A Question

The following video was just shown at the Republican National Convention. I have a question for you after you watch it.

Ever since nine-eleven, especially during the run-up to the Iraq War, we have heard politicians of all stripes say things like "We have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here." They (we) have used the possibility of another large-scale attack on the U.S. as a justification for all kinds of actions, many of them leading to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, enemy combatants, and hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have used our own physical safety to justify torture and a "legal no-mans land" off our shores.

I'm speaking now as an American and as a follower of Jesus - have we saved our lives at the expense of our very souls?

I guess my real question is: are there worse things than being attacked?

This question has bothered me for some time. I would really appreciate the insights of the BWC community.


  1. John, I suppose there are a lot worse things than being attacked as a country but perhaps individuals directly touched by 9/11 or the USS Cole bombing or the attacks on our embassies in Kenya or any number of incidents of terrorism over just the last decade should be the ones to answer your question, which I think is one we should always ask.

    As a former service member someone who has served in the Middle East, I can only say that the issue of our security is not just physical--though that is easier to leverage politically than to explain our other entangled interests in this global village. I do believe that there is a purity of purpose in those who truly believe in jihad against America and that they do seek to destabilize and cripple our way of life. I do believe that the intent is not just to take lives, it is to erode confidence in our leadership and government, to destabilize our economy, to change what it means to be American.

    Having conversations with non-Americans, particularly those in Europe, I've observed that they don't blame the government for failing to protect them from attack, they focus on the attacker. Here, we have shifted from thinking, "how could they do that to us" to "how could you (government) let this happen" We hold them accountable for what they did or didn't do to prevent someone else's actions. And with that expectation, I think the answer to your question is yes.

  2. ip,

    There is a lot of wisdom in your eloquent and thoughful response. I appreciate it.

    I did my best to keep my post from sounding flippant. "Are there worse things than being attacked?" is a question I've wrestled with for months - wrestled with honestly, I hope, because of the grave consequences of either answer: Yes or No. I was for the Iraq War before I was against it, and now I'm wondering about the real-world implications of my stance.

    Do you think that our response to Nine-Eleven has changed what it means to be American? Or protected it?

    Thanks again.

  3. One Salient (can I call you "One Salient"),

    Thanks for the link to your 2006 post. The results of that survey are shocking. Even more astounding is that quote from the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky:

    "I would argue that we cannot condone torture by codifying a list of exceptional situations in which techniques of torture might be legitimately used. At the same time, I would also argue that we cannot deny that there could exist circumstances in which such uses of torture might be made necessary."

    I would recommend our readers check out the link you posted above.

  4. I really liked John McCain's speech last night, but I was glad you brought this up today, John. Two things bothered me the most about what I saw last night: 9/11 references and the "USA! USA!" chants.

    The 9/11 references for the fear. The "USA!" chants for the obnoxious cliche. But as Mindy reminded me, this is what conventions are for.

  5. John,

    "Do you think that our response to Nine-Eleven has changed what it means to be American? Or protected it?"

    I think our response has changed what it means to be American, both to ourselves and the rest of the world. To the rest of the world, the America-as-the-world-police has morphed into something more sinister and thuggish. To Americans it is either a source of pride (think people who take the Team America theme song seriously) or a never ending apology to the rest of the world for our clumsy handling of our response to threats that have been been either non-existent (Iraq WMD) or are hard to chase and neutralize (Bin Laden and every version of Al Qaeda) that involve state and non-state actors.

    Still, it is a country of near limitless opportunity. I look at the world news and am truly grateful that our military is not coup-ing our leaders, that we have party upsets but our government remains stable, that our press biased or not, can fell a dishonest person (Detroit mayor). Americans have an expectation for a standard of living and stability that is evidence to me of how blessed we are to have this birthright of citizenship. Like the work of the soul, our democracy is a work in progress and always will be. What I hope is that we are never satisfied and hold ourselves accountable for our missteps and strive always to be better.

    I feel like there should be a flag waving behind me...my apologies for the gushing. Maybe it's the schmaltz of the conventions getting to me.

  6. From a friend, I got this e-mail today which speaks to Jordan's comment about the convention:

    "I just watched JM's big speech on the telly--were conventions filled with the lunatic fringe back in the day? Were folks with big giant hats yelling before the bell had a fat crack in it? Did Admas have to contend with weirdos covered in buttons with small paintings of VP's --like they had escaped from a colonial era TGI Fridays....?"

    It made me laugh out loud.

  7. I think any show of rampant nationalism makes me queasy, but the Republican National Convention makes me especially so. Here's why:

    Percentage-wise, Republicans have a claim on Christianity Democrats don't. For someone who doesn't follow Christ, I understand nationalism...your country may be the biggest thing you have to believe in. But I'd guess most of the people chanting in that room would claim to follow Jesus. And that pisses me off.

    You can be proud of your country, or your region or your city (I certainly have an affinity to the State of Oregon). But that pride should be severely tempered by the understanding of where your true allegiance lies. Severely.

  8. Jordan said:

    "But that pride should be severely tempered by the understanding of where your true allegiance lies. Severely."

    Couldn't agree more.