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Whether illuminating the narratives that have been used to legitimate the war on terror, reflecting on the power of American consumer culture to transform the attack sites into patriotic tourist attractions, or insisting that to be a Christian is to be a pacifist, these essays refuse easy answers. They consider why the Middle East harbors a deep-seated hatred for the United States. They argue that the U.S. drive to win the cold war made the nation more like its enemies, leading the government to support ruthless anti-Communist tyrants such as Mobutu, Suharto, and Pinochet. They urge Americans away from the pitfall of national self-righteousness toward an active peaceableness—an alert, informed, practiced state of being—deeply contrary to both passivity and war. Above all, the essays assembled in Dissent from the Homeland are a powerful entreaty for thought, analysis, and understanding. Originally published as a special issue of the journal South Atlantic Quarterly, Dissent from the Homeland has been expanded to include new essays as well as a new introduction and postscript.
Contributors. Srinivas Aravamudan, Michael J. Baxter, Jean Baudrillard, Robert N. Bellah, Daniel Berrigan, Wendell Berry, Vincent J. Cornell, David James Duncan, Stanley Hauerwas, Fredric Jameson, Frank Lentricchia, Catherine Lutz, Jody McAuliffe, John Milbank, Peter Ochs, Donald E. Pease, Anne R. Slifkin, Rowan Williams, Susan Willis, Slavoj Zizek
The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.-George Orwell, 1984
Intolerance of political dissent in the United States at the present time makes it necessary to say, before we exercise our right to work against the grain, that we, also, abominate the slaughter of the innocent, even as we find it unacceptably childish that Americans refuse to take any responsibility for September 11; unacceptably childish because the Americans in question are not (presumably) children.
Two weeks after the events of September 11, 2001, The New Yorker published a series of brief responses, including one by Susan Sontag, which began this way:
The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outrageous deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?
Sontag went on to suggest that it requires no "courage" to kill with missiles and bombs from high in the sky, beyond the reach of the pathetic air defenses of the Taliban; that, in any case, "courage" is a morally neutral term, one that might reasonably be applied to the intrepid mass murderers of September 11.
It did not matter that Sontag said what most Americans have long believed: that politicians and media commentators speak drivel and lies, because that is their natural mode; that politicians and media commentators routinely infantilize us; that the United States is the world's one superpower-a truth we hold to be self-evident, so why do we proclaim it? No matter-Sontag said the unsayable when she wrote that the attacks were the result of specific American alliances and actions. So what kind of person is Susan Sontag, really, if she can say, in one breath, that the attackers did a monstrous thing and that the American government has done, and does, monstrous things too? She's a clear-eyed adult who rejects the widely held belief in this country that we represent Good, that God is on our side.
In so many words, Sontag said that the United States had, in the pursuit of its happiness, given unspeakable pain. For this she could not be forgiven. Vilification swiftly followed. The stalwart New York intellectual was savaged, especially in New York, and not by a few intellectuals-in New York, where so many seem to believe that their city had become the most grievous victim in modern history.
Now, more than two years later, Bush has cleverly turned the American public's attention to that supposed menace to American life, Saddam Hussein, when it is clearer than ever that a war on terrorism cannot be won and that whenever it is the will of Al Qaeda to do terror its will likely will be done. Unlike Al Qaeda, Iraq can be invaded and overwhelmed, and Saddam decapitated. But where is the evidence that Saddam is connected with bin Laden and that he-like Kim Jong Il of North Korea-had the means to deliver and detonate weapons of mass destruction in the United States? Bush's claims to have had evidence are empty because he has no evidence. The ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction anywhere on this globe at any time our so-called interests are threatened belongs to the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, and the United States and Israel have announced policies of preemption. If you are not an Israeli, a Brit, or an American-that is to say, if you are among the majority billions of this planet-you may well think that the United States, Great Britain, and Israel represent the axis of evil. Thanks to the lies of Bush and his lap dogs in the media, who were hot for war, the great majority of Americans now believe the double absurdity that Iraq was involved with September 11 and that Iraq represented a threat to the U.S. mainland.
A German political official was forced to resign for saying that Bush's strategies were in the mode of Hitler's; that the manufacturing of the Iraq menace and its consequent hysteria are intended to sustain the Republican regime and to divert American attention from a dying economy and the criminal corporate CEOs, those charged and those yet to be found out, so long in bed with Bush and Cheney, who have already done, and will continue to do, far more damage to American life than Al Qaeda will ever do.
