Dear All – I want to take this week to reflect on President Obama’s address to the “Muslim world” delivered on June 4.
After eight years of a complete lack of diplomacy, international law and human rights, President Obama faced a steep challenge in addressing the primary victims of U.S. foreign policy. I would like to honor the incredible gaps he tried to bridge from communities still shattered by 9/11 to communities currently shattered in the face of occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. As President Obama noted in his speech these are areas of historical as well as current anguish and require careful reflection and steady care.
I thank the President for what he said. I am relieved and heartened by the tone he struck and hopeful for the branch of collaboration he offered. If we turned a page eight years ago on 9/11 perhaps we have turned another page this past June 4th – a turn toward peace.
But for collaboration to flourish, for mistrust to ease, for anguish to end as the President hopes (and we all hope), we need to take a minute to examine what President Obama did not say.
He did not say that the war in Iraq was illegal and has killed over a million civilians and displaced more than 2 million more; he did not say that Palestinians have existed in one of the most brutal occupations of the past century-an occupation aided and abetted by U.S. military aid; and he did not say that the people of Afghanistan and now Pakistan have begged for the U.S. to leave – that its presence fuels the extremists, it does not defeat them.
In short he did not say what we have done, what we are responsible for, what we need to ask forgiveness for in the humblest of ways as a people – no strings attached – no hedging – just open hearts and hands.
I say this not as a critique of such an important and powerful speech, but as a gentle reminder to each of us: how do we create the peace and prosperity the President eloquently framed if we do not start with the truth? Simple, stark and uncomfortable, the United States has been a devastating force within her own borders and beyond for a long time – long before 9/11.
I think President Obama gave us a place to start – a place more hopeful than the one created by the Bush Presidency. But it is only a beginning and it will take each of us stretching and pushing the public discourse, policy and vision to really create what Obama laid out as a possibility in his speech.
So as the President said, “We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written:
The Holy Koran – “O mankind ! We have created you male and female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another!”
The Talmud – “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”
The Holy Bible – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called daughters and sons of God.”
We can do it – in love, in light, in community and a perfect opportunity to begin is the Peace Conference on August 1 in La Crosse – join peacemakers from the around world to learn how to open our hearts and hands toward a vision of shalom. In Peace, Liz
Peace Conference details http://www.franciscancommonventure.org/