A Voice In The Crowd: Vengence not justified

A Voice In The Crowd: Vengence not justified

By Jim Spelman

Vengence not justified

Though I haven’t traveled the world over, I have been lucky enough to have visited the 50 United States, two of its territories and eight foreign countries. However, when I leave my place for an extended trip, I am always ready and anxious to return, because it’s home. Also, my travels have proved to me that despite its shortcomings, the U.S. is one of the best places in the world to live.

Nonetheless, and the tragedy of September 11 notwithstanding, I find it impossible to jump on Mr. Bush’s war wagon. My experience has given me a number of rational reasons to be extra cautious about joining the “patriotic” horde.

First, because my government has lied to me so often, I find it hard to believe much of what it tells me. Second, I believe that violence begets violence; if in our search for vengeance (which, if you believe the Bible, belongs to God, not us) we destroy innocent lives, we have stooped to the level of those who have terrorized us. Next, I don’t want my nine grandchildren to be victimized by the inane acts of the leaders of a fearful mob which, if allowed to proceed, can only result in a conflict protracted for generations. Fourth, mobs and hordes readily become obsessed with their righteousness and as a result become insensitive to the consequences of their behavior.

Steve Neal’s OpEd piece in the Sept. 21 Chicago Sun-Times tells me that is already happening. Until now, Studs Terkel has been honored for his willingness to write about life as it happens, not as we would want it to happen. But, when in a rational, but assumed unpopular, response to the horrific acts of unknown invaders, Mr. Terkel remained true to his journalistic style and commitment and had the courage to say that, by its own devious and arrogant behavior, this country has played a part in creating its woes, Mr. Neal lambasted him by saying “Terkel . . . loathes America.”

My experience during 40 years of adversarial dispute resolution tells me that any quarrel requires at least two parties, each of which contributes to the conflict. The quotes Mr. Neal took from Mr. Terkel’s comments substantiate that maxim. They don’t abase America.

In response to its often irrational fear of Communism, the United States has attempted to influence and/or control people in every part of the world. For example, in addition to killing and maiming thousands of Vietnamese, we lost 50,000 of our own people in that wrongful and fruitless fight to “save capitalism” for Southeast Asia.

We have continually supported opportunistic and greedy tyrants like Chiang Kai-shek in China, Batista in Cuba, the Shah of Iran, Stroessner in Paraguay and, before 1990, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. We murdered Salvatore Allende, the duly-elected president of Chile, then saw to the installation of the despot Pinochet.

Our financial aid to Afghanistan in its struggle against the Soviets allowed the hateful and rigidly oppressive Taliban to ascend to power in that country and, like Hussein, eventually assume the role of our enemy.

People resent being controlled by anyone who thinks differently than they do (just ask any American!). Studs Terkel and I agree that for all its good and great qualities, the U.S. is far from perfect and has in many ways contributed to its own predicament.

Neither Mr. Terkel nor I loathe America! Nor do we advocate turning the other cheek without some appropriate response to the perpetrators of the horrors of that fateful Tuesday. However, we apparently do share the realization that America is not always right and that to some in the world, America wears the garb of the Devil. It’s my sincere and patriotic belief that, before we attempt to heal the rest of the world, we had best heal ourselves. If we don’t do that, our endeavors to impose our beliefs on others will only continue to make matters worse.

Jim Spelman is a local attorney.

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