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Commentary and opinion on current civic, political, and religious events and issues.

Past Issue
24 September 2001

Northern City Journal
(ISSN 1528-9575)
Vol. 2, No. 39

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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What Are We Fighting For?

As we respond to terrorism, we need to define what we are fighting for because that affects whether people in the rest of the world will be fighting against us.

by Jerome F. Winzig

The sounds of the Harlem Boys and Girls Choir singing "We Shall Overcome" at the "Prayer for America" service in Yankee Stadium have faded. Now we ask, what are we fighting for? Isn't it obvious? Liberty. Democracy. Equality under the law. Religious freedom. Neighbor supporting neighbor. Family. Country. The American way.

What are others in the rest of the world fighting against as they protest in the streets? To them it's just as obvious. Freedom without restraint. Unrestricted access to pornography. American cultural dominance. Support of autocrats when they are friendly to America. Unequal access to the benefits of globalization. Decadent values. Destruction of family. Corruption of their young people. The American way they see.

As Americans gather in prayer and mourning, continue the salvage effort, and rally to assist the victims and their families, we are confident in the rightness of our cause. However, if we do not change course, we may also find ourselves fighting, killing, and dying for the wrong values and practices. We may find ourselves fighting people whose values are not so different from our own, sparking a religious blood feud with suffering so widespread that the September 11 attacks will seem insignificant.

If we do not define the terms of this struggle, then it will be defined for us on terms that will divide the human family. If we do not discard our excesses and our attitudes toward the rest of the world, then this will not be a struggle between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny, between the rule of law and the outlaw.

We can begin by treating the rest of the world with respect. Lay out the case against those who organized, funded, and supported the September 11 assaults. Disseminate the details throughout the world. Post them on the Internet and on our embassy walls. Share them with the United Nations. Our goal is not to convince the perpetrators -- whether they be Osama bin Laden, al Queda, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, or persons and organizations not yet identified. Rather, our goal is to expose the terrorists for who they are, separating them from the decent, peace-loving people of the world.

We can tackle the massive problem of pornography on the Internet. If we continue to ignore this corrupting influence, then this great tool -- with the potential of giving everyone in the world equal and open access to information and financial markets -- will continue to be prohibited in many parts of the world.

We can shut off networks like MTV, which thinks it's enough to color its logo with the stars and stripes but betrays America by airing videos featuring soft-core pornography against a backdrop of the American flag and by showing programs teaching young people there is no right or wrong.

We can practice our democratic ideals in the Middle East, not just at home and in Europe. Our diplomats and news media can stop glamorizing unelected heirs in Morocco, Lebanon, and Syria. We can reexamine our support for undemocratic oil sheiks.

We can be more careful about our own energy use and make the United States more energy-independent. We can drill for oil in the United States and stop refusing to build nuclear power plants because this might despoil our environment. We can stop finding it acceptable for other countries to take those risks to meet our energy needs.

We can pay more attention to the rest of the world. Earlier this year, Independent Television News made a disturbing undercover documentary with Saira Shah on the Taliban's gruesome rule of terror against its own people. We should have watched it before September 11.

We can allow the poorest of the world to participate in the benefits of globalization by pushing for a global free trade zone. We can take on the American coalition of businesses and unions that keeps in place trade barriers penalizing poor countries all over the world.

None of this implies the deeds committed on September 11 weren't profoundly evil. Nor does it mean strength and resolve are not also required in this struggle. But the risks we take should be for democracy, liberty, and God-given rights, not for the exportation of evil, the corruption of the young, or the exploitation of the rest of the world.

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