|BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE|
A Simple Question: Would God Condone Torture?
Maybe I'm missing something, but I find it uniquely ironic that some the same people who clamor for prayer in school, claim that same-sex marriage is an abomination under God, who insist that America is a Christian nation, and fight for the Biblical version of creationism over science, are also the very same people who demand the right to be armed to the teeth with some of the most destructive private weapons on Earth, the right to slaughter and bring the most excruciating kinds of death upon God's other creatures for nothing more than their own entertainment, and now, condone the torture of other human beings as a legitimate tool of government. Is it just me, or does anyone else see this as the very height of hypocrisy?
It seems to me that the mere fact that we're even debating the merits of torture is a clear indication that we've gone much too far towards allowing America to become a decadent nation. It has become clear that due to our all consuming preoccupation with personal titillation and hedonistic materialism to the exclusion of intellectual, moral, and ethical development, we're rapidly transforming this nation from that shining light on the hill, to a decadent hellhole in the valley of iniquity. Hypocrisy, self-delusion, deceit is no longer the exception, it has become the rule.
And this is no accident. I've been watching this nation gradually sink into the abyss for the past thirty years. The late Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, and sponsor of the Pell Grant said, "The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people." No truer words were ever spoken, and they directly address the source of many, if not all of the problems that we face today. We've allowed ourselves to be manipulated, robbed, and cheated, as a direct result of becoming morally and intellectually bankrupt.
We've become so preoccupied with big houses, big cars, and the pursuit of pleasure that we've completely lost perspective regarding what is real, and what is important in life. A prime example of that is a guy who was in the news earlier this week - I forgot his name, and it's not even worth researching, but in any case - after catching a football and running a few yards, he thought he was so important that he could thumb his nose at the President of the United States.
This guy is so caught up in the superficial, and has become so completely overwhelmed with his own delusion of importance that the meaning of graciousness and simple courtesy has been completely lost on him. He was quoted as saying the only reason the president invited us to the White House was because we won the super bowl. Well, of course that's the reason! He failed to realize that an invitation from the president represents the people of the United States congratulating him and his teammates for a job well done. But obviously, he misunderstands the relative importance between the president of the United States, and a guy who caught a football.
This guy is apparently under the impression that he's become so important that by rejecting the invitation to the White House he was depriving the president of the honor of meeting him. He fails to realize that playing football represents the toy department of life - just like too many more of us. Thus, I must admit it was partially the president's fault for inviting him in the first place. The president should have invited all of the young people across this country who graduated as the top scholars in their respective classes. By doing so, it not only would have placed what's important to the nation in perspective, but they would have also had the intellect to recognize the honor that had been bestowed upon them.
Education is the key to a viable society, and the lack thereof is the key to our destruction. We often discuss, for example, how badly we need campaign reform, and how unrestricted lobbying prevents the government from functioning as it should. While that is undoubtedly true in our current circumstance, if we had a better educated electorate it wouldn't matter how much money poured into a politician's campaign coffers, he still couldn't be elected without being responsive to the needs of the people. After all, the only thing campaign funds are good for is brainwashing the ignorant.
An educated electorate wouldn't be as prone to respond to the ten second sound bite, or the logical inconsistencies that demagogues present as patriotism. And they'd understand enough about America's traditions to recognize that torture is the perfect anthesis of not only Christianity, but the very foundation that this nation was built upon. They'd also recognize that promoting the interests of the people wasn't some sort of evil, socialist plot, and they'd see the inconsistency of attacking Iraq, while the people who attacked the United States were in Afghanistan. They'd also ask pertinent questions like"Why aren't the children of the rich, and political class, dying in this war like our love ones?"
An educated electorate would have demanded to know what Cheney discussed with the business leaders he gathered together when the Bush administration first entered office - and they wouldn't have accepted "it's none of your business" as an answer. And a red flag would have immediately gone up when the corporation that Cheney headed received a lucrative no-bid contract as a result of invading an oil-rich nation.
