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Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
March 3rd, 2003

Speaking His Peace

A Baptist pastor shares his perspective on the re-election from Brazil

 
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To the Editors of BustedHalo:

Like most people around the world, I saw the re-election of George W. Bush to the presidency of the United States as very sad news. It represents the continuation of an administration that does not have any respect for the international community, not to mention any voice of dissent among its own people.

I came to the U.S. as a student in 1998, during the Clinton years, and really liked the environment that I found in your country at the time. The economy was doing well, people took human and civil rights more seriously, and they had the right to dissent. In other words, American democracy had the moral authority to inspire other countries around the globe, and even to challenge them, when they violated the rights of their fellow citizens.

I could feel a rapid change of mentality taking place as soon as President Bush came to power. His cowboy discourse against China just few weeks after his inauguration, the imperialistic way he tried to impose the FTAA on the Latin America countries and other attitudes of his showed me very early that the world would have problems with this president.

The terrible
attacks of September 11, 2001 just gave this administration what they needed to develop a kind of government based on fear. I confess that the reactions of the U.S., led by its president, and supported by the Religious Right, to the attacks were extremely disappointing to me. I was just 50 miles away from the WTC when it was attacked, and was as strongly impacted by what I was seeing on TV as anybody else. But, as I saw those terrible scenes, I developed the illusion in my mind that this event would lead this powerful nation to an exercise of self-analysis and self-criticism that could make this nation, and its democratic heritage, even greater afterwards, not letting that those lives taken by that attack be lost in vain.

Unfortunately, however, the kind of introspection I thought would happen never took place. We all know the story. A kind of irrational fear began to dominate the country, and the Bush administration quickly discovered that the longer they kept that fear in the air, the easier it would be for them to control the people. Ever since, they have been playing with the fear of their fellow citizens, and unfortunately, most American citizens have trusted them so much for their own security that they have even stopped thinking for themselves. They have uncritically turned their destiny over to the hands of this administration, and have become an easy object of manipulation. They have handed over to this administration their right to determine the things that they should be concerned with and those which they should not.

When a people lose their capacity to be self-critical, and when they start electing their presidents out of fear, a very important part of their lives is being eroded, and their future cannot be bright.

That is the only way for me to understand, for example, the fact that in an electoral campaign of such importance to this country nobody ever discussed the loss of more than 100,000 innocent lives in the invasion of Iraq. Nobody commented on the systematic use of torture as an acceptable method to extract information from enemy combatants. Little was said about the violation of human and civil rights that the Patriotic Act has promoted, especially for some ethnic minorities. The same can be said about the juridical anomaly called Guantanamo. These things, like many others less visible but as important, seemed not to be of any value for the American people during this election campaign. The Democratic candidate did not talk about them because his advisors told him that people did not care about them.

In light of all these things, I have come to the conclusion that the re-election of George W. Bush represents also the continuation of a dangerous moral erosion of the United States. Moral values were the reason used by many people to justify voting for Bush. How can such a moral people not be concerned with the depreciation of life and human dignity? The only thing that I can think is that morality in the United States has been reduced to what some people call the three G’s–God, Guns and Gays.

People seem to care only about external signs of religiosity, about their right to own or buy a gun, and about preventing homosexuals from having their civil rights respected. They have lost the capacity to think about many other violations of human and civil rights that are certainly abomination before God. What about the unemployed, the needy, those millions without health care, the multitude of immigrants who are either non-citizens, semi-slave workers, or second-class citizens, and those living and dying of hunger in Latin America–which has been referred to by someone in the White House as just being “our backyard”, which should be watched because of these dangerous left-wing presidents being elected there. What about the many innocent children and women who are dying in Iraq because of a war based on a lie?

I am a religious person, a Baptist minister. But I think that one of the greatest dangers in the United States–brainwashing millions in your country–is a misinterpretation of the Christian faith called Christian fundamentalism (disguised under the adjective Evangelical), which is as dangerous as the religious fundamentalism (a distortion of Islam) that guides Bin-Laden and his followers.

When a people lose their capacity to be self-critical, and when they start electing their presidents out of fear, a very important part of their lives is being eroded, and their future cannot be bright. I am concerned with the future of the United States, and with the future of the world. But I am not disheartened. I believe in the goodness that has built your great country, and its people. And I believe that the young generation, who has shown its moral commitment by coming out to vote mostly for John Kerry, can continue to resist the fascist mindset that predominates in the Bush administration. I hope that you will continue to show that you care about peace, about justice, and about love. That you are the heirs of the democratic spirit that was passed down on to you by the founders of your country, and that the world still can look up to you and trust the American people and their leaders as moral exemplars for a democratic world.

I am a religious person, a Baptist minister. But I think that one of the greatest dangers in the United States–brainwashing millions in your country–is a misinterpretation of the Christian faith called Christian fundamentalism (disguised under the adjective Evangelical), which is as dangerous as the religious fundamentalism (a distortion of Islam) that guides Bin-Laden and his followers. Faith in a loving and just God should lead us to change our moral values, from a self-centered life to a life of concern with others, from tribal loyalties–be them religious, nationalist, or ideological loyalties–to more universal loyalties, from intolerance to tolerance and respect for difference, and from fear and defensiveness to hope.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest Americans of all time has taught us all that faith in such a God should lead us to be concerned with justice anywhere in the world, because, as he said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That is what inspires me–a Brazilian guy–to be so concerned with the injustices that are taking place in the United States and around the globe.

I apologize if my comments seem overly harsh. I needed to let the feelings that fill my heart on this sad day out. I thank you very much for opportunity to do this.

My best wishes to you,

Raimundo Barreto

 
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The Author : Raimundo Barreto

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