Why does any news organization print or air the opinions of bankers, economists, banking consultants (whatever the hell they are!) and financial analysts these days? Shouldn’t they all be in a corner somewhere for an extended time out? Or at the very least, taking some remedial math courses? Bad enough we have all these out-of-power politicians who brought America to the brink of political and financial bankruptcy this past decade still mouthing off about how they should be running things again, but now we have to listen to guys who couldn’t even make money in banking? And frauds and thieves to boot? 

No, thanks. The greatest crimes of this sad era was the sordid legacy of spiritual emptiness, zero accountability and casual criminality at the highest levels of society. To quote U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch, who spoke these words to Senator Joseph McCarthy 55 years ago this June: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” The implied answer, then and now, is: “No, sir. No we do not!” 

Now you have to wonder what rhetorical hoops the supporters of the last administration are going to be jumping through in response to the release of the “secret torture memos” emanating from the Bush The Younger White House. Secret torture memos? To quote any American with half a brain and even the slightest sense of what it means to be America and an American: “What the fuck?” When did we get ourselves a Gestapo? Secret prisons, torture, “remanding” suspects to other nations’ torture chambers? What ever happened to due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Since when did The Bill of Rights become the Bill of Suggestions?

For over half a century we’ve been hearing about CIA “black ops,” those illegal acts that were carried out in our name to fight the Cold War, undermine legitimate governments or serve American corporate interests at the expense of the lives and well-being of other countries’ ciizens. Like anything else that is allowed or condoned even once, these black operations evolved into routine public policy. A government within a government that answers to no one will always by definition go out of control. These policies and the people  who implemented them nearly robbed the world of America, and worse, almost robbed America of America.

How can anyone defend their behavior? But oh, they will, no doubt, and they’ll try to paint President Obama as some sort of traitor for lifting up the corner of the rug to show all the trash that has been swept under there. The same thing happened to President John F. Kennedy when he put America’s apartheid practices on trial for the whole world to see. Well, the Republic survived (although Kennedy didn’t). The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed and we became a better and stronger nation for it. Can we do less than to try to redeem our souls once again in the face of today’s troubles and be America again? As much as we need America, the world needs America to be America again.

No one ever said it would be easy to be America or to be an American. It is an ideal as much as a nation, a continuing work-in-progress. It was never perfect, but we never flinched from publicly acknowledging and confronting our flaws. Every generation is supposed to be another mile travelled down the road towards universal freedom, dignity, tolerance and shared prosperity. Taking the easy way out was never the idea. The words and ideals upon which this nation was founded are hard to live up to. Does that mean we don’t even try anymore? When the president is sworn in, he vows to uphold those words and ideals, The Constitution of The United States of America. He also swears to defend this nation from all enemies foreign and domestic, but that vow does not release him from defending the demanding ideals of our Constitution. 

Even in times of peace it is difficult to live up to to the Constitution because it demands we behave better than other nations and treat our citizens better than other nations, even though we are but ordinary people. Having the Constitution and the core idea of America is what challenges us to be better. When our own institutions try to cut corners and break the laws we have made to set us apart from repressive and totalitarian regimes, don’t we have an obligation to react swiftly and punish the offenders? Don’t we have to continue this journey and grand experiment in liberty and self-governance no matter who is attacking us? When we stop being America, our enemies win.

Do we let the NSA get away with admitting that they “over-harvested” our phone calls and e-mails in direct violation of the Constitution and the law? Do we accept their feeble “extra-legal” explanations? And just what the hell is an “extra-legal act” but a crime? Isn’t it extra legal to murder somebody? Sure as hell is! President Obama’s administration has gone on record as not seeking criminal charges against those who carried out the torture outlined by the Bush The Younger Gang, possibly having their hands too full just cleaning up the horrible stink his predecessor left in this nation. But shouldn’t a huge part of that process be cleaning house at the CIA and the NSA? 

There’s no reforming Gestapo officers. They need to be gone for good. Jack Bauer may be fun escapist television, but lousy policy for a nation of laws. Closing their secret prisons, ordering a halt to torture in the name of America and naming names when it comes to the authorization of these policies is a good start, but just a start. Because, at long last, the vast majority of Americans do have a sense of decency, deep and wide. It has been under attack by domestic enemies for a long time now. The result has been a massive transfer of wealth from the working classes to the ownership class and an unprecedented power grab by a corporate/executive branch elite (the odious motto: “I’ve got mine” has been revised to include: “and his and his and his too!”). It’s about time we said Enough! Who will be the next Joseph Welch?

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top