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November 29, 2001 Edition

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1941 and 2001:

U.S. learned we can't be isolated from world

December 7th marks the 60th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. There has been some talk about whether that event in 1941 -- called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the "day that will live in infamy" -- is worse than the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

Although I was born after 1941, I have learned much about the events of World War II. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the United States had apparently been reluctant to get involved in conflicts brewing around the world at that time. Pearl Harbor changed that attitude.

Isolationist tendencies. Before September 11th, I think there was also a growing sense of isolationism prevalent in the United States. I heard some people grumble about the American government spending too much on foreign aid and sending troops into other parts of the world. "Let's take care of ourselves first" was a common theme.

These isolationist tendencies surfaced despite the fact that the United States had been enjoying unprecedented economic prosperity. So instead of sharing our wealth and good fortune, we were hoarding our money and resources, trying to get even bigger and richer.

Connected with world. One of the most important lessons from December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001 should be America's interconnectedness with the rest of the planet. We are not an island onto ourselves. We are part of the world -- with many gifts to share with other people and nations.

Analysts admit that hunger, poverty, and injustice lie at the root of the terrorism stalking the world today. Pope John Paul II has spoken out about the need to address huge global imbalances that fuel hatred and bitterness.

While the United States has joined forces with many countries around the world to combat terrorism with military force, we should also be working with other nations to promote economic development and education as well as to provide direct aid where needed. Democratic governments will not flourish where people are ignorant, hungry, and dying. The uneducated and poor will only be prey to terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

Sharing talent and treasure. The events of 1941 and 2001 should remind all of us to work for justice in our world in order to bring about peace. Sharing our talent and treasure with others around the world is just one step toward that goal. On a practical level, I suggest a gift to Catholic Relief Services or other international agency during this holiday season.

Mary C. Uhler, editor

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