April 1991

How Do I Love?

I believe the two greatest commandments are: “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” But I’m wondering: How does a person actually do it?

Your Catholic readers may know. Will some of them please tell me: How do I love?

David Athey
Coralville, Iowa

A Euphoric Open Letter to George Bush

In your press conferences since attacking Iraq, you’ve warned us, the U.S. public, not to be too “euphoric” about our devastating military success thus far. But, Mr. President, I am euphoric! I had no idea military force could achieve so much. I’m writing to tell you that you’ve converted me from my silly ideas about nonviolence and peaceful strategies. I now know that “liberation through violence” works, and that the U.S. is the only power able and willing to perform this noble task.

Indeed, I’d like to suggest that we pursue this policy further. The U.S. must think ahead, beyond Iraq and Kuwait, to the other nations we must liberate, to undo the repression they impose on neighboring countries or on their own people. You’ve used Amnesty International’s condemnation of Iraq’s human rights record to help justify this war; let’s use Amnesty evaluations of other nations as our guide to future initiatives. You may not have fully examined these other targets worthy of attack, so I’d like to list them for you.

Your well-known patience with South Africa has shown meager results; we must immediately attack to undo the evils of apartheid. Let’s not forget other parts of Africa: Zaire, for example, is one of the world’s most flagrant repressors. Then, there’s the military repression in Central America: We’ll have to attack Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador next. The drug war has unleashed widespread violence in Colombia; a U.S. invasion should do the trick. Since the 1960s the government of Indonesia has been murdering hundreds of thousands of its subjects in East Timor (which it annexed in 1976) and elsewhere; only a U.S. attack can stem the tide. The Soviets have left Afghanistan, yet it remains an outlaw state; attack soon while it’s still weak! You hate to turn on close friends, but England has been illegally occupying Northern Ireland for two decades, and repressing the Irish for far longer: Our common language is an advantage for an attack here. If we’re really ambitious, we could take a shot at China, for obvious reasons, although that might require some special planning. But of course, let’s not forget the other targets where our troops are already concentrated: in the Middle East. We might as well start with Saudi Arabia; its apartheid system against women is reason enough. Turkey is likewise attractive (we’ve already got bases there too) its widespread domestic repression and illegal occupation of Cyprus sufficiently justify a U.S. attack. Then, there’s Syria, which we hate anyway; when Iraq goes, we’ll longer need its support. A let’s not forget Israel, which ought to be attacked for its long-standing repression of the Palestinians.

Too bad we didn’t adopt this policy sooner. Helped by powerful outside forces which sometimes even directly installed hated dictators, several nations — such as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Greece, Spain, and the Philippines — repressed their people for years. Yet fairly recently, they’ve begun liberating themselves from repression, even without our help. And let’s not forget some of the promising changes in Eastern Europe, which I’m sure surprised you. No matter, it’s just a little less work left for us.

Well, maybe not so little. We seem to have forgotten those places we’ve recently attacked. You may not know this, but many of those attacks did not produce the liberation I’m sure the U.S. intended. I’m thinking of places like Panama, Grenada, Libya, Nicaragua, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It’s frustrating having to return to finish the job, but at least our people know the terrain in these nations.

I guess that’s it, although I’ve been thinking a little about the principle underlying our use of force to undermine repression. It seems to me that we’re right in targeting the sources of repression no matter where they lead us. I’ve just finished reading all those Amnesty reports, and the conclusions of the many other human rights organizations. I’m shocked, but they say that the U.S. is one of the major sources and supporters of repression around the world, including in most of the nations cited above. If we followed our principle, you’d be forced to attack the United States!

Silly me to worry about such a thing. You and your predecessor are way ahead of me, having already launched countless wars against the U.S. population. Let’s see, there’s the war against the welfare state, which has impoverished millions, many of whom we now see walking the streets, homeless. Let’s not forget the war against civil rights, which has dismantled affirmative action for African Americans and others. There’s the economic war, fueled by junk bonds, merger mania, and S&L crises, against the middle class, causing its number to shrink by the millions. Let’s throw in your now successful war on the “peace dividend,” which was probably an extravagance anyway.

Whew, that’s a lot of work already done, and there are new challenges ahead. But with the support of new converts like myself, I’m sure you and your successors will keep using war and violence to their best advantage: to liberate people from the tyranny under which they now suffer.

Prof. Robert Elias
Department of Politics, University of San Francisco
San Francisco, California

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