It took me nearly two days to compose myself after details of the news hit me, at least enough to write a coherent article that wasn’t a nerve-wracking rant. It felt like watching every last cute kitten on the Internet wasn’t going to sooth how disturbingly my government is doing things as bad as the very worst enemies we’ve ever had. And they were allegedly torturing other human beings without even a hint of due process to determine guilt of any crime, in our name, and for no benefit (not that any amount of benefit can justify suspending human rights in such a way).
But what nearly pushed me into a sleepless night of agitation were the masses of people’s justifications that I dare suggest cannot be excused as anything but mindless, brainwashed fear sprinkled with raging bigotry. One Facebook acquaintance even posted a 9-11 meme of sorts to another’s approval implying we simply should not care and look the other way. What revived my spirit was the plethora of defiantly decent and humane commenters on an article I myself had commented on.
I almost posted a caveat on my wall that “if you disagree, it’s probably best you don’t post on my wall or be prepared for an ethical @$$-whooping of biblical proportions.” It’s not that I’m unwilling to accept another point of view on this, but that there could even be a debate at all is just beyond my comprehension.
The comments advocating evil all fell into childish cliches: revenge upon some people under assumption they were the same people who did evil to us (a big, collective “they” compared to a distinctive “us”); a dire necessity to be evil as if we don’t have any choice; evil being okay because they are more evil and would do such things to us. The more “rational” adherents of such thinking give more nuanced “greywashing” but the arguments are all fundamentally the same — and fundamentally flawed. We embarrass ourselves with excuses, and are too senseless to feel the embarrassment.
How to Respond?
I will publicly advocate for the bringing to justice of all those involved. Not doing so is not acceptable, and hinges upon the very legitimacy of government authority. But there is no appropriate punishment to fit such crimes. Turning such people over to Al Qaeda would be poetic justice, putting them with their own kind in the deepest sense. And as much as I am against capital punishment, I would even be tempted to look the other way if the guilty were all executed.
But I would insist all the accused be given every ounce of due process, simply because the very nature of their crime was denying their victims exactly that. Unlike these actions some of us are so morally low to defend, only playing fair in the extreme would send a message that we as a people are not as inhuman as those we supposedly are protecting against.
It is ultimately irrelevant what our “enemies” do. We don’t make that choice. This is about what WE do, and therefore are. If we are willing to be evil to fight evil we can only expect to reap the fruits of such actions as well. If America cannot survive without stooping to — nay, burrowing in — hellish affairs, we do not deserve to survive. We will have squandered the high ethical landscape crafted and handed to us by wiser men, a milieu in which the ends cannot justify the means. We need to learn anew that good doesn’t take the route of the coward and fool, supposing to defeat evil in a way we can’t help but to become it.
Therefore, we need to prove it foremost to ourselves, not just our enemies, allies, and the world. We must have assurance of significant magnitude at this point that we are not one step closer to everyday Americans becoming eventual victims. Ethical precedents of this nature can just as easily “justify” methods used on others be turned against our own citizens.
I do believe — and pardon my uncharacteristic intolerance, albeit in favor of unegotiable human decency — that if you find yourself on that side of the line, you’re on the side of evil in its truest sense. This transcends militant Islam and America. You are the enemy of mankind. If you have any real Love for anything that is holy, don’t be that guy.
For me, this whole thing has been a double-whammy. First, more extreme evidence that the Federal government‘s authority is illegitimate; secondly, that the lion’s share of “We the People” will be as accepting as sheep to an increasingly inevitable end that is most lamentable because it would otherwise be preventable by deliberate awareness.
I’ll be watching you, Uncle Sam, to see if you can correct this instead of wait for people’s attention spans to run out. And I’m watching you, America, to see if you truly deserve better leadership and accountability and ethics by demanding it until you have it.