Social and Political Commentary

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Actions speak louder than words

...I'll be watching you

by Jackie Wattenberg

Never before have I heard so much talk about religion as I do now.

The President's faith-based initiatives have set off a barrage of pro and con columns by celebrated pundits and letters from uncelebrated citizens.

As a person not very religious, this has been unsettling. Separation of church and state? Some worry about this, but certain ministers have claimed they will receive more money now for enlarged good works. So what will happen? How will President Bush's grand-sounding program to help the needy get under way? Maybe any method, if more poor and troubled people are helped, is really A-OK.

I guess what stymies me is all the talk about religion, and action that does not reflect religious convictions. When asked during his campaign which philosopher or great thinker has most influenced him, George W. answered, "Jesus Christ." And added something about how when Jesus "enters your heart, your life is totally changed."

His biggest influence was the man who lived his life protesting the rich and powerful, the money changers, those who ignore the needy all around them. The man who spent his time with the poor, prisoners, thieves, even prostitutes.

Hold on a minute - let's be fair about this - isn't former President Clinton a very religious man, too? He says he is, and like all of our leaders, ends his speeches with "God bless America!" But look at what they have both done: in spite of the Bible's asserting "Thou Shalt Not Kill," they have both bombed Iraq, killing and wounding civilians. Would Jesus Christ have done this? Would Jesus, in a snit about what some powerful leader has done, punish his innocent people?

For ten years, our country has leveled sanctions against Iraq - to be more accurate against the Iraqi people. Because of them, the pre- Gulf War high standard of living in Iraq has diminished so that food and medicines are so lacking that between four and five thousand children and babies die each month!

Major newspapers such as the New York Times have occasionally, if not often enough, spoken of the deaths of children in Iraq and how the sanctions do not hurt Saddam but bolster him up because he can point to our cruelty, not his.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has mentioned something about reconsidering the sanctions, but Bush himself spoke of tightening them. Maybe the sanctions will be loosened because of the influence of big business, to which the Republicans have always been most friendly, and Clinton only slightly less friendly.

Clinton has such a warm and unpretentious manner, the boy-next-door natural likability, that we don't look seriously at the most serious of his actions - not scandals that affect just a few persons, but those that affect the blameless. Our media little note the terror that our frequent bombing brings to people just as innocent as are we public citizens. Do Clinton and Bush ever close their eyes and realize what their very un-Christian bombing attacks do? They kill, they shock, they wound. They make children and babies cry! They cause heart attacks!

Here we Americans sit, never under a rain of horror from the sky above us. There has been no war on our soil since development of weapons of mass destruction. But we have used these terrorizing weapons so casually, in Nicaragua (Reagan's Contra War that killed 34,000 civilians); in Panama (Bush Senior's arrogant invasion to kidnap its president by killing 4,000 civilians); extensive bombing of Serbia (Clinton with Tony Blair) with uncounted deaths of innocents; bombing of Afghanistan and the Sudan (Clinton) after two of our African embassies were attacked.

And now the second bombing by our new Christian president with not a flutter of concern by our news media. If he is sincere about the influence of Jesus Christ on his life, does he ever think before commanding such brutality? Gee, would Christ do this?

Would Christ bomb not only our fellow human beings but bomb water facilities so that clean water in Iraq and in Serbia is so lacking that the people die from polluted water?

Can George W. speak so lovingly of Jesus Christ as his biggest influence and go ahead with a tax break for the very rich, 40% for the billionaires and millionaires and the paltry rest for the little guys? Would Jesus Christ approve?

If Bush, and yes, Clinton, too, are sincerely Christian, why have they so ignored the poorest among us, those who have no home to come home to at night, no place to heat a can of soup, no place to protect them from the sub-zero weather or a blizzard? Now more children are homeless along with their parents, but not a word from these Christian leaders, Bush and Clinton, about helping them.

We are seen around the world as lucky, wealthy, welcoming people, but our vast military presence, our heartless bombing and flaunting of our power makes dangerous enemies for us, almost daring those who resent our cruel showing of force to retaliate.

Once Bush impressed me during his campaign by saying that "we can't appear arrogant..." He was right. We make enemies by our arrogance. And now is his chance to avoid arrogance, to let the peaceful, loving life of Jesus Christ to truly influence him so his actions will speak louder than his words.

March 2,2001

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