Tipping point against . . . what? Obituary for America

Update:  You probably ought to read Coturnix’s views at Blog Around the Clock, “We are now officially living in a dictatorship.”  God willing, he is not correct.
My first observation: Fox reporter Chris Wallace asked a question proposed by a listener in e-mail — probably hoping to embarrass Bill Clinton. Clinton took the question knew exactly what it was intended to do, and delivered a Philippic* on how Clinton worked to get Osama bin Laden before September 2001, that rather stunned people used to Democrats rolling over and letting half-truths win. It was front page in the Dallas Morning News (the Associated Press story, with a photo), and the talk of the internet.

Second observation: Clinton’s interview prompted this, a letter from a mother who lost her daughter on September 11, 2001. It turns out not all of the survivors of the victims of the initial attack think the current administration handled things well, either before or after the attack, and it appears there may be a minor flood of complaints from this quarter.

Third observation: Historians familiar with the Alien and Sedition Acts and their effects on America (prompting the ouster of John Adams from office, making him the first one-term president) couldn’t help but wonder when Congress last week approved bills to authorize activities in capturing and detaining prisoners from the campaign against terrorism. These activities previously ruled been ruled unAmerican by the Supreme Court — or unconstitutional, at least.

Are we at a tipping point now? Has public opinion made a turn that will be a topic for future history tests, on the war against terror and the Bush administration? (Malcolm Gladwell, what do you say?)

This morning’s e-mail brought this, an obituary for America, by Larry Butts:

An Obituary by Larry Butts

America (1776 – 2006)

America, often referred to by her nickname “Land of the Free,” was killed today in Washington, DC, by a drunk driver. The driver has been identified only as Commander in Chief. She had been ill recently.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, her parents included Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and George Washington.

She was known in her youth as rebellious, and, after throwing off the shackles of a tyrannical dictator, she and her family pledged that they would prefer death to a life under an oppressor.

America was most proud of her offspring, Bill of Rights. She insisted that everyone be allowed to say or write anything about anybody, even in a newspaper. “My home is my castle,” she would often be heard saying. This meant that nobody had the right to come into her home or carry her off quietly during the night without a proven need to do so, and that need couldn’t be someone else’s hysteria. And, America was even comfortable agreeing to have a trial in public with impartial judges if she ever was believed to have done something wrong. Nothing made her angrier than to see someone punished when they had only been suspected of wrongdoing so she made sure that everyone had the right to confront their accusers and any witnesses in public. And, anticipating that big shots would forget or abuse the abstract ideals of justice, fairness, morality, and integrity, she made sure that all of us could get a good attorney if we ever needed one. America, just as all her brothers and sisters, hated cruel and unusual punishment. She cried all night with a broken heart when she learned that people were being tortured just for her safety. She learned well the lessons taught to her by her parents, and “Give me liberty or give me death” was not just a slogan to her.

She lived her life true to the highest ideals. Never fearful, America, Land of the Free, would enter any battle to help others. Generous with her wealth, she gave to others so that their lives might be more fulfilling. People around the world were attracted to her integrity, her sense of right versus wrong, and good versus bad. She said what she meant and meant what she said. She accepted responsibility for her own actions, and never falsely blamed others. Although her ideals were universal, many insisted that she be referred to as Christian.

Unwavering, America was never tempted to sacrifice her principles even when fired upon at Fort Sumter, bombed at Pearl Harbor, assaulted by Senator Joseph McCarthy, intimidated by night riders from the Ku Klux Klan, or mired in a winless war in southeast Asia.

Many are saddened by her demise, but those that will miss her most are Opportunity, Dreams, Promise, Honor, Hope, Vision, and Leadership.

Friends had been concerned about her illness. For six years, her doctors refused to admit there was anything wrong with her even while her symptoms deteriorated and her loved ones pleaded for intervention. Newspapers and television hastened her decline by refusing to ask her “care givers” why she seemed so out of control. This recent lack of judgment seems to have contributed to her willingness to get in the car with one who had repeatedly shown that he could not drive responsibly.

Her remains will probably be cremated, or just locked away in a vault somewhere in eastern Europe or Guantanamo Bay and forgotten.

Memorials may be made to any organization that fights for your rights.

(By Larry Butts, BJDLFB515@INDY.RR.COM)

[* – “Philippic” may not be exactly the term I’m looking for, in the third definition, in the sense that Clinton’s speech wasn’t “filled with invective.” If you have a better term to use, let me know.]


7 Responses to Tipping point against . . . what? Obituary for America

  1. Keith Foor says:

    I realize that the last post was 7 years ago. And America has held on for that time but seems to be nearing the end.

