Saturday, July 01, 2006

Citizenship

I've been surprised at the depth of my emotional reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling against the Bush Administration's handling of the Gitmo detainees. First of all, that it was so close--it was a 5-3 decision, but had Justice Roberts not heard the case in the appellate courts, he would have voted with the President (he did so in the lower court rulings), and the vote would have been 5-4. We are a heart-beat away from the country that we know and love being destroyed by a totalitarian regime.

The Republican response to this I found both predictable and outrageous. Of course they would be upset about it and blow a lot of hot air and blather on as though they were victims of some "them" that wants to destroy their fascist policies. Mussolini on steroids.

But that they will now attempt to use this as a political wedge to depict the Democrats as soft on terror practically gives me a heart attack. I mean, these Republicans are the same people who've been waving the flag of the Founding Fathers around for months, years now. But habeas corpus, the right to have charges brought against you and be tried, as opposed to being held indefinitely at the will of the reigning powers without formal charges, is the cornerstone of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers' primary critique of the British and European legal systems. To override it willy-nilly, primarily for political purposes, is the worst sort of treason.

Yes, treason. There is a substantive portion of the Republican party that is essentially engaged in a sustained, conspiratorial act of treason against this country.

My reaction to the Washington Post article this morning was visceral, tribal even. On several sides of the family, my ancestors' presence on the North American continent dates back to the 17th century. My ancestors fought and died for a significant principle that the current Republican party is only too willing to toss overboard. My own ties to early European presence on the American continent don't give me any special right to speak, but it gives me a connection to the past that I worry we are losing as our public schools fail to teach the principles of the founding of the American republic--I don't mean they should teach them jingoistically, but the founders of this country were interested in human rights and creating a fair legal system in a world that, at the time, did not value those principles. That is a significantly good thing. Even when I was in high school, I had learned more from the various car trips to Boston and Philadelphia that my family took to visit historic sites than I did from history class. I know more about the Civil War from similar trips my parents took us on to the Southern border states, too.

And the Democrats are, as usual, refusing to go for the jugular. The issue here is not some vague benefit for 'all Americans' (as Nancy Pelosi said, a leader I find questionable), but the Republicans' attempts to overthrow the Constitution of this country, and to negate a founding principle of our government. That's the issue. If politicians can throw anyone in jail and hold them without charges, it's not just going to be these shadowy 'others' that we're afraid of--it's going to be us, too, all of us citizens, regardless of our family's background. All of us, as citizens, have a responsibility to teach our children what the founding principles of this government really are--because if the kids don't understand, if we don't understand, we are all going to lose our connection to the founding of the American project--a project that is, indeed, often imperfect and sometimes unfair, and sometimes historically suspect in its actions, but one that has been, at least in a general philosophical sense, pointed in the right humanistic direction these 200 years or more.

I think we need to do more to inculcate in our children how great the responsibility of citizenship is in this country. Ours is a country run by citizens, and with its faith and trust placed in our fellow citizens, and not one that should store or place any particular investment in a solitary administration, or group of politicians, or the judgement of a single leader--the latter is a form of imperialism, and our system is democracy.

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