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The issue at hand.

What can explain the arbitrariness of George W. Bush's choices for nations we're all supposed to despise? As John M. Swomley points out in "Bush's Axis of Enemies" in this issue, there are other nations besides the six that Bush has fingered which are deserving of criticism--and in more important ways. Furthermore, the Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan conflicts, to name two, warrant more of our attention and pose greater and more immediate threats to world peace than do the curious collection of countries that make up the president's catalogue of the forces of "evil."

In fact, the troubles in Israel and its occupied territories are so critical and deep-rooted that no foreign policy makes any sense that doesn't give this part of the Middle East a top priority. But to address this situation, it's important to understand those historical, cultural, and religious factors that lie at the root of the present crisis. David Schafer provides that in "Origins of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict."

Such rational approaches to foreign policy, however, while vitally necessary, often fail to attract wide popular interest. This may be because they seem to take a distanced look at distant issues. To help people recognize the personal significance of international developments, it's essential to bring these home to the heart and to generate a greater familiarity between the peoples of the world. This is what a number of our honored essayists from the Humanist's 2001 contest have made possible for us to address here.

Shahada Liberty Reardon shares her autobiographical story of immersion into and ultimate escape from Islamic fundamentalism. Rose V. Lindgren reveals the social impact experienced by ordinary people of the domestic political policies of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Shanam Saini probes the psychology and sociology of mothers who, in some parts of the world, are intimidated into murdering their female infants. And Sarah Rose Miller looks at the exploitation of children as soldiers around the globe.

With these understandings in hand, the discussion then returns to the idea of "evil." Jeffrey S. Victor finds the source of evil in the destructive potential within the human personality. Carly Heath, on the other hand, maintains that no humanist concept of evil is truly possible, given its ultimate religious nature.

And so, after the manner of the early Platonic dialogues, we leave the matter unsettled. There is much else that could be added to the discussion. For example, more exploration and rational dialogue are needed on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There are many more examples of human suffering which could be recounted in order to inspire deeper understanding and compassion, and more examples of triumph over that suffering which could excite admiration and exultation. And there are always additional viewpoints to be expressed and ideas to explore. Humanism is a lifestance that recognizes the open-endedness of any pursuit of what might be called "good."
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Author:Edwords, Fred
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Words:478
Previous Article:Humanist resources.
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