    As funny as it may sound, I blame Star Trek. As obviously silly as it sounds, hear me out.
    Ol Gene created a utopian society on TV, they had an endless supply of energy and had figured out how to convert energy into matter. Specifically food. Money was no longer needed as they simply ask the computer for it and they get it. They have the ability to experience anything and be anyone through the holo-deck. No one really had to work for anything, they just cruised around the universe never consuming the endless supply of energy with hit chicks and handsome men and did their thing.

    Enter today and now. We have people protesting Wall Street because they cant get a job with their college degree in classical studies (whatever that is) and feel that the people that actually employ us are our enemy. They saw this utopia on TV and thing that is the real world. I questioned for a long time how violent video games could make kids commit acts of extreme violence. I thought it was all rubbish, after all, Tome and Jerry was violent. Bugs and Daffy were always dealing with Elmer Fudd and his shotgun. But no one ever went blasting away at school, or in a mall. But I seem to have been wrong. I seems to have missed something. Now we have the Star Trek generation, and they want everything handed to them for nothing and truly believe it is somehow owed to them.

    They then somehow figure to demonize the very providers of the things they want.


  2. SteveA says:

    So some athiests have the same group-think that some Jesus followers do (christians, catholics, protestands, etc). So apparently, you too fall into the same group-think.

    Do some athiests think that way? Obviously they do. Do all of them? Obviously not. While many athiests believe religion is a crutch which has prevented humanity from socially progressing beyond its early transformation to a social species, most hold human life in even higher regard than religous people do, and would never want to kill any of them.

    Of course, violence is a major part of humanity, and has only recently gone through muting stages (the last 10,000 years in an evolutionary split of 40,000+ years).


  3. DavidD says:

    Innocence never has been that much of a protection. Look up “innocence projects” on the internet. I don’t know anything about you, Carpus. You don’t know anything about me. I’m convinced the Republican proposals don’t threaten my liberty any more than it’s already threatened by an imperfect system. I wouldn’t have written that if I wasn’t sure it’s true for me. I don’t write that in support of them. I write that in opposition to using hyperbole saying that they are the death of America. No, they are not.

    As far as atheists, in my 8 years online, I have read numerous things from atheists that are contrary to your last sentence. I remember an atheist on a message board who advocated rounding up all Christians and shooting them. He was challenged on that, and insisted he meant all Christians, not just those who wanted to change him. He considered any public expression of religion an attack on him.

    PZ Myers is someone who is often cited on this site. Read his attacks on books by theists like Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller. Myers would have them shut up, even though neither one says that Myers has to stop being an atheist.

    I can’t even write what I understand to be the truth here without someone coming along to say, no, I’m wrong and you’re right. So there are indeed lots of people from many different directions who want to change me. Only you can’t. You don’t know how, and you don’t know what you don’t know. The government won’t be any closer to knowing either, even if the Republicans get everything they have proposed. It is not the death of America. That is propaganda. Many people like propaganda, from all parts of the political spectrum. It’s not for me.


  4. Carpus says:

    DavidD, I hope you’re right. Americans have certainly pushed the boundries of our constitutional rights before and we have gotten through it. Usually we look back on those times and realize we made a mistake – the example of Japanese internment come to mind.

    But I just can’t agree with you when you say “[i]t is not abandoning due process or a threat to my liberty for Republicans to try to push the rules some toward presuming guilt for detainees, toward inhumane treatment of captives or toward eavesdropping without a warrant.” Unfortuantely I think it is exactly that.

    You may be right, and it may be that, like in the case of the Alien and Sedition Acts, we’ll come to our collective senses. But in the mean time I think it *is* a threat to your liberty.

    In Canada, a muslim man has just been cleared of any association with terrorists or terrrorism after he was arrested, ‘rendered’ to Syria, and tortured before someone finally figured out that he didn’t know anything about anything. He was entirely innocent. If it can happen to him (he was rendered by the US authorities), it can happen to you, your neighbor and your daughter. If you’re labeled as a ‘person of interest ‘by the goverment, your US citizenship and the Constitution may not protect you. All it takes is one person who gets the ear of the secretary of defense, president, whoever, and off you go. And you’ll have no legal recourse because the legislature just took it away from you.

    The thing our constitutional framers worried about most was the case of a chief executive who, in a time of war or conflict, tried to claim too much power and who, in doing so, would infringe on the liberties of the people. To combat this they tried to ensure that there was a legislature and judiciary to balance his authority, and they ended up writing the Bill of Rights to try to protect these same rights both from the legislature and the executive if they attempted to cooperate in their infringement.

