A Dialogue for Peace and Justice

November 10, 2001

Summaries of Table Dialogues

A list of the peace and justice questions that facilitators used to guide the table dialogues is available.

Table ?
We first talked about the role of the United Nations (UN) in “fighting” terrorism. Some felt that the UN is a moot point these days, but others felt that the concept of the UN and international law is still valid, even if the US does not currently hold it in high regard. We did agree that the US tends to shun the UN because it does not want to be subject to other nations’ concerns.

Someone said that we should emphasize prevention of terrorism, rather than only fighting it. The next question was how do we prevent terrorism. We recognized the link between US foreign policy and terrorism. In fact, most agreed that the US has sponsored its share of terrorism via the support of foreign dictatorships, as well as the overthrowing of legitimate foreign governments.

The next focus was on why our foreign policy has been this way. Again we all agreed that the consumption by the US of the world’s resources was a major problem in promoting world peace. Our excessive consumption of gasoline, for example, forces us to be preoccupied with ensuring that our oil supplies (foreign and domestic) are secure. Thus, war becomes a necessity in order to preserve for us all the resources needed to feed our consumptive habit.

Some felt that the need to reduce consumption would primarily affect foreign policy, such as providing more aid to foreign countries for development of their own resources. Most felt that personal sacrifice was necessary, that we all should reduce our need for gasoline, and other commodities. Concern was expressed that we would not want to become poor, but we seemed willing to ratchet down our consumerism if that would promote world peace.

Would such reduction cause a recession or worse? A couple of people felt that a recession would effect only the wealthiest, that the poor would not really notice the effect of a recession. We did admit that if everyone did reduce their consumption, there would be job loss, and the total effect on the economy would be difficult to predict. Many said they’d be willing to take some chances to pursue this path.

We also agreed that patriotism seems out of place, as national borders are diminishing. As long as we see the world in “us vs them” terms, we will propagate the seeds of conflict, and wars. We need to see the entire world as one people, and show concern for the welfare of all peoples, not just our own.

Table 1
1. The creation of a "you're either with us or against us" mentality leaves no room for a middle ground; it also marginalizes the democratic voices of dissent, and reduces the ground for reconciliation or understanding of opposing views. The creation of further division and even hatred between people in this country is not contributing to a constructive dialogue in which common ground is sought - leading to a serious discussion of the most effective way to deal with the situation, without assuming it means a nonviolent response is ineffective.

2. What role has self-interest and selfishness played in bringing about our current human dilemmas - together with a fundamental sense of division and separateness at the individual, ethnic, religious and national levels? Krishnamurti and others argue that unless we change our basic way of thinking, the root cause of violence, we will never achieve a peaceful world.

3. Short-term thinking and memory means that we neither appreciate the longer term causes of the present situation nor the long term consequences of our current actions. - we need to educate ourselves to thinking more broadly and over the longer term.

4. How can we harness the energy released by the events of Sept I I for peaceful ends? This is an unprecedented moment in which we could learn that we must act as a global community or ultimately destroy all that this country proudly advocates - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - for all the human family.

Table 2
We agreed that the idea of self-questioning, raised by Donna Hicks, is a necessary and pivotal step in action, especially action toward peaceful solutions. Self-questioning is not a sign of non-action.

Most media is preempting pacifist viewpoints and thus withholding information from the public. Such information is preventing people from doing the work of self-questioning, forming thoughtful opinions, and creating valuable solutions.

Table 3
The 8 people consisted of two quakers, one Ethical Culturist, three liberal Christian church members, and two unaffiliated progressives.

All said their previous views had been unchanged by the speakers. All were still against the bombing of Afghanistan. The war was characterized as a "cathartic" exercise that would be counterproductive, as it would neither decrease terrorism or lead to the capture of those responsible for Sept. 11th. A suggestion was made that we should be allowing Muslims to set the agenda, instead of deciding that we know what's best for the region. Several people spoke against U.S. arrogance and isolationism. It was suggested that the U.S.'s political isolation is a result of its economic isolation, because our wish to become and remain richest as a country and as individuals requires that others be oppressed. It was also suggested that we should be spending our money on massive humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and the region, both to decrease anti-American sentiment and to keep a humanitarian crisis from occurring.

