Try Welcoming Constituents -- This is regarding Dan Richardson's excellent article, "Not Giving Peace a Chance," in the April 11 edition of The Inlander. I was present during most of the attempt to visit with Congressman Nethercutt, though for somewhat different reasons.
I'd been told he was a pleasant, affable man and thought it would be interesting to meet him -- since all I've ever received from him is bland form letters.
Also, I just learned from a bulletin published by the League of Conservation Voters that he is one of the two Washington representatives to have flat-out zero percent voting record during the past congressional session on environmental issues. "Doc" Hastings is the other. Even the Idaho delegation has an 8 percent rating. I was seeking an explanation to that and attempting to deliver my voter-reaction card to him in person.
I was dismayed to learn of his exceedingly busy schedule but decided to wait out for a personal meeting, since the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) members who were waiting there already seemed optimistic.
I found it astounding that Nethercutt found it necessary to have two uniformed Federal agents and a gigantic "goon" to tend to his office. The "goon" kept muttering "you're getting in my space (face?)" whenever anyone got too close to the passage to Nethercutt's inner-office entrance.
I was encouraged when the Camp Fire Girl was some 10 minutes late -- perhaps I could see Nethercutt in the meantime, as the PJALS people presented their letter.
But no. When Nethercutt swept into his office flanked by two other Federal agents, I was appalled by his brusque, uncivil refusal to listen to PJALS' spokesman. In all my visits to congressional offices over the years, I have never witnessed such rude, callous behavior on the part of an elected official. Perhaps Nethercutt was having a bad day? But what explanation is there for engaging five guards, other than paranoia?
As it got closer to 5 pm, I decided I did not want my first encounter with the congressman to result from being arrested, so I left. In my estimation, Nethercutt is not worth my being subjected to the threat of arrest.
Outside the courthouse, I encountered a cameraman from KXLY-TV who had waited patiently for over a half-hour having been denied entry because of having his camera, as he was hoping to cover the PJALS encounter. A KHQ-TV reporter waited until his 5 pm deadline and then left.
My confidence in our democracy has been considerably shaken by this event. I am appalled by the uncivil behavior of Congressman Nethercutt. Had he given me or the PJALS group two or three minutes, he would might have made a far different impression on both his PJALS constituents and me. If the guards and "goon" in his office were meant to be intimidating, they certainly succeeded with this constituent. It is a sad day for our democracy when TV coverage of a public affair is denied and an attempted visit to an elected official results in the threat of arrest. Perhaps this was an isolated incident -- or is this symptomatic to something worse happening to our civil liberties? I thank The Inlander for its coverage of this incident.
Charles P. Fisk
Terrorists are the Problem -- Raja Tanas's recent opinion essay (4/25/02) on the "context" of the Mideast conflict deserves a response, lest readers be misled by his revisionist approach and your enhancement of his "stature" in the short tag (professor; extensive research; raised in a Christian home in the Holy Land) at the end of his article.
The problem in the region is not Israel, but Arab-based terrorism, misguided hatred directed against the West and Jews, myopic dictatorial leadership, lack of refugee assimilation and a constant Arabic blame for their misfortune on others.
Instead of revising history to pity the Palestinians, Tanas and Arabists should concentrate on stopping the violence and martyrdom of their own people. They should instead suggest a social/political/economic agenda for Palestinians in the land- and oil-rich territories of the region or in TransJordan, as the UN decreed in 1947. Furthermore, a Palestinian state was never proposed when Egypt and Jordan established the camps in the West Bank and Gaza; it only became a political "cause" to justify terrorism in recent years.
Peace will only come to the region when the Arab League takes care of its own people, rather than using them as pawns to destroy Israel. This does not mean financial incentives for and idolization of suicide bombers who attack civilians.
In recognition of your writer's background, I'll match his credentials: WSU and U. of Illinois faculty member, extensive personal experiences with Middle Easterners and born/raised in a Jewish home in Israel (the Holy Land).
9/11 Not Our Fault -- Doubtless, I'm not as talented a writer or musician as is Marco Zonka, who wrote the commentary in your April 18 edition, "Undeclared War," but I believe I can read well enough to take exception to some points he made in his article. Perhaps my 26 years in 44 other nations may qualify me to express an informed opinion, too.
Though I wish he'd been a bit more explicit, I think I understand Zonka's article well enough to judge that he suspects that we Americans brought 9/11 down upon ourselves, due to our failure to understand the natural reaction of the oppressed many to the predatory manners of the corporate few.
