Assassinating suspects undermines justice

My following letter about assassinating terrorists appeared in the Daily Beacon, the University of Tennessee’s student newspaper, on March 5, 2010:

In light of the publication of a secret Israeli assassination in Dubai, Treston Wheat committed his Feb. 25 waste of ink to glorifying assassination, which he deems necessary to the fight against terrorism. Even if this were true, assassinations are illegal under domestic and international law, so he condones lawbreaking. While ignoring all moral and legal questions, Wheat boldly assumes that assassination can stop terrorism. It cannot, and one could argue that the assassination of suspected terrorists increases the strength and legitimacy of the terrorists’ cause, while undermining our claim on liberty and justice.

As a Jew and a staunch advocate of freedom, due process and the rule of law, I am often disappointed by the Israeli government’s tactics and policies. I am equally disappointed by self-proclaimed followers of Christ like Wheat, who defend government policies that are immoral, expedient, unnecessary and antagonistic to everything Jesus taught. The philosophical innovation of Judaism was the recognition of human freedom; to this, Christianity added the common brotherhood of all men. These Western religious tenets, freedom and brotherhood, have been abandoned by the current Israeli coalition and its supporters. Do I support Israel? Yes, but only an Israel that recognizes all its inhabitants as free and equal under the law, and one need not look far into Israel’s laws to discover that it does not. I hold every other nation to the same standard.

The United States itself participates in secret assassinations more often than we know. The targets of these assassinations are suspects. They are innocent until proven guilty. They are the accused, and in a free and just society, the accused have rights. Our CIA is not all bad, but it is often involved in a lot of mischief offensive to our idea of justice. Recently, ABC News released agency recordings of a small plane being shot down over Peru, with the aid of our CIA. The plane was suspected of smuggling drugs, but was actually carrying an American missionary family, all of whom were killed by the machine gun fire of Peruvian fighter jets. These deaths are a consequence of the notion that it is okay to murder suspects without the benefit of a trial, or even evidence presented against them. Even if the plane had been carrying drugs and smugglers, since when is capital punishment, executed in secrecy without trial, the proper punishment for this crime? Or any other crime, for that matter? This practice destroys 800 years of our legal traditions dating back to the Magna Carta. Now we are told by the CIA that it considers itself obliged to assassinate American citizens, on secret evidence, in order to protect us from threats. The power given to the U.S. president by our passive acceptance of this practice is definitively totalitarian. It is a real threat to essential human liberties.

Terrorism works, and the more brutal the physical force opposing it, the more quickly it strengthens and spreads. The true “War on Terror” is a battle of ideas and politics, because terrorists are inspired by ideas and political grievances. I prefer destroying the dark tree of terrorism at its root — not picking off one prickly leaf at a time, as several grow back in its place. To do this, we must ask ourselves what the root cause of terrorism is and address that cause. If we have not properly answered that question, and the answer to it is well-publicized by its perpetrators, we cannot begin to address the terrorist threat.

Wheat’s disapproval of the recent Mossad assassination stems from its sloppiness, not its intent. The trouble with the Israeli government’s policy of murdering suspected criminals, Wheat has so amorally asserted, is that the crime was eventually caught on film. The real trouble is that assassination is murder with impunity. It is always unjust. If a person is evil enough to “deserve” assassination, certainly that person is evil enough to stand trial for his crimes.

Alex Winston

Senior in political science

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Hate crime legislation perpetuates injustice

Blind Justice

What we have established is not justice.  We have established laws, law enforcement, legal proceedings, punishments, and all the trappings of a system of justice.  At a glance, the credulous simpleton may call that system justice, and on a windy night, he may see a white sheet on a clothesline, and call it a ghost; in the second instance, he is perhaps less the fool.  A mysterious white figure in the night is not a ghost, and a justice system is not justice, and it may be that, over the course of history, humans have known true justice only as often as they have known true ghosts.

The Senate recently passed legislation expanding the definition of hate crimes, and also expanding federal jurisdiction over the enforcement of hate crime legislation, which reminded me of a justice system injustice: hate crime legislation.