In the firebombing of sixteen square miles of central Tokyo; in the firebombing of Dresden; in the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States of America attacked targets of no military significance and slaughtered several hundreds of thousands of civilians. Three thousand on September 11 is an obscenity, but one of a much lower order. In view of these criminal facts of American history, the largest obscenity of all is the howl of American self-pity in the wake of September 11.
The range of work collected in this volume includes reflection on the political, social, aesthetic, theological, and ethical aspects of culture. This is a book about patriotism; justice; revenge; our relationships with Israel, Muslims, and Islam; American history and symbology; art and terror; and pacifism. All of the essays are united in the belief that America is threatened by the most powerful enemy in its history, the administration of George W. Bush.
As troubling as the failure of American secular intellectuals (though not those collected here) to intervene and question the war on terrorism is, this war has also seen the capitulation of church and synagogue to the resurgence of American patriotism and nationalism. Some-for example, the editors of First Things-have gone so far as to suggest that the resurgence of religious faith in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, may be the start of a religious awakening. God and country are back. Again, however, the Bush administration wants it both ways. They want America to be "religious," but they want to make clear that this is not a "religious war." With extraordinary speed George Bush has become a scholar of Islam, assuring us that Islam is a tradition of peace. We find it curious, given Christianity's history, he does not find it necessary to assure us that Christianity is a tradition of peace.
We hope, therefore, the readers of this book may find the nonapologetic theological essays refreshing or, at least, different. It is no secret that many secular intellectuals have no time for serious theological work. Many assume that if everyone is well enough educated and has more money than they need, no one will need God. Accordingly the modern university has largely failed to help students appreciate those determinative religious convictions that shape the lives of the majority of the world's peoples. It will be clear that the theologians and religious scholars whose essays appear in this collection have no use for apologetic strategies designed to reassure those on the right or the left that when all is said and done, religious faith is not all that dangerous.
Religious faith is dangerous. Jew, Muslim, and Christian know that there is much worth dying for. Faiths constituted by convictions worth dying for can also become faiths worth killing for. So questions of life and death are at the heart of any religious faith worth having. But it is also the case that only a religious faith for which it is worth dying will have the resources to challenge idolatries justified by the presumption that America is blessed by God in a manner unlike other nations. "God Bless America" is not a hymn any Christian can or should sing. At least it is not a hymn any Christian can or should sing unless it is understood that God's blessing incurs God's judgment.
This is but a reminder that the babble unleashed by September 11, 2001, cannot be challenged on its own terms. Rather we must find the linguistic resources in communities that have found ways prior to September 11, 2001, not to be seduced by the false speech that is always our temptation. We quite literally, therefore, offer these essays as an "offering," and hope that they may help us begin to speak truthfully against the lies that can so easily constitute our lives.
When the towers fell a conundrum eased; Shall these inherit the earth from eternity, all debts amortised? Gravity was ungracious, a lateral blow abetted, made an end. They fell like Lucifer, star of morning, our star attraction, our access. Nonetheless, a conundrum; Did God approve, did they prosper us? The towers fell, money amortised in pockets of the fallen, once for all. Why did they fall, what law violated? Did Mammon mortise the money that raised them high, Mammon anchoring the towers in cloud, highbrow neighbors of gated heaven and God? "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great ... they see the smoke arise as she burns ..." We made pilgrimage there. Confusion of tongues. Some cried vengeance. Others paced slow, pondering -this or that of humans drawn forth, dismembered- a last day; Babylon remembered.
Excerpted from Dissent from the homeland by Stanley Hauerwas Excerpted by permission.
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|Introductory Notes from the Editor||3|
|Introductory Notes from the Editor||7|
|End of War||25|
|Thoughts in the Presence of Fear||37|
|The Wars Less Known||43|
|The Dialectics of Disaster||55|
|Sovereignty, Empire, Capital, and Terror||63|
|A Muslim to Muslims: Reflections after September 11||83|
|Dispelling the "We" Fallacy from the Body of Christ: The Task of Catholics in a Time of War||107|
|Welcome to the Desert of the Real!||131|
|September 11 and the Children of Abraham||137|
|L'Esprit du Terrorisme||149|
|Our Good Fortune||163|
|John Walker Lindh||173|
|September 11, 2001: A Pacifist Response||181|
|Ground Zero; or, The Implosion of Church and State||195|
|Afterword: From Virgin Land to Ground Zero||205|