A thoughtful electorate would have asked early on why would an administration who claim to love and honor our troops send them into harms way without the wherewithal to protect their lives. And why would a patriotic administration throw billions of dollars at their cronies without any accountability, yet make the troops that they so honor have to pay for equipment lost on the field of battle, and are even forced to pay for their own meals while lying in the hospital after being wounded? After all, even prisoners of war don't have to pay for their own meals.
Finally a thinking electorate would ask themselveswhy did the Bush/Cheney administration forced our troops to endure multiple deployments, and even held them hostage after their enlistment was up, when virtually every member of the administration moved hell and Earth to avoid military service when it was their time to serve the nation? Then, and even more curious, why did they do everything that they could to block an enhanced GI Bill to assist these same troops that they so honored, upon their return to civilian life.
And now Cheney comes before us once again - at this point, filthy rich - to convince a grossly undereducated, naive, and self-absorbed public that he did it all for America. And you know what, he went up 10 points in the polls.
God help America.
Eric L. Wattree
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Republicans: Stuck in Own Muck
With the Grand Old Party experiencing its most precipitous decline in modern times, the very last thing it needs is a rusty old anchor pulling it down even farther. But that’s exactly what it’s got as it finds itself helplessly attached to a discredited and unrepentant Dick Cheney. Ironically, previously elusive and camera-shy, now that the former vice president is out of office, no one in the Republican Party seems to be able to shut him up.
Like a drowning man, he’s flailing about and willing, it seems, to take anyone down with him in order to save his own hide. He’s become a loose cannon, far removed from the ethic of team player that he insisted upon by all while he was in office. He’s a defense attorney’s worse nightmare. And his unabashed tendency for self-service over loyalty was clearly evident in a recent interview on CBS’ Face the Nation when he pointed the finger at former President Bush as being responsible for signing off on waterboarding.
Undoubtedly Cheney feels the gathering storm of accountability coming down upon him for what he calls "enhanced interrogation techniques" but the rest of the world is calling torture. His method of operation remains the same, however. Just as he did in his attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq, he’s using the shotgun approach in his attempt to justify the administration’s campaign of torture. But unfortunately for the GOP, in doing so, he’s giving the nation, and the world, a front row seat in observing the complete lack of character of one of the most reviled politicians in the history of this nation, and like it or not, the GOP feels forced to stand by him.
First, in an attempt to use Department of Justice lawyers as human shields, he claimed that DOJ attorneys advised the administration that waterboarding wasn’t torture. Thereafter, he tried to give the impression that he was selflessly trying to defend "the little guy" by insisting that the attorneys in question shouldn’t be held culpable for giving their best legal advice. But actually, he wasn’t defending "the little guy" at all–he was actually fortifying a bunker to protect Dick Cheney.
The only way that Cheney can keep DOJ attorneys on the reservation, and not have them reveal the genesis of their "legal opinions" in order to save their own necks, he must provide them with a cover for those opinions–a sort of, quid pro quo, like the one Scooter Libby thought he had. It is a must that he pull that off in order to hide behind the contention that he was simply following their advice as his cover. If he failed to protect the DOJ attorneys first, at some point in the future we’d undoubtedly hear Judge Bybee, former Attorney General Gonzales and others testifying that they wrote the memos because the vice president relayed a direct order to them from the commander and chief to do so during a time of war." That defense might not fly, but neither did their memos.
So just in case that tact doesn't work, Cheney is also trying to justify the use of torture (why deal in euphemisms?) by claiming that it was, and is, necessary in order to protect America. He contends that the Bush administration has kept us safe from attack for over seven years. But what evidence does he have of that? Both our Mexican and Canadian borders are like sieves. If Jose Gonzales can simply walk across the border, what prevents Osama Bin Laden from doing the same? What evidence does he have that Osama didn’t simply say, why waste perfectly good terrorist when Cheney and Bush are destroying America from within? The terrorists have done their part--they've created a situation that ignited the greed, corruption, and opportunism of the Bush/Cheney administration. Now all they have to do is sit back and watch America collapse from within. That's why we haven't been attacked.
