Fighting for Peace Will Win the War on Terror

by David and Shadra Bruce

As we approach the date that marks ten years since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, we are frequently reminded of the events surrounding the attacks.  The images that were dispatched on news stations for days and weeks afterward are once again being reposted and replayed on news stations and across the Internet.  We are reminded once again of that which many of us in all likelihood have tried to forget or have at least tucked away safely in the recesses of our unconsciousness.  Yet if anything contributes to future attacks on our country, it is this casual ability to escape reality that dooms us to imminent tragedy.

We can help ourselves prevent another similar disaster by remembering that the world in which we live is one that is not just a single vision but a blend of many diverse opinions and visions of what life means. Embracing all of these visions may not be the answer, but making an attempt to accept them might be the only way to truly heal from – and prevent a recurrence of – the events of September 11, 2001.  This does not at all imply that we must forgive and forget, but in order to truly heal from within, we must let go of hate for the benefit of ourselves as individuals.  Remembering does not mean we must revenge.

We heal inside and benefit from the understanding that extremism – in the name of any faith – corrupts the foundation and the chief intent of a belief structure.  Instead of waging war against other cultures and other faiths, determining by force who is right and who is wrong, we can opt to wage a war of peace that allows for the possibility that all of us may be right, that each of our visions demonstrates a measure of truth.

We do not profess to personally know what the truth is, if indeed there is one truth. Nor can we begin to imagine the horror of the events portrayed on the television, when compared with the horror which was truly experienced by those that survived the attacks.  We have felt the fear and the anger that most (if not all) Americans felt at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  We will not pretend to put ourselves in their shoes.  Few of us will realize or even imagine what they suffered through to survive.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have become a platform for others in their bid for political office. Yet the events of 9/11 and those victims and survivors of that tragedy are not the foundation for political gain. These events are not indicative of what any one official did or did not do to prevent the attacks or to facilitate recovery. The tragedy of 9/11 is symbolic of our perception of the world and our place in the global community.

While we mourn the dead, we must also take the time to cherish the living and to recognize the impact these events had on those who did not perish in the attacks.  So much time and energy is forfeited for those who are lost to us.  We as a people are not altruistic.  We do not grieve for their loss; we grieve for our own.  Some of us grieve because we were witness to the tragedy and must repeatedly relive the horrific events in our consciousness.

The story of Artie Van Why represents the tragedy that survivors endure as a result of the attacks of 9/11/2001.  Those who lost their lives are free; those that survived remain victims of terror.  Perhaps we can better serve the memory of those people who lost their lives by saving those who lived through the tragedy.  Perhaps we can help heal ourselves in this way, allowing the anger and sorrow to find expression in positive ways.

Rather than pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by seeking vengeance and taking yet more lives, we can pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 by changing how we live today, by realizing the importance of living for today and for our future, as opposed to living in yesterday.

We tend to do that when we mourn: live in yesterday. Absolutely, we must remember those we have lost; we should not sacrifice today, however, in that remembrance, for sacrifice has already been made.

We cannot defeat terrorism with war and counter-terrorism, with anger and vengeance, with politics and gesturing. We must learn to look ahead with wisdom while cherishing the memories of the souls who have passed away and have moved on. We must seek peaceful coexistence and acceptance. Only in this way can we defeat terrorism.

For those that did not survive the attacks on 9/11, may they rest in peace;

for those that did survive, may we all find a way to live in peace.

Family Values Are Private, Not Political

by David T. Bruce

familyWe hear so much discussion regarding the sanctity of the family unit and the importance of family values.  With a presidential election soon to come, the rhetoric surrounding the sanctity and legitimacy of same-sex marriages will be talked about more so.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines family as “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.”  In this sense, a family can be what we typically envision, in which a man and a woman marry, raise children, and make a life for themselves.  Businesses, schools, and communities may also be considered families.

As a music lover and a fan of many bands, I read and hear arguments that any given band is no longer the band it once was without a certain singer or without all founding members on board.  This doesn’t seem quite fair.  The band may be different following personnel changes, influenced by the new member’s inspiration and talent, but the name carries on nonetheless.  Similarly, the family unit can morph and develop over time.

Family names carry on with the birth of a baby.  Parents are divorced.  A family member moves way or passes away.  The family unit changes, yet the family name carries on.  This concept of the family is not necessarily difficult for us to grasp.  If a family can be blended, changing over time, then can our definition of the family and of marriage change as well?

Granted, much of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage is faith-based.  Presenting statistics is not necessary, however, when we begin to recollect in respect to how many times we have read of or heard of domestic crimes that occur within the traditional family unit.  Family values are not inherent to a marriage solely between a man and a woman, and the sanctity of the family unit is tarnished in the light of violent crimes within the family.

