Friday, March 3, 2006

Parenting Kids and Occasionally, When Needed, Our Country

Fear! Big motivator, fear. My old daddy instilled a certain amount of it in me and my brother, mixed with enough love to make it palatable.


BushcheneyricerumsfeldAs a writer, I operate occasionally within the restraint of my own fears and one of them is comparing Bush and his associates to Hitler and his. That no-no (and I agree with it) is too hot to handle, distorting and inflaming by imagery a bunch of other truths, that we then become unwilling to face. It turns the things that need to be faced into a wild-eyed rant and then we both stop listening. Everything's lost to the roar in our ears.


Even the language of my labored point is twisted by unwillingness to put an American president up to such a comparison. Beneath all that contorted say-it-isn’t-so-ism is a surface that, once it’s scratched, makes for understanding of a different nature.


Some things come suddenly clear, when you scrape away, sometimes shovel away, the rhetoric.


I have, for sixty years, wondered about and discussed with friends, how the German people ever got to the mental-construct that blossomed into the Holocaust. I've read a lot about Hitler's and Stalin’s rise to power. We shake our heads and wonder at the slow and deliberate and unrelenting pace of the lies the German nation accepted, as it stumbled along its way to an ultimate horror. Hitler was an elected leader. Sometimes we forget that.


I have begun to understand and this administration sparked that understanding.


The Big Lie has been oversold. It wasn’t so much the celebrated big lie, but the continued and unresisted acceptance of many small lies that did Germany in. Small lies are like small thefts. Accepting the first makes the next and the next and the next much easier to justify. Ultimately, shoplifters and dictators become adept at ‘deserving’ their thievery.


Bushfrown_1That’s why parents march their children back to the corner-store to stutter an apology for pocketing a candy-bar. It’s not that the theft is so great, not to shame the child, but to stop the escalation in its tracks . Parents are right to do it. It must be done, lest our kids turn to petty thievery and from there to worse.


If you make the case that we, as voters, are the parents of our country, we have been and are this moment neglectful.


I think that case can be made and made eloquently. Small lies, unchallenged in the far reaches of government, are the metaphor for pocketing candy bars. It’s time, way past time but not yet too late, to march President George Walker Bush by the ear, to the national corner-store and require his shamefaced confession.


"We do not torture," he told reporters during a visit to Panama last November. That’s as unequivocal a statement as can be made. It’s documented, on tape. No wiggle-room in that. A lie. He knows it to be a lie, we know it, the world and the courts and the man-on-the-street know it and yet we have allowed him to pocket that lie as if it were no more important than a candy-bar.


As parents, we understand the imagery of pocketed candy-bars.


In federal court yesterday (March 2, 2006), Justice Department lawyers argued that the McCain law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to detainees held at the Guantanamo military prison.


It’s a moot point. Our president told us we do not torture. So, we don’t. End of discussion.


Judgegladyskessler_1But why, if that’s true and if our president didn’t actually pocket the candy-bar, are government lawyers in U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s courtroom? How can a law about what we do not do be argued by Justice Department attorneys?


Why is a Guantanamo detainee, held since May 2002, begging protection from the torture we do not do, under the anti-torture provisions of Senator John McCain’s law? How can the judge possibly find ‘allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used to break the detainee’s hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and quite probably against U.S. and international law?’


We don’t torture.


Justice Department lawyers argued before Judge Kessler that ‘even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language,’ detainees at Guantanamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.


Even if? The candy-bar is pocketed or it’s not. There can be no even if. Even if means the President must stand down or be removed. As parents, we know this. As a nation, Germany has come to know this, the German people paid and continue to pay an enormous price for that knowledge.


Aharonbarak_1Aharon Barak, Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, ruled against torture of Israeli prisoners in 1999 and made this statement;

“This is the destiny of a democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand."

Learning the destiny of my democracy and what should be acceptable to it, from a foreign source stings my sense of what it means to be American. My democracy. Not an abstract democracy, but mine.


We voters are indeed the parents of our country or our country has no parents. Framers, fathers and forefathers are long gone. Jefferson is in his grave, Lincoln is dust, the rest mere faded memories. This president, who cannot and will not be truthful, must be taken by the ear to confess his pocketing of our essence as a nation. It’s our civic and parental duty or we are lost.


And lost we will deserve to be.
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.