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Recovering the American soul

July 1, 1993

Now is not the time to be a Republican or a Democrat. We’re past that. It’s time to be a patriot: to stand up for what it means to be an American. I mean this experiment in citizen participation in government—this venture of Native Americans and immigrants from many lands creating a homeland where people are treated like equals—where the strong and the vulnerable have opportunity and protection. There have been many failures, but the world still looks toward this experiment, and we ourselves hope for the dream to live. It is noble and daring, and worth fighting for. But the enemy is not necessarily out there. A patriot is one who has the courage to face the hidden enemy—ourselves—and stands up before we lose the vision.

In September 2001, we were attacked by terrorists, and in our anger and fear, we have struck back. We have invaded Afghanistan and chased terrorist cells around the world. It is three years later, and the director of Homeland Security tells us we are on “orange alert.” Terrorists have intimidated us into spending enormous amounts of money and energy. In our fear and anger, we have attacked a country, Iraq, that posed no immediate threat to us. We did not attack the country where the terrorists were from, or where they received funding, or the country where nuclear weapons may threaten. We attacked a country that had a harsh dictator and is rich in oil. We started a war against Iraq when they invaded Kuwait unprovoked. Are we in danger of losing our soul?

Here are some thoughts on the recovery of the American soul:

1) Homeland Security means Global Security

Finally, can we realize that our home is the world? Terrorism is a cancer of the world, not just America, and so is war. We have to come together as countries to face this. Homeland Security means America taking a leadership role rather than an adversarial role in the United Nations. There is only one country that can give the U.N. “teeth,” and that is us. When we go off on our own, we become a target for terrorism as well as worldwide contempt for our arrogance. When we work together as partner nations against terrorism, we become stronger, and terrorists have recruitment problems. Homeland Security is peace and justice in the Middle East for Palestinians as well as Israelis. Homeland Security is not trying to solve subtle and complex issues with sophisticated weapons and “shock and awe.”

2) Let’s have a coup

We escaped an oligarchy in England, where the few and rich ruled the rest. Well, the rest left to create a participatory democracy over here, which is now evolving into an American version of an oligarchy. The rich in Washington rule the rest who don’t participate in their despair or disconnection. Half don’t vote, many don’t hear more than “sound bites.” Let’s have a coup—get informed, involved—become a citizen, Republican, Democrat, Independent—and let’s have a democracy and a country again.

3) Let’s get converted

It is so obvious that we need to convert from an oil-based economy to a sustainable economy. Terrorism has been a response to Western (especially U.S.) influence, culture and military might in oil-rich Arab countries, as well as our strong support and arming of Israel in the Middle East. As long as we cling compulsively to fossil fuels, our economy will depend on our presence and control of Arabian oil, and their governments. Osama bin Laden knows our vulnerability—our oil-based economy. We defuse terrorism when we convert to hydrogen, solar, wind, water, etc. When we stop talking about this and actually direct 10 percent of what we are spending in Iraq into sustainable energy, we will begin to be liberated. And we will have subdued the largest air polluter in the world (us), and we will be respected again. This is moral leadership. And we won’t have to go to war for energy. Now and in the future, the most valuable resources are not oil and gas, but are air and water.

In November, what is at stake is not just the presidency, or seats in Congress. It is the democracy, it is the soul of America and the future of this fragile and radiant planet. This is a moment for patriots. Stand up. Speak up. Rise up.

James A. Roberts is pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rockford.

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