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The Search for a Just Society



     Many Americans would be upset to know that the vast majority of the world's people think our economic system is unjust. The search for a just society has deep roots in Christianity, as Dante proclaimed. Argentine justicialismo drew on this tradition, and then distorted it.
     Two items appeared together in the newspapers of 3/14/00. The first, headlined "Guilty Verdict for Former US Army Hero," describes the fate of a former Army chaplain, Charles Liteky, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 23 US soldiers in a Vietnam battle. He has since devoted himself to the cause of what he views as justice in Latin America. In 1986 he gave back his medal, placing it on the Vietnam Veterans' memorial wall in Washington, D.C. in protest against Reagan's support for the Nicaraguan contras. Since then he has protested against the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, whose graduates in Latin America he accuses of atrocities. He has been jailed for six months for pouring blood inside its administration and he has been found guilty when finally tried. This delay of justice brings us back to our earlier discussion of habeas corpus, a cornerstone of justice and democracy and justice. What goes? Perhaps Larry Diamond can tell us.
     Liteky wants the school to be replaced with a school of economic justice. His aim is in line with the historic Christian demand for social justice, but he does not seem to realize how difficult it is to achieve. His blanket and unfair condemnation of the School of the Americas is like his call for the abolition of the US military. which suggests that he is returning to the Christianity of the period prior to the doctrine of just war. Frankly, it seems as though his mind has been traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam.
     The accompanying article is headlined "$50 million bonus for Bank of America Chief" Hugh McColl." The bank has not been doing well, as pension funds invested in it know, to the sorrow of modest retirees. Even the Executive Compensation Report said it was excessive, and the reaction of the retirees is unprintable. This reinforces the world picture of the United States as socially unjust and a poor model for democracy. Latin Americans think the aim of the School of the Americas is to impose that kind of capitalism.
     The problem is that the US is still traumatized by the threat of communism and the counterforce, anti-communism, making any criticism of the wealth pattern appear subversive. The US must now embark on the difficult task of building an economically just system, an extraordinarily difficult task. So was putting a man on the moon.

Ronald Hilton - 3/16/00


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