While I accept that such oppression by multinational corporations does exist, I also believe that I have examined the chain of beneficiaries (and the attackers) enough to know that the U.S. Government does not drive such oppression, and that the attackers themselves are motivated by their own wish to oppress.
I think that the results of the campaign in Afghanistan have demonstrated that to the satisfaction of most Afghans, if no one else. It would seem that only a very small minority of Afghans would consider our campaign to be a war of terrorism.
Perhaps it would have been best had the U.S. Congress (in lieu of the President) declared war on terrorism. But perhaps there is a belief that the protocol only permits the declaration of war against sovereign nations?
Philip J. Mulligan
Science Impacts Religion -- Great religion issue you put out on April 11 ("Talking About God"). Timely, well-written, varied. Everything journalism should be. Nice work.
Since you asked for it from readers, I would like to only add my own personal opinion.
I may have missed it once, but I don't think I ever saw the word "science." Harvey Cox came closest to articulating what I hope to communicate below; he called it "modernism." But because he lumped in consumerism and capitalism, I want to be specific about what I think are some of the consequences of scientific thinking on how we think about religion.
As any cultural trait -- useful and significant or not -- the ideas of a religion come from someplace in time. Without knowledge of history and the events surrounding the past, we can be captivated by views and activities that, due to different circumstances, no longer make any sense.
I suggest that a great many contemporary modes of faith reflect a time where the need for certainty was found in compelling stories, prior to the discoveries of modern science. We have numerous compelling stories now, but they are based more on secular issues and scientific descriptions rather than those of faith. This is in part due to the continual expansion of scientific thinking.
Those with belief systems depending upon faith within religious institutions could say that science has undermined their beliefs. They have a very real point. But the damage, begun hundreds of years ago, has been done, and by very well-intentioned people. For better or for worse, we have eradicated the world of conventional past spiritual demons and, perhaps, the reasons for thinking they were there.
They have been replaced, of course, and problems have been compounded endlessly. We are now in extraordinarily serious times. The achievements of scientific thinking are very often the source of our woes just as much as they provide us our conveniences and understanding of the world. But for better or worse, we do not live in times of illiteracy, superstition-driven cultures and magical understandings of the processes of nature.
There is no simple path through these questions and, again, I appreciated your articles and general presentation of the issue. It was thoughtful and informative. Faith, an extremely complex emotion rooted in a lifetime of experiences, is vital for a human soul to deal with his or her mortality. At the same time, throughout history, the battles of faiths have taken the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Perhaps we should just lighten up on the importance of the tags we place on what individuals hold highest.
Honor and respect the mystery of all life. And just keep trying to solve the many problems we all face while humbly admitting we somehow keep causing the worst of them.
Talking About Wisdom -- As often happens, The Inlander's April 11 edition, "Talking About God," raised interesting and important issues that we don't hear enough about in other commercial media. But, after that brief note of real appreciation, I want to point out some of the ways that the issue served mainly to perpetuate the way people generally dwell on the wrong subjects when they talk about religion and spirituality. The usual topics were touched upon, but the most important question of life wasn't even broached.
First, in the discussions no distinction was made between religion and spirituality. This is a very common mistake, but it always muddles the discussion. There was no attempt to point out that spirituality doesn't necessarily have anything to do with religion.
Religions generally are about dogma, ritual, an ethical code, sacred texts and so on. Spirituality has many definitions, but generally has to do with a person's quest to explore the deeper meanings, lessons, harmonies, and connections of life. And while religions in varying degrees include some spiritual practice, a person's spiritual journey doesn't necessarily include religion at all.
Likewise, it needs to be said that another problem with the issue was the confusion about the concept of God. In one piece the statement "the clash of all these ideas -- all in the name of God..." is misleading. Many religions are not theistic at all, including one of the large ones highlighted -- Buddhism. And a very large percentage of folks who consider themselves profoundly dedicated to spiritual development do not use the God concept either.
While the various articles touched upon some of the usual topics, they never really ask what should be the central question for all of us. What's missing is a discussion of wisdom. Whether we consider ourselves to be religious or spiritual, the overriding question in each person's life is really: where's the wisdom? Or, put differently, after thousands of years of religious, spiritual and personal growth, what have we really learned about how to best to live our lives? That's what wisdom is about. It's a two-part deal: making good decisions about life and following the soundest course of action.
We have precious little time living out our part in the miraculous circle of life, so what can be more important than trying to do the very best possible job of living that we can? That's what our focus should be, and that's where these discussions of religion and spirituality should lead.