The argument by one of the speakers that retaliatory bombing had "worked" in Libya was rejected, because the terrorists allegedly responsible for Sept. 11th are spread throughout many countries, and therefore attacks against (or even the removal of) one or two governments will not affect them very much.

We discussed what sacrifices America could make for peace rather than for war. The two main points were 1) that conservation and alternative energy were key, and 2) that we should be prepared to suffer further terrorist attacks. It was pointed out that we are already warned against further terrorist attacks due to the war, so this would not be specifically a peace sacrifice.

Table 5
Palestine-Israel Conflict - The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is inequitable. The US promised a homeland for the Palestinians in 1990 when seeking support for the Gulf War. That promise was not kept. Now the US is again promising a Palestinian homeland in exchange for support of the conflict in Afghanistan. Will we break our word again? US is clearing showing favoritism to Israel.

US Foreign Policy - US foreign policy does not seem to try and accommodate the views of all Americans. The apparent policy makes some of us angry and frustrated by our government’s actions. The US is fickle, inequitable and wages war with both munitions and economics.

USA Challenges to fair world justice - We have institutional ignorance and prejudice. We tend to not care for or fully appreciate the value of cultures that are not like our own. It is harder for the US to sympathize with peoples who do not look like us.

US Peace Movement - Are we really for peace or are we really just staying out of harm’s way? What are we willing to give up for peace? Are we willing to die for it? Do we need a Peace Academy funded similarly to the military academies? Are Americans willing to consume less, live more modestly and own fewer things? This means smaller and fewer cars, smaller homes, fewer private boats and airplanes. Can we give up the materialism which for so long seems to be the way we have kept score?

Violence - Is there ever a place for violence? If so, would it still be appropriate if members of my immediate family were to become collateral damage? Can violence ever be used as a tool to prevent more violence? Is it OK to “kill just one more person?” Is violence glorified in the USA-movies, capital punishment, boxing, football, hockey, and television? Does this change the point from which we make moral decisions?

Table 6
The events of September 11 gave our country an opportunity to further a pacifist cause. However, it seems like we have not used this opportunity adequately. It is really difficult to know what to do in a situation like this; what is right. What is a truly good alternative to military action in this case? All the rhetoric coming from Bush and other governmental officials, may have been necessary, but it is difficult to discern the true motives of the US. Could war ever really eradicate "bad guys"? We are alienating the international community, rather than building a real coalition toward world peace-this may generate more anti-American sentiments. We need to address any of several root problems, including greater social and economic inequity and the globalism that proliferates this inequity, leading to greater instability and terrorism. Why couldn't we have met the two demands of Bin Laden: recognizing Palestine and stopping sanctions on Iraq? We need more discussions about how to prevent this from happening again!!

Table 14
Connect with people to respond with peace
Listen and talk about the situation
Appreciated different perspectives
World peace begins with individual inner peace and calmness.
Proper diet helps (veg)
Want to learn
People generally conflicted or confused - wanted to hear alternative views
Violent response may be appropiate
We need clear objectives, a vision that embraces the world, an action plan for peace
US should provide economic aid and development.
Our actions have ripple effect around the world. Are we doing right by the world?

A very potent meme: The war view is naive. It is not about 911! Was already planned and 911 was an excuse. It is about oil, land, power. (Same idea was presented by James Coley, 11/11.) It also lets government pass laws that abridge our rights.

Is the US now an imperial power, extending its control through force, as did Germany (under Kaiser, Bismark, Hitler)?

Note from Chris Kaman: reference to James Coley was to his talk on "Patriotism" at the NC Society for Ethical Culture on 10/28. He was quoting an idea put forth by Stan Goff.
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