One hope of such legislation is to deter hate crimes by handing down harsher sentences.  The proponents of hate crime legislation also claim that it promotes justice.  In Congress, as usual, absurdity triumphs.

Firstly, the term “hate crime” is problematic (can we please have some “love crime” legislation?).  Is a crime committed out of greed any less offensive, any less dangerous, or any less deserving of punishment than one committed out of hate?  What about a jealous crime?  Is the jealous felon more noble than the hateful one?  Blind justice does not see a greedy murderer, a jealous murderer, and a hateful murderer; she senses that all three act with malicious intent, and if their crimes are otherwise identical, their emotions are inconsequential.  Of all killers, she absolves only the fearful self-defender, who is no criminal at all, and who may serve as an example to further test the justice of hate crime legislation.

If a human kills another in indisputable self-defense, that human is guilty of no crime; no one inquires into the dead’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  It is not unthinkable that, had the assailant been of another gender, the person acting in self-defense would have employed non-lethal measures.  This possibility, however, does not affect justice; justice is blind to group distinctions.  The person acting in self-defense always acts justly.  In like manner, the person committing a crime always acts unjustly; still, justice is blind to group distinctions.

“Hate crimes” are designed to protect victims who may be targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.  However, judges only protect certain groups.  Absurdly, it is ruled that many majorities and even some minorities cannot legally be the objects of hatred.  A white, heterosexual, Christian, American male is incapable of being the victim of a hate crime, no matter how vehemently his attacker hates white, straight, Christian, American men.  If a criminal targets obscenely wealthy people only because they are obscenely wealthy, and the criminal admits to hating such people, he cannot be charged with a hate crime.  Hate crime legislation requires that individuals belonging to certain groups are given more legal protection than others.  This is unequal treatment under the law; it is, by definition, injustice.

Most harmfully, hate crime legislation actually encourages and perpetuates group bias, inequality, and injustice.  An unbiased perspective cannot prevail among a people whose government legally differentiates between individuals on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, income, economic status, political ideology, or any other such distinction; and that is exactly what hate crime legislation does.  Ironically, it is the self-proclaimed champions of the unbiased perspective that–perhaps unwittingly–prevent it from taking root.

Melville’s Billy Budd: a Commentary on Burke vs. Paine?

 Paine Burke

Paine (left) wrote Rights of Man as a dagger against Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

When I began reading Billy Budd, I established a literary and apolitical mindset, but it was an admittedly weak one that could not withstand Melville’s torrent of political references. For example, Melville named Billy’s merchant ship Rights-of-Man, which he left to board a man-of-war called Bellipotent (the names could not be more politically provocative). Because of my intimacy with both Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, I kept both men’s philosophies in mind as I read. Their opposing books, following the French Revolution, became the bases of classical liberalism and modern conservatism. In my opinion, Melville uses Billy Budd to glorify Paine’s liberal view and humiliate Burke’s conservative one.

Before explaining how their relative political philosophies fit into this story, I want to summarize briefly Burke’s and Paine’s worldviews. Burke’s Reflections emphasized the importance of traditional institutions (like church and monarchy) and the rule of law in society. According to Burke, society must run according to written law, however unjust that law may seem. Burke claimed that natural rights did not exist unless they were established by law, and only a change in the law could enable them to be practiced. Burke believed that people needed a legal ruler. In The Rights of Man, Paine exhibited enlightenment views such as individual rights inherent to human existence, peace, freedoms of expression and action, low taxation, and republicanism. According to Paine, society must run according to natural law. He claimed that it was dutiful to break unjust or unnatural laws. Paine believed that people should rule themselves.

Captain Vere shares Burke’s strict adherence to the rule of law, despite its probable injustice. Vere says, “Our vowed responsibility is this: That however pitilessly that law may operate in any instances, we nevertheless adhere to it and administer it” (2510).

