and so it goes...

On the 15 anniversary of September 11, I didn't win any friends or supporters when I suggested
in worship that the US had not learned any true wisdom in light of this terrorist attack. We are as stunned today as we were before that horrible time that acts of terrorism happen to us - the roots of American exceptionalism are deep - and we believe we can find the magic bullet solution, too.  Further, we are certain that America need not change anything in our economic or political agenda to "win the war against terror."

What arrogant, misguided and dangerous folly.  Please do not misunderstand: I am not supporting terrorist violence in any way, shape or form. And as much as I am morally very uncomfortable with some of our actions in the world - including the use of drones - I also know that public policy is more often than not the balancing of lesser evils. Like Niebuhr knew all so well, not only are there often dreadful unintended consequences to our best decisions, but politics beyond the level of individual engagement is the shifting  sands between coercion and resistance in pursuit of the common good.  It is an ethical dualism that accepts the unacceptable and knows there is never a perfect path in any social activity. Niebuhr put it like this:

Ultimately evil is done not so much by evil people, but by good people who do not know themselves and who do not probe deeply.... One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun.

So with yet another wave of terrorist attacks in NYC, I expect Donald Trump to exploit our fears and Hillary Clinton to offer her studied policy wonk plans for future safety. Neither one, however, acknowledges that the soul of our nation must grow up - and repent.  I know this is not going to take place during a presidential campaign. And I don't expect either candidate to rise above their public personas or political expediency. Yes, I trust Mrs. Clinton and despise Mr. Trump's agenda. That is no secret. But so long as we remain committed as a people to being shocked that our actions in the world evoke violent reactions - and then resenting them as if we are eternally innocent and everyone else is guilty - terrorism will continue. Barring a complete militarization of our society, the path to peace and hope is not built on the status quo, but compassion and interdependence. I'm with Niebuhr when we wrote:  It is my strong conviction that a realist conception of human nature should be made a servant of an ethic of progressive justice and should not be made into a bastion of conservatism, particularly a conservatism which defends unjust privileges.  And so it goes.


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