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Torture, Collective Bargaining and Getting Our Own House in Order

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My husband and my eighteen-year old son are heading up to Wisconsin tomorrow to participate in the protests. They want to stand up for collective bargaining at an historic moment in history. While I may worry about road conditions and the drive, at least I do not have to worry that they will be gunned down. I have much to be grateful for in this democracy, where we are able to disagree, and to stand up to one another without fearing for our lives.

I have been watching in wonder, hope and sometimes despair as people in the Middle East have stood up together for democracy. I can only imagine the fear of the mothers and fathers of the young protesters. They have no assurance that their beloved children will survive the protests. But these protesters are willing to challenge their governments so that future generations might live with the privileges we so often take fore granted.

It is easy to see brutality elsewhere and assume that such cruelty could not happen in a democracy like ours. But when people are frightened about losing their power, when they fear for their safety, they are capable of justifying cruel behavior they would never otherwise condone.

That is why I was moved in reading the words of an Ethics professor at Duke Divinity School, Dr. Amy Laura Hall, who is planning a conference about torture for students, clergy, people of conscience and people of faith, later this month.

"This is not an academic debate ... torture is always wrong, torture does not make 'us' safer," she said. "Torture dehumanizes both victim and perpetrator. And it ultimately renders the nation that practices it morally damaged, less secure, and less human than before."

When dictators and oppressors shoot on their own people, they think they are strong, but that kind of strength means nothing in God's eyes.

Let us pray for the liberation and flourishing of all people around the world. And before we judge other nations, let us look closely at ourselves. According to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, polls indicate that more than fifty percent of Americans now support the use of torture in some instances.

The United States has much to be grateful for and proud of, but no nation stands above God's judgment. At this time of uprising in the world, we would do well to attend to our own blind spots. Having seen the brutality in other countries, might we be ready to take on brutality in our own? As we champion the folks marching in the squares around the world, might we also champion the right to collective bargaining here at home?

In the book of Revelation, there is a beautiful and poetic line: "And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." We are all in this together. Not just one nation, but all the nations, part of the same tree of life.

I recall a verse from the beautiful hymn, "For the Healing of the Nations."

All that kills abundant living,
let it from the earth be banned:
pride of status, race or schooling,
dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice
may we hallow brief life's span.


As people of faith in this country observe uprisings around the world, let us be careful not to see ourselves as above the fray. Our nation is in need of healing too, from the protests in Wisconsin to the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

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