Vere also holds Burke’s traditional belief that the people need a ruler. Vere says, “The people have native sense; most of them are familiar with our naval usage and tradition; and how would they take it [mitigating Budd’s penalty]? Even could you explain to them—which our official position forbids—they, long molded by arbitrary discipline, have not that kind of intelligent responsiveness that might qualify them to comprehend and discriminate” (2511).

The same tone expressed here by Vere is consistent with Burke’s Reflections. Burke believed it a bad policy to ever circumvent the law (even in a difficult case such as Budd’s), because he believed the law made people habitually virtuous, and that if the law was not enforced, the people’s habit of virtue would be broken. According to Burke, people are not intrinsically good, but have inherited a system of law and religion that molds them to be good. To undermine the structure of the inherited system, then, is also to risk losing the inherited goodness of the people (this logic also plays out in Vere’s mind, as seen above). To Burke, there are no natural laws; laws are made by men, not nature. This opposes Paine’s views that natural laws exist and should be recognized, and that people have an inherent affinity for natural laws, which gives people natural virtue.

A fundamental difference between the dueling English thinkers that Melville must have known: Paine believes man is intrinsically virtuous and Burke believes man is intrinsically vicious. Melville portrays Billy and Claggart, the master-at arms, as having beliefs parallel to these. Claggart is angry and puzzled by the unsophisticated righteousness of Billy’s character, and later, Billy is as shocked and enraged by Claggart’s evil lie. Is Claggart not like Burke–is Billy not like Paine, in their expectations of others? Claggart and Burke expect vice; Billy and Paine expect virtue. It is no coincidence to Melville that each expected from the other that which they harbored within themselves. Melville describes Billy as good and Claggart as evil—and not only evil—but abnormally so. “To pass from a normal nature to [Claggart’s] one must cross ‘the deadly space between’,” writes Melville (2488). So not only does Melville suggest that some people are good and some evil; he also suggests that the evil ones are aberrations, and that among these are men like Claggart and Burke.

Even today, Edmund Burke is among the most respected English legal scholars ever, and before writing Reflections, he had earned a reputation as a friend of liberty. Melville explains that Captain Vere was very well-read in political non-fiction. In the cases of both Burke and Vere, there is mystery as to why such educated and liberal-minded men as they were would favor law over right. Many of Burke’s critics believed that he was ambitiously hoping to win a sizable pension from the king when he wrote Reflections, and George III expressed his admiration for the book. In Billy Budd, when Vere dies, we learn also of his secret ambition. Melville writes of Vere, “Unhappily he was cut off too early for the Nile and Trafalgar. The spirit that ‘spite its philosophic austerity may yet have indulged in the most secret of all passions, ambition, never attained to the fullness of fame” (2521).

I actually see Melville’s Billy Budd as a fictional continuation of Paine’s arguments in The Rights of Man. To illustrate this, I will present a series of quotes within the two works in which Melville seems to echo Paine’s words:

On war contractors:

Paine: “That there are men in all nations who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true.”

Melville: “war contractors (whose gains, honest or otherwise, are in every land an anticipated portion of the harvest of death)” (2515).
On God and injustice:

Paine: “The name of the Creator ought not to be introduced to witness the degradation of his creation.”

Melville: “It was noted at the time [of Budd’s execution], and remarked upon afterwards, that in this final scene the good man [chaplain] evinced little or nothing perfunctory. Brief speech indeed he had with the condemned one, but the genuine Gospel was less on his tongue than in his aspect and manner towards him.”
On first principles:

Paine: “It is unnatural that a pure stream should flow from a foul fountain.”

Melville: “The Mutiny Act, War’s child, takes after the father.” (1511).
On monarchy:

Paine: “We must shut our eyes against reason, we must basely degrade our understanding, not to see the folly of what is called monarchy.”

Melville: “How can we adjudge to summary and shameful death a fellow creature innocent before God, and whom we feel to be so?—Does that state it aright? You sign sad assent. Well, I too feel that, the full force of that. It is Nature. But do these buttons that we wear attest that our allegiance is to Nature? No, to the King” (2509).