With these ideas in mind, I struggle to understand why same-sex marriages must be the platform of anyone’s political campaign.  With over 14 million Americans unemployed, over 69 million Americans on Medicaid, and a record 44 million Americans on food stamps, we have more to be concerned with in this country than two people falling in love, regardless of the genders of the couple.  A 2009 analysis published in the New York Times illustrated that the approval of same-sex marriage would improve the economy in New York City and New York State.  The same may be said for other states.

If our goal is to create a family unit with positive family values, then perhaps we need to reflect on our individual values that compel us to fear or hate two people because their vision of family skews our preconceptions.  A family can have value and realize love whether the family is guided by a mom and a dad, a mom and a mom, or a dad and a dad.  We need to put our resources and our energies to better use this election season.

In the War Against Taxes, Your Neighbor Is Not Your Enemy

by David Bruce

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Source: Adbusters

Ever-embroiled in debate, members of Congress are now in dispute over how to avoid financial default.  Most of us who live in the United States and work for a living to support ourselves and our families have some idea how to balance our budget and how to avoid financial distress.  Our elected representatives, however, show little sign of fiscal competence or moral demeanor, as they publicly and shamelessly deliberate on the best approach for avoiding a situation that will largely affect the elderly and disabled citizens of our country.  Additionally, should our government default, we more-than-likely would endure increased interest rates, and government employees would suffer delays in pay.  Regardless of income-level, individual taxpayers would be adversely affected.  Conversely, our government and largest corporations would continue operating in such a way that they would benefit to some degree, regardless of the political or economic fallout.

Should our government default, a worst-case scenario illustrates that government employees (including service members) and social security recipients would sacrifice timely receipt of their paychecks.  Major corporations would make attempts to recoup any losses by raising interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, and other loans.  Would these large businesses be deprived of anything?  Indeed, the ledgers may initially reflect a less-than-profitable quarter: nothing that a government bailout wouldn’t resolve.  The American public does not merit a bailout, though, even with an election on the horizon.  The major corporations are the darlings of both Democratic and Republican parties.

A list of ten companies was recently compiled that illustrates the overbearing tax burden suffered by large businesses in America.  Of course, the buzz about the earnings and refunds for General Electric has made headlines across the Internet.  Also worth mentioning, however, is the recent tax refund of $1.9 billion that Bank of America received in addition to their $4.4 billion in profit.  This is also a company that profited from the aforementioned bailout.  In 2008 Goldman Sachs paid income taxes measuring 1.1 percent of its income.  In 2010 Citigroup paid no federal income tax, yet they generated in excess of $4 billion dollars of income (let us not overlook the bailout monies).  In 2009 Exxon Mobile paid no income taxes against profits of $19 billion.  Additional evidence is easy to access.

The families surviving on wages that are considered to be poverty-level and not paying federal income tax are not the criminals.  The well-to-do families who have benefited from hard work, raising their standard of living significantly are not the criminals.  Yet these two demographics are pitted against one another, tools in the political mêlée waged by each and every one of our elected representatives.  Individual American taxpayers in the lowest 20% tax bracket and individual American taxpayers in the highest 20% tax bracket are positioned as bitter rivals in this Congressional conflict.  The poorest Americans pay little or no federal taxes, and the wealthiest Americans pay the largest percentage.  While the former would most likely switch places with the latter without argument or hesitation, and while the latter certainly has a valid argument against further tax increases against money that have rightfully earned, the fact remains that the real criminals are on Wall Street and Capital Hill.

An article in the Tucson Citizen pointed out that in 2010 individual income tax accounted for 42% of total revenue, while corporate income tax accounted for a mere 9% of total revenue. From outward appearances, this is what and who our representatives are fighting for.   In a Christian Science Monitor article, calculations demonstrate that tax breaks are worth about $1,000 to a typical family earning about $21,000 or less, augmenting their after-tax income by 9 percent. Middle income families earning between $40,000 and $70,000 receive an average of about $4,000, increasing their after-tax incomes by about 8 percent.  For those in the top 1 percent, tax breaks allow those wage-earners to increase their after-tax incomes by more than 20 percent.  According to this research, the highest-income 20 percent enjoy almost two-thirds of the benefits of tax expenditures. More than one-quarter of tax breaks are allotted to the top 1 percent alone.

The issue is not whether or not taxes should be raised or for whom taxes should be raised.  The issue is the major loopholes that exist permitting major companies to bring their tax liability to a percentage lower than that of the average working American.  The issue is our elected representatives who represent the interests of these companies and their own self-interests.  These issues will not resolve themselves.  The majority of our representatives do not care about us as people.  They do not care how we live, if we live, or how we die.  They want our vote.  They have taken virtually everything else from us; do not give them a vote they have not earned.

Your enemy is not your neighbor.