“ . . . this camp is the ash and soot of human shame.”
-Silvia, The Surrender Tree, p. 96
There is a problem with all this conversation about declassification of secrets, about ‘enhanced interrogation’ v. torture, about actionable intelligence and false leads, about enemies, enemy combatants, immunity or prosecution, whether to move forward or to look back, innocent victims and propaganda. Those who argue that the President is wrong to release information are arguing the wrong case. They are trying to justify torture because it “kept us safe.” They are arguing that the ends justify the means. Cain thought so, too.
As a nation, our greatest strength has been the few words penned by a slaveholder when he believed that his humanity was questioned, “all . . . are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” This belief founded a nation of justice, not just us. And so the debate out what our government did in our name is about whether we are who we say we are, or are we who President Chavez and Comrade Castro say we are; do we believe in the ideals of freedom and equality or do we believe in “robbin’ old folks and makin’ a dash”?
Are we invested in the human condition, or are we simply interested in the American condition?
As a patriot, I have always believed the former. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld have expressly stated and acted as the latter.
When we improve the human condition, then we automatically improve the American condition. This is the argument. It is the same argument that Dr. King used, that Sojourner Truth used, that Cesar Chavez used, that Thomas Jefferson used. Whether or not we have always lived up to that investment in the human condition is not up for debate, because we obviously haven’t. But whether we should is always up for debate, because when we stop speaking about it, when we stop arguing about it, when we assume that we’re all working toward an improved human condition, those simply interested in their own condition will steal our soul.
Senator John McCain tweeted that we should, “urge the President to avoid finger pointing and move forward . . .” I would say that holding usurpers responsible for their actions, for the stain on our national honor, for besmirching, “the woman [he] didn’t know he loved . . . until [he] was parted from her company,” is necessary, and is more important than simply “finger pointing.”
There are many petty despots around the world, whose actions serve only themselves and their coteries, who see as weakness an investment in the human condition. President Bush and his administration, through their use of torture and their feeble attempts to cover themselves with mumble-mouthed legalese have placed themselves squarely in those ranks. But I refuse to go with them.
I refuse to not hold them accountable. I do not believe the American condition is that important.
We must reinvest in the human condition.