Billy Budd, as a whole, may be viewed as a story against war. If not for war, Billy would never have left his peaceful trading ship, and the awful series of events that make up the drama of the story would never have occurred. Melville’s antiwar message echoes the sentiments of Paine, who writes, “Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.” This follows from Paine’s belief that men are virtuous absent of law. Burke would never agree to such a statement, for it is his belief that man is naturally the enemy of man, but that his warring nature is restricted by the rule of law.

Another similarity is the way in which contemporary society remembered Billy Budd and Thomas Paine. Both were heroes who the newspapers called villains. Both were publicly ridiculed and lied about. Paine’s contemporaries called him—though he professed his belief in God—a blasphemer and an atheist, and a seditious agitator. Melville presented newspaper stories that incorrectly portrayed Billy Budd as a mutinous criminal. Paine died in impoverished obscurity—hated by the very multitudes who once shared his revolutionary spirit—despite his magnanimous contributions to society. On a smaller scale, Billy perished in much the same way.

Melville closes by writing, “The above, appearing in a publication now long ago superannuated and forgotten, is all that hitherto has stood in human record to attest what manner of men respectively were John Claggart and Billy Budd” (2522). One cannot help but wonder if he is not also talking about the manner of men that were Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.

The conservative views of following the law to the letter and believing in intrinsic evil are supposed to seem unjust in Billy Budd, because Melville favors the liberal view. Whether or not the debates between Burke and Paine inspired this story, only Melville knows for sure, but the similarities are compelling.

Works referenced:

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. New York: Oxford University
Press. 1993

Paine, Thomas. The Rights of Man. Rights of Man and Common Sense. New York: Alfred A. Knopf (Everyman’s Library), 1994.

All page numbers cited from the following work:

Reidhead, Julia, Ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Melville, Herman. Billy Budd. Seventh Edition. Volume B. 1820 – 1865. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Jefferson v. Hamilton, federal powers, and the Marshall Court

Jefferson and Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were the most prominent representatives of two contrary interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. Two landmark Supreme Court cases, Marbury v. Madison (1803) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), show the relative influences of these two interpretations on American political thought.

Jefferson was a strict constructionist. He desired a limited government, and thought Congress should be restricted to the enumerated powers of the Constitution. In 1787, he wrote to James Madison from Paris, “I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.”

Hamilton, on the other hand, believed in a strong and energetic central government. He thought Congress should have more legislative powers than those expressly stated in Section 8 of the first article of the Constitution. He also favored a strong executive power.

Jefferson and Hamilton became political rivals. In 1818, explaining the notes taken during his tenure as Secretary of State (Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury at the time), Jefferson remembered, “Hamilton was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

The two politicians squared off when arguing about the constitutionality of a national bank before the legislature in 1791, and that instance best displayed their different interpretations of the Constitution. The argument centered around a part of the Constitution that has become famously known as the “necessary and proper” clause.

The last power of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”

According to Jefferson, the establishment of a national bank was illegal under the Constitution. His argument before Congress was unsuccessful but legally sound and compelling. He said, “The second general phrase is, ‘to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the enumerated powers.’ But they can all be carried into execution without a bank. A bank therefore is not necessary, and consequently not authorized by this phrase. It has been urged that a bank will give great facility or convenience in the collection of taxes. Suppose this were true: yet the Constitution allows only the means which are ‘necessary,’ not those which are merely ‘convenient’ for effecting [sic] the enumerated powers.” In addition to this logical argument, Jefferson claims that the Constitutional convention specifically rejected the power to erect a bank, because it would cause the Constitution to be rejected by the states.

Alexander Hamilton’s response to Jefferson’s interpretation, which today brings to mind Bill Clinton’s “depends on what the meaning of the word is is” defense, was to alter the meaning of the word “necessary.” With tortured logic, Hamilton explained that “necessary often means no more than needful, requisite, incidental, useful, or conductive to.” He argued as if the Constitution was not a deliberate legal document, but a casually rendered text of hyperbole, a rubber instrument open to broad interpretations.

