It does matter
I just received this in an email from a friend. It is something that some of you may have also received, but if not, it is worth reading.
Published on Thursday, May 29, 2003 by the National Catholic Reporter
Is There Anything Left That Matters?
by Joan Chittister, OSB
This is what I don't understand: All of a sudden nothing seems to matter.
First, they said they wanted Bin Laden "dead or alive." But they didn't
get him. So now they tell us that it doesn't matter. Our mission is
greater than one man.
Then they said they wanted Saddam Hussein, "dead or alive." He's
apparently alive but we haven't got him yet, either. However, President
Bush told reporters recently, "It doesn't matter. Our mission is
greater than one man."
Finally, they told us that we were invading Iraq to destroy their
weapons of mass destruction. Now they say those weapons probably don't
exist. Maybe never existed. Apparently that doesn't matter either.
Except that it does matter.
I know we're not supposed to say that. I know it's called "unpatriotic."
But it's also called honesty. And dishonesty matters.
It matters that the infrastructure of a foreign nation that couldn't
defend itself against us has been destroyed on the grounds that it was
a military threat to the world.
It matters that it was destroyed by us under a new doctrine of
"pre-emptive war" when there was apparently nothing worth pre-empting.
It surely matters to the families here whose sons went to war to make
the world safe from weapons of mass destruction and will never come
It matters to families in the United States whose life support programs
were ended, whose medical insurance ran out, whose food stamps were cut
off, whose day care programs were eliminated so we could spend the
money on sending an army to do what did not need to be done.
It matters to the Iraqi girl whose face was burned by a lamp that
toppled over as a result of a U.S. bombing run.
It matters to Ali, the Iraqi boy who lost his family - and both his
arms - in a U.S. air attack.
It matters to the people in Baghdad whose water supply is now fetid,
whose electricity is gone, whose streets are unsafe, whose 158
government ministries' buildings and all their records have been
destroyed, whose cultural heritage and social system has been looted
and whose cities teem with anti-American protests.
It matters that the people we say we "liberated" do not feel liberated
in the midst of the lawlessness, destruction and wholesale social
suffering that so-called liberation created.
It matters to the United Nations whose integrity was impugned, whose
authority was denied, whose inspection teams are even now still being
overlooked in the process of technical evaluation and disarmament.
It matters to the reputation of the United States in the eyes of the
world, both now and for decades to come, perhaps.
And surely it matters to the integrity of this nation whether or not
its intelligence gathering agencies have any real intelligence or not
before we launch a military armada on its say-so.
And it should matter whether or not our government is either
incompetent and didn't know what they were doing or were dishonest and
refused to say. The unspoken truth is that either as a people we were
misled, or we were lied to, about the real reason for this war. Either
we made a huge - and unforgivable - mistake, an arrogant or ignorant
mistake, or we are swaggering around the world like a blind giant,
flailing in all directions while the rest of the world watches in
horror or in ridicule.
If Bill Clinton's definition of "is" matters, surely this matters. If a
president's sex life matters, surely a president's use of global force
against some of the weakest people in the world matters. If a
president's word in a court of law about a private indiscretion
matters, surely a president's word to the community of nations and the
security of millions of people matters.
And if not, why not? If not, surely there is something as wrong with us
as citizens, as thinkers, as Christians as there must be with some
facet of the government. If wars that the public says are wrong
yesterday - as over 70% of U.S. citizens did before the attack on Iraq
- suddenly become "right" the minute the first bombs drop, what kind of
national morality is that?
Of what are we really capable as a nation if the considered judgment of
politicians and people around the world means nothing to us as a people?
What is the depth of the American soul if we can allow destruction to
be done in our name and the name of "liberation" and never even demand
an accounting of its costs, both personal and public, when it is over?
We like to take comfort in the notion that people make a distinction
between our government and ourselves. We like to say that the people of
the world love Americans, they simply mistrust our government. But
excoriating a distant and anonymous "government" for wreaking rubble on
a nation in pretense of good requires very little of either character
What may count most, however, is that we may well be the ones Proverbs
warns when it reminds us: "Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they
value the one who speaks the truth." The point is clear: If the people
speak and the king doesn't listen, there is something wrong with the
king. If the king acts precipitously and the people say nothing,
something is wrong with the people.
It may be time for us to realize that in a country that prides itself
on being democratic, we are our government. And the rest of the world
is figuring that out very quickly.
From where I stand, that matters.
A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Sister Joan is a best-selling author and
well- known international lecturer. She is founder and executive
director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for
Contemporary Spirituality, and past president of the Conference of
American Benedictine Prioresses and the Leadership Conference of Women
Religious. Sister Joan has been recognized by universities and national
organizations for her work for justice, peace and equality for women in
the Church and society. She is an active member of the International
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