Wither is America? I shall tell you. We have killed her, you and I. All of us are murderers.
I don’t know when the murder happened. I’d like to think it happened in the recent past, under the reign of George Bush and the Republican Congress, who have rightly earned the disdain of those who enjoy their civil liberties. Indeed Bush is culpable, though only the first among equals. However blame must be placed first and foremost at the feet of we the people.
Bush is at a paltry 24 percent approval rating. Yet he continues to govern as if he were an infallible emperor, flipping the bird to reality and proclaiming, “I’ve never felt more engaged and more capable of getting the American people to realize there’s a lot of unfinished business.” But what, pray tell, is this unfinished business?
Bush recently issued a veto – that House Republicans upheld – on legislation to expand and continue the SCHIP program, literally health insurance for poor children. The program will die because Bush decided that it should. And we couldn’t stop him.
Bush wants retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T that broke the law and allowed the administration to wiretap American phones without a warrant. And it is prima facie evidence of a crime when the companies in question are begging for retroactive immunity.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “compromised” with Bush, giving him exactly what he wanted, after telecom executives bribed him with $25,000 in campaign contributions. So Bush wants immunity for past crimes. And we won’t stop him.
Bush has threatened humanity with World War III, sparing no time for diplomacy. Speaking about Iran, Bush said, “I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
Never mind that we haven’t had diplomats in Iran since the 1979-’81 hostage crisis. Never mind that our military doesn’t have the capability to defend us in our own country, let alone start another war of aggression. Never mind that every effort at international relations the Bush team has made has failed miserably. We need to go to war with Iran to stop them from getting WMD! Sound like a familiar mistake?
The coup de grace is that we torture. Call it what you will, perhaps “enhanced interrogation.” Torture is the expressed policy of this country. If you haven’t seen the on-air waterboarding of Fox News’ Steve Harrigan, you really should.
That and the Republican presidential debate where Mitt Romney boasted he would “double Guantanamo” and where Tom Tancredo suggested doing everything Jack Bauer does. (I guess he needed an idea other than nuking Mecca.)
John McCain had the only rational stand that night, reminding the Republican faithful that waterboarding comes to us via the Spanish Inquisition, something roundly recognized as bad. He got silent stares compared to boisterous applause for Romney and chuckles for Tancredo.
Twisting the knife already so firmly jammed in our collective side, Bush has thrown in his own lie. In June 2004, Bush told us exactly how he felt: “We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.”
That he even has to mention this and remind us that our country is supposed to be better is a sign of how far we fallen. But The New York Times has recently uncovered documents proving the Justice Department has authorized any tactic short of “shocking to the conscience.” So Bush is proved a liar and a torturer. And we don’t stop him.
That this entire country isn’t marching on the White House to tell Bush he’s lost his mind proves that we are all complicit. We’ve failed this idea of America, from those that still support Bush to those that indeed do march on the capital to tell Bush he’s delusional. It is either a failure of neglect or a failure of attempt, but it is a failure nonetheless.
I am reminded of a plea by Benjamin Rush from 1786, the year before the Constitutional Convention. Even the most knowledgeable men among us werent sure if 13 states could ever come together as one polity, controlling their own destiny. Yet Rush urged his fellow Americans to stay focused.
“The American war is over; but this is far from being the case with the American revolution,” Rush said. “On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals and manners of our citizens.”
Democracy is meant to be a continuous attempt at self-governance. And it pains me to realize that the great American drama is ending. We have found what the end of our experiment is, and it is that we will sell out our values for 30 silver pieces of “security.” We should be ashamed. We have failed.
Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]