Government tends to expand its own powers to the furthest extent tolerated by a majority of citizens. As Hamilton’s program proceeded, so did this tendency in the United States; Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland help to commemorate this procession.

In Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the decision against Jefferson’s administration. Jefferson was upset by the decision, but he was not entirely opposed to its points. Reacting to the Constitution in 1787, Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison, “I like the negative given to the Executive with a third of either house, though I should have liked it better had the Judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested with a similar and separate power.” The Marbury v. Madison decision established Jefferson’s wish precisely, judicial review, which is the ability of the Supreme Court to declare a law unconstitutional and void.

As a strict constructionist, however, Jefferson believed that the Constitution meant what it said, and was alarmed by Marshall’s claim in Marbury v. Madison that “it is, emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department, to say what the law is.” According to Jefferson, this dangerously opened the Constitution to liberal interpretations like Hamilton’s.

If in 1803 Marbury v. Madison lobbed Jefferson’s strict constructionist interpretation, McCulloch v. Maryland batted it to oblivion in 1819. The issue hotly debated by the political giants in Congress twenty-nine years earlier, the constitutionality of a national bank, again entered the national political arena, this time in the Supreme Court. Marshall wrote the decision. He affirmed Hamilton’s interpretation of the “necessary and proper” clause, instituting the implied powers of Congress.

These decisions effectively turned the Constitution into the glass-encased relic it is today, and made the United States government one of men, and not of laws. The judges of the Supreme Court, appointed for life by the President and confirmed by a majority of the Senate, granted themselves in Marbury v. Madison the power “to say what the law is” in 1803, after which any statute wished for by the President and a majority of Senators, however offensive to the Constitution, could be legally enacted, so long as there were sufficient vacancies in the Supreme Court to procure a majority of like-minded judges. Congress was granted implied powers by McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819. Despite John Marshall’s lip-service to the Constitution in McCulloch v. Maryland, “its limits are not to be transcended,” his decision legally ended constitutionally limited government in the United States. The Marshall Court assented to Hamilton’s interpretation, and killed Jefferson’s. Jefferson knew he was defeated, and called upon the democratic forces of the people to reinstitute a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution. That call remains unanswered.

Works Referenced

Hamilton, Alexander. “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”. 1791.Dolbeare, Kenneth M. and Michael S. Cummings, Ed. American Political Thought. Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Explanations of the 3. volumes bound in marbled paper”. February 4, 1818. Thomas Jefferson Writings: pp. 661-673. New York: Library of America. 1984.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”. February 15, 1791. Thomas Jefferson Writings: pp. 416-421. New York: Library of America. 1984.

Jefferson, Thomas. “To James Madison”. Paris, Dec. 20, 1787. Thomas Jefferson Writings: pp. 914-918. New York: Library of America. 1984.

Marshall, John. “Marbury v. Madison”. 1803. Dolbeare, Kenneth M. and Michael S. Cummings, Ed. American Political Thought. Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004.

Marshall, John. “McCulloch v. Maryland”. 1819. Dolbeare, Kenneth M. and Michael S. Cummings, Ed. American Political Thought. Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004.  I also referenced the full arguments and decision of this case available at: “http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=17&invol=316

Thomas Jefferson on “implied powers” of the Congress

Constitutional Convention

Thomas Jefferson gave his opinion on the Constitutionality of a national bank on February 15, 1791. In that testament, he not only provided a brilliant legal argument against the institution of a national bank; he also explained the intent of the Constitution’s two most controversial phrases. Today’s political analysts exchange differing opinions on the “general welfare” and “necessary and proper” clauses, but Jefferson’s explanations of them are more than a matter of opinion; they reveal the true intent of the American republic’s framers. Here is Jefferson’s historic opinion (verbatim, even the italics were added by Jefferson–not me–for emphasis):

1. To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States, that is to say, “to lay taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare.” For the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.

To consider the latter phrase, not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please, which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please.

