I really believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. I believe that people are generally good, that things are improving, and so on. I even believe that most people, even politicians, usually want to do the right thing. I don’t believe that the government is evil, or out to get us; I believe that the government is, on the whole, comprised of people who are just as human as I am and prone to some of the same fears, stupidities, vanities, and mistakes that I am prone to. I don’t believe that President Bush is evil or despotic, but I do believe that he’s a bit of a moron who has allowed his anxiousness to please his deep-pocket friends to override his common sense.
It was my optimism that took a bit of a blow today, though, when I saw the article at Yahoo! News that indicated that President Bush had signed an executive order which will allow the military to conduct trials of those accused of terrorism, instead of the civilian courts. I guess that it makes a certain amount of sense, if you decide that we are in a state of war with a generic class of people called "terrorists", but I honestly think that that’s stretching things a bit. I had always thought that war was declared on nations and states, not on ideologies (though I suppose all wars start in ideologies anyway).
I don’t believe that the government has been clamoring for years for an excuse to erode at our civil liberties; that sort of thinking I usually let the conspiracy nuts and militia goons handle. Personally, I think that the government would understand the value of controlled dissent in an oligarchy, just as in 1984 and Brave New World, rather than shut down all freedoms. No, what saddens me about this is that it’s more a sign of fear than anything else. The government is allowing its fear of further terrorist attacks to direct its actions in the "War on Terror". Between this and the announcement that attorney-client privilege between accused terrorists and their legal counsel has been suspended, one really has to wonder what will happen to ordinary citizens who for some reason or another find themselves accused of terrorism of any kind; and what constitutes terrorism in any case? I’m not extremist enough to believe that speaking out against the government’s actions in the "War on Terror" will itself constitute terrorism in the government’s eye (I’ve always been glad to live in a country where, despite its other faults, you can vote how you want without fear of being gunned down outside the polling booth). But I can’t help but worry how far things will go before it gets better. Even McCarthyism came to an end.
Today, I met with the pastor at our church. She and I both agreed that a religious faith (or any mode of thinking, for that matter) just isn’t worth the neurons it’s thought with if it can’t stand up to doubt and questioning and incorporate new challenges. I feel that the same thing applies to principles and values, especially at a national level. If our national ideals of democracy and civil liberties can’t weather the crisis that we’re currently facing, then how important are they really?
Indeed, it seems to me that it’s in crises like these that we need to hang on to our national ideals the most. Not only do we need to stay united as a nation, but we need to stand more firmly than ever behind the values for which our nation stands.
Or is that simply too much to ask for?
On another note, I discovered that some unsavory characters had signed up on my notify list for no other reason than to get new e-mail addresses to send spam to. I’ve unsubscribed any e-mail addresses that looked suspicious to me, but the damage has already been done. If you were subscribed, and you’re one of the Good Guys, my apologies! Sign up again! But the list is restricted now to those who are willing to submit a first and last name.