May 21, 2009

Who can’t handle the truth?

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 6:42 pm

I just finished reading the full text of Cheney’s speech today on torture and national security (I have not had the chance to read Obama’s… that’s next). My instant response was “Jack Nicholson already gave this speech – and much more convincingly – in the movie A Few Good Men. See it here for yourself:

The problem with these stirring – and candidly, emotionally effective – words is that they are based on the false premise that an U.S. citizens life and safety is greater in some way than the lives and safety of other people based on where they had the good or bad fortune to be born. This is a false justification that I cannot and will not abide by.

If my 85 pound son came home from school battered by the 165 pound bully, I could eliminate the problem by sending my son to school with a baseball bat and instructions to pound the “bully” out of the other child. I assure you, my son would not come home battered and beaten (he broke my nose with a bat, I think he can handle a 165 pound bully). I can also assure you he would not come home a better or safer person. Things are not suddenly “okay” because the larger boy is being beaten up now instead of the smaller one. There is still wanton violence; it is just going in a different direction. In fact the only real difference is that now, my son and I have willingly relinquished our high moral ground.

By attacking the people we believe – or perhaps I should say allege – are responsible for 9/11, and other potential future attacks, we have successfully put them on the defensive. They are being beaten by the bat and therefore cannot bully us. The same can be said for torturing them to obtain information about said attacks. However – as common sense dictates – they are not broken, their intent and resolve remain intact and, if anything, are probably steeled and emboldened by this onslaught.

In the end, what we will have done is traded our character for a transient and temporary safety that will evaporate as soon as our offensive incursion ends (Cheney says as much himself “… therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever…”). And therein lies my concern. Not with the security, mind you, but with the destruction of a character that I have always believed in.

When I was young I said the pledge of allegiance based on my belief that this was a great country. Great because we were the good guys, we did the right things, no matter the personal cost or sacrifice. I teach my children to do the right thing, even if it will be painful or costly for them. Simply put, personal integrity outweighs personal good. I tell them that at the end of the day, the only person they have to face in the mirror is themselves; and I ask them how their actions are going to reflect in those eyes.

How can I effectively teach them this lesson, which I believe to be a core quality of character indicator, when our former vice-president is extolling the virtues of “do unto other before they do unto you” diplomacy? I don’t really have an answer to that right now, but here is what I do know…

If my son ever does come home beat up by a bully, and much as I love and want to protect him, what I’m going to send him back to school with is advice, not a baseball bat. It’s not what Vice President Cheney would do, but on this one he and I are just going to have to agree to disagree…

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