protection in the US and fully expect to be able to use it when necessary. Other countries don’t pay as much and then expect others of the same ilk to help them protect their own citizens.

CC: We suffered a blow. We were attacked. But we are not being attacked. We are attacking. Besides, who were we attacked by? If we all agree if was bin Laden then we have to consider the fact that he is not a recognized political leader for any country. So why are we bombing Afghanistan? Well, in my opinion, because war is good for the economy, it makes political leaders look like heros, and because they have oil. It is NOT making us safer.
As for other countries not paying as much for their protection... well, no, they don’t have the resources. But I also would love to not pay as much for our military. The astronomical amounts of money that go to defense in this country could be better spent in education, social welfare programs, the environment, health care, etc. Let me ask you this, if we didn’t spend as much on the military as do now, would we truly be vulnerable? Is it possible that if that wasn’t our priority we wouldn’t be so eager to use our new military toys? If we weren't so eager to justify the money spent in the military perhaps we wouldn't be so "active".

Steve: It’s really quite basic and all the political wrangling stripped away reveals the real reasons for any of it. Advancement of ones own society, protection of ones own resources and people, and the safety and freedom of ones own belief system. None of these happens to be acts of power mongers as Jerre suggests. Neither are they the acts of some monster government gone astray as many would imply. Rather, this whole mess is a society protecting itself from a source of attack on its values and freedoms. I think it’s time for everyone here to realize that regardless of political or financial motives, the basic idea here is just that. Protection of freedom and safety for all Americans.

CC: It appears that I do not support the same values and ideals that you do. While I do support freedom I do not want to protect myself, my resources, my people. I want these things for everyone. That may be an ideal but to go back to what we have discussed in the past, I believe you have to strive for the ideal – if you miss the mark in your quest for the ideal, you still have greater progression.
When we hold so tight and live out of fear that "we" are going to lose our stuff and "they" are going to try to change our beliefs and so on, we create strife that doesn’t need to be. How does bombing people in a war torn and poverty stricken country maintain the ideals of America?

C: I ask that anyone who supports war, this war or any other, to ask themselves this question: why are we at war? Is it truly for the reason you believe? Are our actions an attempt to rectify the horrible acts of the past – which we cannot do? Or will our actions simply bring more violence, poverty, oppression and hatred into the world? Do you believe that war brings peace?

S: War can bring peace. WWII brought peace.

CC: If WWII brought peace, we would have peace.

Steve: When a country starts a war and loses it no longer has the ability to wage war. Japan and Germany were stripped of their ability to wage war and peace was attained by this action. Like it or not. That was a classic case and very similar in it’s basis for what’s going on now. Japan? We did something to initiate the attack on Pearl Harbor? That act of war against us plunged us into one of the bloodiest episodes ever in American History. Hmmmm… I wonder what we should have done as an alternative. The only real difference with Afghanistan is that they were forced into it by their darling bin ladin and were quite unprepared for what was about to happen. They had a way out unlike the Japanese.

CC: In situations where the U.S. has been attacked, we have an opportunity to be an example to the world. To use creative and diplomatic means to gain peace. I reject the concept of the U.S. as the big victim anyways. We have had several well documented attacks on our soil. How many attacks have we initiated? For what reason? Why do we conveniently forget these in the war and peace argument?

Steve: Since when did it become correct for someone to attack anyone based on religious beliefs?

CC: If I gave the impression in any way that I agree with that, that is a terrible mistake. As a pacifist, I do not condone that in ANY WAY.

Steve: Regardless of your issues with the politics of this country it is terribly wrong to try to force your resolution with violent acts.

CC: I agree. DO NOT USE VIOLENT ACTS TO SOLVE PROBLEMS.

Steve: Our retaliation has been effective, targeted, restrained and widely acceptable in our society. We didn’t ask for it and we did try to avoid it. Sorry that they wouldn’t take us up on our offer(s).

CC: They may have been unable. Even if they were simply unwilling, that does not justify the use of violence, particularly against a people who are being held under a violent and harsh regime themselves.

Steve: So the bottom line is this. Get real. Get basic. Drop the political bullshit and look at what’s really going on. Basic human instinct within a small portion of the world’s population kicked in when attacked on 9-11. Basic instinct for protection, safety, freedom. Because we’re humans (not in spite of) we reacted the way we did. Any country with the ability to do so would have reacted the same.

CC: I am sorry that you feel that my views have been political BS. I would like to think that you have respect for the opinions of those you are debating with on Synergy. As for the political aspect of it, I am a whole being. My political, personal and spiritual views cannot be separated. That would be unhealthy. Perhaps the basic instinct or inherent reaction of many in the U.S. was to retaliate. Maybe we have been taught that that is the way to react. Either way, it is not my response. Maybe I was brought up differently or maybe my testosterone levels are low. I know there is a growing community who doesn’t support the war. Many lost loved ones in the World Trade Center and believe that their loved ones wouldn’t want more people to die (listen to: Democracy Now interview for an example). Just because the majority believes something does not make it real or right or necessary. And just because other countries would do the same doesn’t mean we should. We can be better than we have been. We can be a shining example of peace and restraint and justice and be what we say we are.

- by Cary Hopkins Eyles


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