Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A change is gonna come...

When I think of John McCain, concerned that detainees at Gitmo might be housed in US prisons, I think of Mr. Arnold's observation. Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and "black prisons" have done more to promote terrorism than perhaps even military bases in Saudi Arabia could do. And to what purpose? And why are we surprised?

While we all swear defiance to military invaders and imagine ourselves the "Wolverines" of "Red Dawn," we equally imagine all opposition crumbling before our mighty armaments. Which didn't happen in Korea, which didn't happen in Vietnam, which didn't happen in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, it wasn't even the bombing that won World War II (despite the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which are actually exceptions that prove the rule): it was ground combat. The brutality of "island hopping" in the Pacific, the brutality of slogging across the face of Europe, from the beaches of Normandy and the bootheel of Italy and across the mountains and plains of Russia and Eastern Europe, into Berlin. Later studies would determine the bombing in Europe, just as it did in London, strengthened the resolve of the citizenry, rather than broke it. Funny, we admire the British for their strength of character during the Blitz, while we imagine the Germans in Dresden or Munich (where the rubble remains, piled into grass covered mounds that dot the city) would simply gave into despair before our righteous weapons of death.

We aren't even righteous anymore. We are torturers. We are kidnappers and tormenters and barbarians who abandon even our most cherished legal ideals for the sake of revenge. We created a Hobbesian nightmare, red in tooth and claw, a designed and ordained and organized state of nature, which makes it worse than the anarchy of no-government Hobbes envisioned, and we have called it government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Like it or not, this was done in our name. I try to imagine Abraham Lincoln hallowing this conflict, this "war on terror," in terms that would make it seem noble and sacred. It is impossible to imagine.

We have met the enemy. The enemy is us. We are the cause of our greatest fears and nightmares. But the solution is very, very simple.

The "Golden Rule" is a simple statement that you should consider others as being as important as yourself. It is a simple idea, that your security, your well-being, is founded on a moral principle, not the principle of greatest power. Stated negatively, it is: "Don't do to others what you would not want done to you." A simple enough idea to stop violence and brutality. Then, take it positively: "Do to others what you would want done to you." You want justice? Do justice? You want peace? Offer peace? You want security? Give the "other" security.

It is not a zero sum game, where they have what we need, and the more we take from them, the more we have for us. It is a simple matter of presence: the less security we offer "them," the less we have for ourselves. It is our good fortune that, after 8 years of an administration that didn't understand this simple truth, we now have an administration that does.

Now we will see the difference.

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