Some Chilean children now call the United States "the land of the towers." On this past Sept. 11, people in both countries remembered and hoped there would not be more trouble. The day passed peacefully in the United States, but in Santiago at night leftist demonstrators burned tires, destroyed traffic signs, and looted shops. Police who moved in encountered rocks, Molotov cocktails, and sporadic shots; they responded with tear gas and water cannons. Fourteen police officers were injured, four by bullets. Police arrested 445 and charged many with robbery or looting.
Bitterness remains in Santiago and memories die hard, but the race is on to substitute reconciliation for rage. The one political program that will work in Chile, as it will in the United States, is summarized in chapter two of Paul's letter to the Philippians: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
There are tried-and-true ways to organize economies and governments so that more people look not only to their interests but also to the interests of others. A market system that is truly free pushes sellers to look to the interest of buyers. A governmental system based on "subsidiarity" (see p. 68) pushes national governmental leaders not to increase their own power but to let local leaders look to the interests of their communities. But sin-rivalry and conceit-gets in the way of such efforts.
Christian efforts in Chile and the rest of South America cannot eradicate sin; they can help to contain it. God's grace can lead a formerly conceited rich person to devote his life to providing opportunities for the hard-working poor to improve their lives. God's grace can lead a formerly envious poor person to devote himself to making life slowly better for himself and his children. Many in Chile pray for such grace. Those of us in the United States should join our prayers to theirs, for their sake and ours.