I have been having severe trouble, recently, attempting to reconcile my rage, despair and guilt over what is happening to the United States
with my inability to propose anything that can make it better. This is a post I made to Brad DeLong
's weblog, which recently offered an extremely sobering account of a speech made by Sy Hersh
. Mr. Hersh has been the journalist largely responsible for the degree of attention being given to Abu Ghraib
. The post to which I responded can be found at:
Here is my comment, posted to that entry. There are no links; I'd rather it stand as it did there. I have replaced *textual emphasis* with tags
This is a personal exposition from an American who has long been against the war and Bush. Please don't think I'm saying this to excuse myself. Quite the opposite is true. What truly upsets me about the arguments here is that, in fact, there is something positive about them that should be encouraged, not drowned in ideological sniping or personal attacks.
I'm sorry, that came out accusatory, and it wasn't meant to be. I'll try to be more clear. On both sides of the fence, above, are examples of people (Americans and others) stating that they are in the process of re-examining their positions based on new information coming to light. Others are realizing that their long-held concern has been correct, but that they have not matched actions to their worries or even their words.
Yes, some may have started from (or even remain in) an ideological position you dislike, or detest. However, I'd like to exhort all here to remember one thing - unless we all think, and pay attention, and examine not only the 'evidence' and 'information' coming from media and other sources, but examine our own thoughts, feelings and ideas on the matter - then we've already lost what may be the most important fight. That is the fight to remain the United States of America - not a 'morally superior America,' not a 'feared America,' not a 'responsible' America, or even a 'secure America.' It is fairly clear that all of those things have fallen away in the minds of many people here and around the world.
But what made the United States wonderful - and what has made many other nations wonderful institutions in the past, I'm not claiming we invented this - is the capability to learn and change.
Even if you think that the Bush administration is on the right course, even if you think that this is a 'left wing circle jerk,' I ask you (as an American) to try, please, to retain your sense of civic responsibility. The one that our country's founders had in such great quantity. Never allow your government to think it is above its people. Never allow those in the U.S. Government to think that they are 'above' the rules which placed them there.
After all, if the liberals are wrong, then truth will out. Why? Because you, as a supporter of the administration, should be carefully watching everything with firm attention. Watch the left, and watch the right. Watch the press. Don't take anything for granted. THINK. If the liberals (yes, I am one) are in fact trying to take down an administration unjustly, then LOOK AT EVERYTHING and try to prove it. Don't try to tear down the liberals for trying it; they're doing their JOB. The attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton was something that infuriated the liberal establishment, such as it is in this country, but I (personally) feel an opportunity was missed, in the fury - the chance to try to rise above 'not-me' and reach 'us.' Whatever we thought about the attempt to impeach Clinton, more of us should not have tried to counterbash the Right by claiming they were simply playing 'partisan politics.' That's their role as citizens and members of a party. Our job was, and we blew it, to try to take our opponents to the table and say (essentially) "Okay. You have these things you say have been done that are wrong. We want to sit down here now, and define what, really, would qualify as impeachable - what was breaking the law. And then, together, in teams, we need to go look for everything. If, after that process, we are going to deadlock on if something was right or wrong - let's at least agree to have a common view of what we can establish happened.
I'm sorry, I'm straying. I'll wrap up here shortly. I realize that the United States has some unbelievable work ahead of it to regain the trust of the rest of the world, should that be something the US decides it wants (and I'm for it). I would ask that:
Those who are not Americans, and are watching us, urge us to take responsibility for our own nation and have real civil oversight. If after the paroxysm of democracy that is surely coming, you feel we have not gone far enough - that's your opinion. Tell us then. In the meantime, whenever an American tells you in open forum that they are having doubts, or changing their mind - don't bash us for where we started out. Help us learn to change our minds, to strive for the truth. There are good people in this country; I (PERSONAL BELIEF) think that most people here are simply average humans making their choices influenced by their surroundings, and are not 'evil.' I don't even really know what those are, in truth, good and evil. But I do know that I'd rather be in this kind of mess because I made a mistake than because I didn't try or do anything at all, and hid my head in the sand.
To all sides of the debate, liberals, conservatives - don't bash each other for our starting positions. Do whatever you can, please, to encourage everybody, on all sides, to push for full disclosure of what happened 'in our name' and for full punishments or rewards for those who deserve it. Reach out to those who tell you they are wavering in their 'faith' or their commitment to one side - because those are the ones who are thinking. Those are the people performing their duty as citizens. They are paying attention and accepting data.
Not everyone is 'swinging' of course. To the liberals who are digging in their heels - it doesn't matter if you were right earlier. It doesn't make you better. It makes you uniquely positioned to try to convince the other side that these flutterings they feel are the right thing. Even if a conservative or neocon tells you that they are flatly behind the President, that's their right. Ask them if they are interested in a full disclosure of what happened at Abu Ghraib. Convince them that while loyalty to the President is not a bad thing in itself, loyalty to a President, or a nation, or a person without the acceptance of constant new information and the analysis of that information is indeed a bad thing - it is an obsession, not a position.
I'm sorry to go on so long. I thank everyone here who has made an effort to ensure that the facts come out - and everyone here who is doing what they feel is best for the United States, so long as they are doing it because they feel their own position, viewed in a vacuum (i.e. not compared to the other side) is a 'right' or 'proper' one.
We're never all going to agree on what we should do. That's what makes us American. Let's try to agree that we need to be Americans, and that we need to take up the reins and responsibility that our founders and our predecessors and our teachers, who after all came from all over the world, left in our hands.
This was posted in a comments thread that had gotten somewhat vitriolic; this is why I am addressing particular people or groups above. It was written off the cuff, in a furious attempt to express the complexity of my feelings about this whole thing; it's not an attempt to justify myself, or anyone else. There is much more I should have said; I'll save it, for now. I welcome any comments, arguments, corrections, etc. as always. Thanks for reading, and whatever you do, keep asking questions whether they are of the conservatives or the liberals; of the Republicans or the Democrats; of the politicians or the press, of the people or the government. Don't be afraid - remember, this is all our responsibility. Ours. Whether it was done for good or ill, it was done (ostensibly) in our name, by our leaders who we put there, whether by voting for them or by failing to recall them. What happens because of it, afterwards, is not yet written. I believe firmly that this nation, our nation, can be an amazing force for progress, for justice, for peace, as well as for war, for death, for corruption and for oppression. Note that 'can' in this sense means that it has the potential, the possibility to do both or either. It's up to us, and to those watching us around the world, asking us the difficult questions, to shape that outcome.
I'd be more afraid if I hadn't realized, somewhere along the way, that the future looks like this all the time. It's just the present that changes.