    Unfortunately we now have two branches of govenment who are colluding, intentionally or not, to encroach on those rights. It may once again just be a temporary set back, but I honestly worry that it sets a bad precedent, and if the Supreme Court fails to identify and stop it, we may concentrate too much power in one individual. And, like Ceasar in Rome or Stalin in Russia, if we give away too much of our freedoms to one person in the name of physical protection, because it doesn’t affect *our* liberty, we’ll have given it away before we know it. And though the country may go on in name, it may not go on in the spirit for which it was formed.

    And by the way, I doubt that atheists have any interest in changing your way of life as long as you didn’t try to change theirs.


  5. DavidD says:

    I don’t know what bin Laden’s goals are. I’m not sure he does either. He’s not just an existential terrorist, taking pleasure simply in destruction, but from what I’ve seen on TV I’d say the payoff he finds in being a terrorist is a rather immediate one, not something requiring layers of strategy. His possibility for victory doesn’t depend on how perfect or imperfect we are.

    I do know that my internal BS detector goes off when I hear Republican rhetoric that he wants to destroy the American way of life. I suppose he does, technically, in favor of a world with only Islam, but many Christian fundamentalists also would alter my way of life if they could, too. Atheists would, too. Lots of people with other visions would alter my life as well. “Live and let live” is a popular slogan in 12-step groups, but it doesn’t seem to get politicians elected.

    Yet despite all such sentiments, I expect to live out my life using the routine I’ve worked out this far. If through some mix-up I’m falsely accused of a crime, the Constitution gives me some protection, but it would still be a mess, judging from stories I’ve heard. I feel for detainees who don’t even have that much protection, “enemy combatants” who have no way of proving that is not who they are, that there was some mistake in them being handed over to American troops. So I’m glad the Supreme Court ruled that some Constitutional protection applies to these men. But either way it’s not the key to a future of health and prosperity in America.

    It is not abandoning due process or a threat to my liberty for Republicans to try to push the rules some toward presuming guilt for detainees, toward inhumane treatment of captives or toward eavesdropping without a warrant. Americans have done these things before, yet ours has remained a better system than one which is strictly might makes right. That doesn’t mean that I favor any change in civil rights, but seeing it that way makes me see it as hyperbole to say that Republicans threaten the American way of life just as it is hyperbole to say that bin Laden threatens the American way of life.

    No, this is yet another international conflict. Either side will go on no matter who wins, and neither will be as good as their rhetoric suggests. Whatever victory someone has will not be as clean as they say, any more than that “Mission Accomplished” banner of Mr. Bush was the truth. People will die. Everyone alive today will someday die, some prematurely and tragically. That will not kill any country. I don’t see what good comes out of rhetoric that’s confused about that.


  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Yeah, it’s a bit over the top when we consider the Mexican-American War, or the Spanish-American War, or U.S. dealings in Central America between, say, 1870 and 1980, or . . . Still, through all that time, we paid homage to the ideas of freedom and due process of law, even when we didn’t achieve them. It’s a bit of a shock to see people say, ‘Well, the Bill of Rights was okay to use to protect Nazis who invaded our lands, but not now.’

    Part of the strategy of the Viet Cong was to get U.S. soldiers confused and angry enough that they would do foolish things, that they’d shoot unarmed peasants. There was no VC internet, but word of every incident in which a U.S. GI harmed any Vietnamese person spread quickly through villages, especially if the harmed person was known locally to be innocent of VC connections. That appears to be the strategy of bin Laden, too — get us to renounce our reliance on legal due process, and then by any measure, we’re no better than the next nation. That’s a strong appeal to recruit suicide bombers and to prevent locals from cooperating with U.S. military operations to get terrorists out. If we’re just one more armed warlord force on the block, what’s the use?

    If our laws are no better than the rules of Somali warlords, hasn’t bin Laden already won? Bush is surrendering to terrorism, and it scares me.


  7. DavidD says:

    This reminds me of that bumper sticker responding to anyone saying, “God is dead,” the sticker reading, “My God is alive. Sorry to hear about yours.” My America is alive. The real America is alive. It’s silly to say otherwise.

    Another reaction to this is about silly lines like “America was never tempted to sacrifice her principles.” I saw a good program last night on the History Channel, about the Mexican-American War. So we saw something we wanted from a weaker country and when they wouldn’t sell, we bludgeoned them until they made the sale at half our initial offer. That’s America, too. Do you only love your fantasy of your spouse, or are you willing to love your spouse as he or she really is, your country, too? Or I’d say it also makes sense to reserve one’s love for people, even internationally, and say countries are just places we live.


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