Experts of every stripe dispute the claim that torture is an effective tool against terrorism, but even if it were partially effective, torture is against international law, and in direct contradiction of everything American stands for. The United States was not only a party to, but was a leader in hunting down, trying, and executing war criminals for indulging in that very same practice.
But even if we accepted Cheney’s position in this matter, how far should we go? If it’s all right to torture a detainee to protect America, would we be just as justified in waterboarding the detainee’s seven year-old daughter to get the detainee to talk–or what about placing her head in a vice? If not, why not--wouldn’t that also be justified in the name of protecting America? The reason we don't do such things is because such a practice would spell the total destruction of America as we know it. Once we go down that slippery slop, there’s no end to it. There are many who would say that American citizens who smoke weed are a threat to America. Should we torture them as well?
The problem with the Dick Cheneys of the world is that they fail to recognize that America is much more than a place on the map–it’s also an ideal. If the people of this nation picked up and moved to the North Pole, the North Pole would become America, because our American values would come right along with us. Conversely, if we desert those ideals, regardless to where we happen to be located, we’re no longer Americans. The ideals that Cheney espouse would feel much more at home in Nazi Germany, or Stalinist Russia. The day that America embraces them, will be the day the terrorists can declare victory over the United States.
America has begun to realize that fact. As a result, the nation is in the midst of a new awakening that has left Cheney, Limbaugh, and much of the GOP leadership with their proverbial pants down. That’s why the GOP is in such a flux, and all we hear from them is one resounding no–to everything. That’s all they can say, because due to the GOP’s heavy reliance on wingnuts, social bigots, and various other extremists, they’re now completely locked in with the Cheneys and Limbaughs of the world. That’s their only means of support. At this point, the closest parallel to the GOP position with respect to Cheney and Limbaugh would be having to stand as a character reference for Charles Manson because your family was being held hostage.
But it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group of people. It’s next to impossible to feel sorry for the GOP because they’re getting exactly what hypocrites, demagogues, and social manipulators deserve. They've slipped in their own feces. Now, after basing their entire political careers on false patriotism, it’s going be pure hell trying to explain to their constituents why they supported two draft dodgers--Rush Limbaugh (a racist gasbag who avoided his military obligation by declaring a boil on his butt), and Dick Cheney (who had five deferments and indicated that "I had other priorities" when asked why he avoided the service)-- over Colin Powell (a decorated war hero, a Four Star General, former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Sec. of State).
Neither of these two draft dodgers think Gen. Colin Powell deserves to be called a Republican. Well, I guess you can find an area of agreement with anyone, because at this point, neither do I.
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Carrie Prejean: Are Progressives Becoming as Intolerant as Conservatives?
I've always been proud to consider myself a progressive, because being a progressive meant that I was open-minded, willing to assess every issue on its own merit, and I'm tolerant of varying points of view. But it seems that many of today's "progressives" have corrupted the term. Though many of these people call themselves progressives, they are not progressive thinkers–they are progressive in name only. Over the years they seem to have somehow lost their way, and as a result, have managed to redefined the term "progressive" to simply mean, not conservative.
A case in point is the unconscionable way in which the so-called progressive community has demonized Carrie Prejean after she indicated, almost apologetically during the Miss America Pageant, that she thought marriage should be between a man and a woman. Why in the world did she say that?!! Thereafter, she was called a bitch, seminude photos of her have been posted on the Internet, and she's been generally, dragged through the mud. It is unbelievable that people who call themselves progressive could do that to that young woman.
