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Fact-Finding Missions

by Thomas Durkin

“Our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness. Am I damning my native land? No; for I, too, share these faults of character!” -from Black Boy by Richard Wright (1944).

In February, the Milwaukee community welcomed a distinguished guest, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man of great integrity who has worked tirelessly in the name of justice for people throughout the world. Archbishop Tutu, in town to accept an honorary award from Marquette University, spoke before a standing room only crowd at Gesu Church. And, as expected, Tutu did not shy away from addressing the possibility of war. Tutu’s message about our individual role in the current situation was quite simple: “We may not all accomplish spectacular achievements but something will go missing that is irreplaceable if…our peculiar contribution were to go missing.” In Tutu’s view, each of us has a moral obligation to express our views. But what is our ‘peculiar contribution’? In talking with people on both sides of the fence, I can only express amazement at the indifference and callousness that I have encountered. It seems that our ‘peculiar contribution’ revolves around our ability to educate ourselves on this issue. Tutu sensed this and asked the question, “How could we contemplate so nonchalantly, as if we were ordering breakfast, the prospect of visiting devastation and death on…others?” This becomes an even more difficult question once we move beyond viewing this issue as something that is right versus wrong or good versus evil. Obviously, the media helps to create this idea with programs entitled, “The Road to Baghdad” and “Showdown with Saddam,” but each of us must be held accountable and look beyond these media creations. After all, we are not dealing with some game or a trip to the Final Four. In discussing the possibility of war, I am just as troubled when someone says that “I just don’t like war” as I am by a statement made by one acquaintance that “we should turn Iraq into a parking lot.” And I am not above this, for I am often upset with my own lack of awareness. We, as Americans, have so much information available to us, information that many people in this world would literally die for and we have a responsibility to stay informed. Maybe the simple solution — in the short term — is to forcefully remove Saddam Hussein from power. I’m not sure. To be honest, I have not heard very good arguments for OR against the war from many people I have met and have talked. It seems many of us have decided it is not worth investing our precious time in knowing and learning more. But, then again, maybe Richard Wright knew what he was talking about. Maybe America “hugs the easy way” and then consoles itself by hiding “its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.” Let’s hope for our sake, and the sake of future generations, that we can follow the advice of Archbishop Tutu and become both more aware and vocal about “what we are contemplating doing to one another.” Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003

No Future Without Forgiveness No Future Without Forgiveness

No Future Without Forgiveness