This I Believe

Kyle - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Entered on April 20, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: citizenship

I live in the greatest country in the world. It is a young country, but like some child genius, it has accomplished something that should stand for all time as a monument to the human spirit. Our accomplishment? Our freedom from the tyranny of divinely appointed kings.

But I fear that this magnificent place, this City on a Hill, will also be held up as an example of pride and falls. We fought for our liberty in 1776. We fought for the World’s liberty in 1916 and 1941. We held the ground after 1945 against the pernicious threat of totalitarianism up to the fall of that same philosophy’s best and strongest representatives.

But now I fear we have taken onto ourselves the tactics of those self-same enemies of our state. We have fought that disease-ridden beast so long that we have taken in the poison ourselves. It is not the first time that poison has been felt-the junior Senator from Wisconsin, Senator Joe McCarthy was the first outbreak. Like any disease, the first iteration was violent, virulent and extreme-and now, like the secondary infection, it is much more subtle, much harder to diagnose and treat.

We now have a government that believes spying on its own citizens is acceptable. We have a government leader who carefully screens the audience he speaks to in order to avoid anyone who opposes his viewpoint. Who treats dissent as treason. Who uses the military as a theatrical prop to sanctify his stance. Like McCarthy, like Nixon, George W. Bush displays a shocking lack of human decency in the wielding of power. We have a governing body that believes it is morally correct and laudable to reward the rich well-to-do at the expense of the impoverished and unprivileged. We have elections that are held in questionable conditions, using poor technology, and scrutiny is discouraged. Our senators (our own from Minnesota!) hold hearings as of McCarthy’s day to badger and bully and make themselves appear strong- a display of power to cow the population. We have politicians who redefine their districts in order to have unchallenged reelection to the place of power. We have public funds used for private gain. We have people like Jack Abramoff. And worst of all, we have a war whose origins are deliberately confused, and our best citizens-those willing to put their body between harm and our Republic- are dying for lies and illusions. Those citizens are our spiritual-and literal brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

And our government is under a shade. We have the very ghost of the Politburo.

The spirit of the people so many of us, myself included, signed on to fight against. Too many Americans were killed or injured in that fight without even a shot fired (a Cold War). We won that fight. Right prevailed. But a harder fight has arisen in its place: We must now fight our own selves. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”; I think of that quote when I look over the headlines, and I find myself clenching my fists. The Soviets had gulags, we have Guantanamo and secret prisons. Us! People being held without fair trial, something we’ve always found repugnant before- not because innocence is overly common, but because we were morally better than everybody that came before us. The Soviets were legendary torturers; we could proudly boast that we were better than that-even our worst criminals would be given the benefit of dignity and fair treatment. We can make that boast no longer. Hell, in 1991 Iraqi soldiers surrendered to anybody American-even journalists and a few very surprised mechanics. That will never ever happen again; for we have lost that shield of righteousness we had before-like virginity, you only have it once. Eisenhower- no fainting violet and nowhere near a Democrat-would never have even dreamed of suppressing dissent by talking of treason equaling dissent. He didn’t even do that to troops he sent into combat for goodness’ sake. And he would have court-martialed all the way to the top had torture happened while he was C-IN-C. I don’t see how this stops with a Spec-4 and a sergeant or two. Or even one General.

And what is the reason for fighting this war? Revenge? It has been tied to an attack that has nothing to do with the country we’re fighting in. September 11th had no Iraqi fingerprints. Afghanistan, I could see-but when did you last hear how that war was going? We have wasted billions of dollars, and so very much worse, the lives of our most precious resource-the men and women who believe so much in this country they put their bodies between harm and us- in a country that had no part in the attack, no WMDs, and is assuredly not embracing democracy or greeting our troops as liberators on a cakewalk. Last throes? I am sad and sickened to see my fellow citizens being thrown into such an ambiguous, useless, ever-widening fight. Yes. I believe terrorism one of the worst evils to ever come into the world-watching years of Northern Ireland taught me that this is world-cancer stuff. But the evil can’t be beat this way- with military action- only forced deeper into the tissue of society. The British learned that, and Israel and Palestine get that lesson taught every day. Do I believe that we should “reward” the terrorist-leaders? No, I’ll be first to hold the rope-but I will point out that terrorism was not found in Iraq until we went in there-no matter what the administration says. No proof, no proof at all. WMDs were lies, and though a madman and a war criminal, Saddam never attacked the United States-except back when the USS Stark was attacked. USS Stark was hit by a French-manufactured Iraqi missile, killing 37 in 1997. But we didn’t declare war then, did we? We were happy to have Hussein fight Iran-meanwhile gassing his own people. No declaration of war. We did nothing. I believe that same year, Donald Rumsfeld presented some spurs to Hussein that year as well. We did nothing. Not until Kuwait. And then we did not finish the job, leaving thousands of Iraqis to suffer Saddam’s wrath.. I remember (and George W. Bush’s father remembers too). But then we got attacked by Al Queda. Based in Afghanistan. Not Iraq. We were attacked by Al Queda, led by Osama Bin Ladin -who is still at large-and we were not attacked by Saddam Hussein. If I can make that distinction, a civilian, then why can’t my government? Terrorism in Iraq has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is the greatest country in the World. But it is very ill. I have to hope that people will wake up, and clean house-not be lulled by the bread and circuses that killed Rome, or the quasi-religious rot that killed the British Empire. The cleaning will not be easy-sadly, merit can be found by some in the expeditious evil of the rack and the stake-but like black ink to white paper, there is no removing even the faintest touch. I fear for us, and I cannot help but think that we are due- precocious child genius that this nation is- for a terrible reckoning for our follies. People are entitled to disagree with me- but that’s how I feel.