While I 'm in total disagreement with her views on same-sex marriage, those are her views, and she has every right to them. She didn't try to shove her point of view down America's throat; she was specifically asked whether SHE thought same-sex marriage should be legalized. And she and she responded– quite honestly, diplomatically, and in my opinion, quite courageously, that she didn't. Then the judge, Perez, I think his name was, taped a video on Youtube calling her "a dumb bitch." So I ask you, what kind of progressive thinker can take the position that a person doesn't have a right to their own views? Perez even went so far as to dictate how Ms. Prejean SHOULD have answered the question. Who the Hell is he to tell a person what they should think?
People like, Perez, is more damaging to their cause than they are helpful, because in many cases, it's not the issue that people are against, they just don't like the people who represent the issue. I agree with Perez on this issue, but I don't like him. So if I was on the fence regarding same-sex marriage, I'd vote against it–not against the issue, but against him, and I'm certain that many progressive issues are being voted down for that very reason.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a progressive as "A person who actively favors or strives for progress toward better conditions, as in society or government." Granted, Ms. Prejean's attitude toward same-sex marriage is far less than progressive, but she never claimed to be a progressive. She said she was a Christian, so there's nothing unusual for her to adhere to a belief system that she's been taught all of her life. On the other hand, however, for so-called progressives to denigrate this young lady as though she doesn't have a right to her private opinion, nor religious beliefs, is far more destructive to society and backward thinking, than anything that she's ever publicly uttered, at least to my knowledge--and such a position is certainly not a progressive point of view.
Many of the people who call themselves progressives today seem to have been infected by what old-school progressives considered their most ardent foe and the most pernicious bane on society--intolerance. It's no longer good enough to say that gays and lesbians should be afforded equal rights and be allowed to marry like anyone else in our society, now it is required that everyone must enthusiastically embrace that position–in spite of their religious beliefs, and even in their private thoughts. And it's no longer good enough to say that women deserve equal rights in the workplace, now, any woman who chooses to be a full-time mother and homemaker is considered a turncoat to the feminist movement, and "unenlightened."
And please don't let a woman use her femininity in the workplace to get ahead–just as men use their masculinity on a daily basis–she's immediately demonized. In fact, I'm virtually certain that Ms. Prejean's feminine beauty is playing a large part in her demonization. And the irony is, such demonization is often led by other women. Due to our leftist indoctrination, they fail to realize that's the very worst kind of sexual discrimination. They've allowed themselves to be convinced that the only way a woman can truly validate herself as being a worthy individual is to prove that she can be just like a man. A similar mindset is reflected in the Black community. Many Blacks feel like the only way that they can validate themselves is by proving how "White" they can be. Both assumptions are silly, premised on backward thinking, and are highly derogatory to what it means to be a woman, and/or, a Black person. Both President and First Lady Obama are excellent examples of the fact that you have to abandon neither your heritage nor your femininity to embrace excellence.
Thus, in this progressive's opinion, such thinking is the very height of ignorance. In fact, it's laying the groundwork for a new kind of latter-day conservatism. After all, it is not so much what Rush Limbaugh and the GOP leadership think that is so insidious, it's their belief that no one should be allowed to disagree with them. And any so-called progressives who share that mindset not only validate Limbaugh's point of view, but are in fact, conservatives themselves. The only difference between them and Limbaugh is that they're conservative regarding a different set of issues. They even share the conservative trait of hypocrisy.
A true progressive recognizes that the most important characteristic of any free and viable society is tolerance. They clearly understand that the only difference between the old U.S.S.R. and Nazi Germany was one was led by lift-wing radicals and the other by right-wing reactionaries. But in spite of that, they had more in common than they had that set them apart–they were both dictatorships, they were both oppressive, and like every dictatorship, they were both intolerant of individual beliefs.
The very same dynamic is at work, though to a much lesser degree, in this country. Thus, progressives must always remain cognizant of the fact that we corner the market on neither wisdom, intellect, nor morality. Therefore, once we begin to give priority to dogma over independent thought, we cease being progressives, and become just another group of fanatical wingnuts--like Perez Hilton.
Eric L. Wattree
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.