Do SUVs and Suburban Living Inspire Terrorism? The Boston Globe may think so. See their columnist’s view, and our response

On September 19, 2001, the Boston Globe printed an op/ed, "Sticky Questions for the Elite," by Derrick Z. Jackson of its staff. The piece says the U.S. is partially to blame for the attacks of terrorists because of our wealth, our environmental policies, our SUVs and our suburban living. The piece explicitly says that God is not happy with us.

When Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson made similar comments, a media firestorm resulted.

Selected quotes from the Jackson piece:

"God cannot be all that happy with a nation that is 5 percent of the world’s population, produces a quarter of Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions, yet walks out of global warming talks."


"…it is unclear how much of America’s business is worthy of God’s blessing. So much of it is so obviously decadent, a nation of SUVs backing out of huge, energy-sucking suburban houses to purchase insane stores of food at Sam’s Club – with a stop at Starbucks along the way."


"Not so easy to consider is whether all Americans, with the vomitous mass carnage on our own soil, are finally ready to sacrifice any part of our way of life that contributes every day to the envy, jealousy, and, for some, the hatred of our flag. Americans must ask themselves in the coming months: Is this war solely to get rid of terrorists – as of course should be done – or also to maintain our conspicuous opulence and vastly disproportionate consumption of world resources?

On Sunday many Americans went to church to ask God to bless America. If we were asking God simply for wisdom and for balm to touch grieving families, that would be one thing. But from all the giant sport utility vehicles adorned with American flags, it is an open question whether we also asked God to bless our way of life that damages the environment and makes us so dependent on oil that it has gotten us into a deadly tangle of relationships in the Middle East."


Response to Jackson

Tom Randall of The National Center for Public Policy Research has written a response:

To the Boston Globe:

Derrick Jackson’s "Sticky questions for the elite" column in the Globe’s September 19 edition could have been more aptly titled, "Gross distortions from a guy who invokes God to reinforce his own distortions."

He strongly implied that God should not bless the American way of life, particularly capitalism, then went off on a "figures lie and liars figure" argument.

While bemoaning the fact that the United States comprises five percent of the world’s population and produces 25 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, he conveniently leaves out the fact that we produce 25 percent of the world’s goods and services. Then he later condemns Harvard University President Larry Summers for saying that more "dirty" industries should be relocated to less developed countries. However, that is precisely what the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty, which I presume from his column Mr. Jackson endorses, would have done if the U.S. Senate had not rejected its terms in a 95-0 vote.

The SUVs he repeatedly condemns are a direct outgrowth of a top-down, government effort to increase auto fuel economy with Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. These caused autos to be downsized to such an extent that many Americans were forced to get the carrying space they needed by turning to the truck-based SUVs. And they found they liked them. And average fuel economy went up instead of down.

Then, in a litany of statistics he details how much more we have and consume than the poorer countries of the world.

How many of these are capitalist? None.

How many have command and control socialist-style economies? All.

How many are ruled by totalitarian despotic regimes? Many.

How many direct our foreign aid to their rulers instead of the people? Most.

Governments in these countries have made their people poor, not the United States, where true freedom reigns and under it people prosper. It is also where, incidentally, by nearly every measure used by the Environmental Protection Agency, our air and water are dramatically cleaner and healthier than they were just 30 years ago. They are because we made cleaning them a national goal and succeeded in achieving it.

Mr. Jackson can cloak himself in all the hypocritical hair shirts he wants. For me, I’ll wear the flag of the United States of America – the freest, most successful and most generous nation in history. And, I proudly ask for a kind and loving God’s blessing on this land and its fine people.

– Tom Randall, Director
John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs
National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 North Broadway – PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613
Phone: 773-857-5086
e-mail: [email protected]

Tell the Globe What You Think

Contact information for the Globe and/or columnist Derrick Jackson is:

Letters to the Editor, [email protected] or The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378.
Important: Include your full name, address and a telephone number for confirmation purposes.

Derrick Z. Jackson’s e-mail address is [email protected]

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.