It is an established rule of construction where a phrase will bear either of two meanings, to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which would render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straitly within the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect. It is known that the very power now proposed as a means was rejected as an end by the Convention which formed the Constitution. A proposition was made to them to authorize Congress to open canals, and an amendatory one to empower them to incorporate. But the whole was rejected, and one of the reasons for rejection urged in debate was, that then they would have a power to erect a bank, which would render the great cities, where there were prejudices and jealousies on the subject, adverse to the reception of the Constitution.

2. The second general phrase is, “to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the enumerated powers.” But they can all be carried into execution without a bank. A bank therefore is not necessary, and consequently not authorized by this phrase. It has been urged that a bank will give great facility or convenience in the collection of taxes. Suppose this were true: yet the Constitution allows only the means which are “necessary,” not those which are merely “convenient” for effecting the enumerated powers.

Jefferson makes it clear that much of what the Congress does today is not allowed by the Constitution.

Sifting through the crap

Crap

99.9% of everything you will ever hear from a U.S. politician or media pundit is total crap. I present to you five widely discussed issues that do not matter, so that next time you hear them on the radio or television, you can say to yourself “this is pointless conversation”:

  1. Energy policy: The energy industry is part of the economic market. It operates most efficiently on its own and requires no help from the government (unless there is a monopoly in the market). Anyone who thinks limiting our choices on energy is a good thing is delusional. Stay away from them. It is remarkable how many believe that people can be made better off by the imposition of limitations on their choices. Here’s how it works, honestly and simply: when (and only when) gas prices become too high, an alternative energy source will become dominant.
  2. Environmental issues: If your property is being damaged by another person’s (or group’s) pollution, sue them. If you can prove your case, you will win. Chances are, you’ll be one of many, and those who choose to pollute will soon stop because of the amount of expenses they are incurring from mounting lawsuits. There are no regulations necessary–just the simple legal protection of property.
  3. Illegal immigration: The leaderships of both parties have decided nothing will ever be done to stop this. In fact, they hope to someday unify Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. under a multinational government.
  4. Racism, sexism, feminism, anti-religious sentiments, and other prejudices: You are easier to control if you think along these lines at all. Whether you are practicing these or blaming others for doing so, you are falling right in line with what the status quo wants. You are focusing on an issue that does not matter, which works out perfectly for the people trying to make sure they can continue to steal money from you without your noticing.
  5. Islamofascism: This is a huge myth. If you think radical Muslims are about to take over the United States, you are wacko. You need to see a mental health professional and talk about your irrational fears.

From now on, if you hear one of these issues mentioned on the news or anywhere else, remember that someone is trying to entertain or bewilder you, and that nothing they say can swindle you out of a wise and well-reasoned vote. The list above is far from exhaustive.

Now that you know what sorts of issues don’t matter, here’s some that do: The Constitution, Bill of Rights, fiscal restraint, and sound monetary policy (the elimination of fiat currency). If your legislators are focusing more on the first list than this one, they need to be replaced.

You’re welcome.

Letter to the neo-American



I wrote the following to a dear friend and fellow American who will remain anonymous:

When I reflect on our conversations, and consider the compassionate and insightful person I know you to be, I find it hard to believe that you sincerely support the hostilities in Iraq, or that you cannot see through the confines that social planners have built around you. I would like to believe that this world is a bad dream, that the free and prosperous people of our continent could not be so overwhelmed by the narrowness and greed of an unpardonable elite. I would like to think that Americans have always refused to initiate violence–that we, as a nation, have always done what was right for everyone. I would like to wake up tomorrow morning, and be in a country where there are no talking points, no significant news concerning the federal government, no significant power or money in Washington, where the middle class feels accomplished and alive and fearless and capable every single day, and candy bars cost a penny, and freedom really does ring–it is a dream that once was near reality, in the nation firmly built on the philosophical foundations of Adam Smith and John Locke, in the constitution. Instead I will wake up to what, in this nation, should be only possible in a nightmare. I will have to gather my tax information together, and file a 1040, and write a check to the U.S. Treasury, knowing I will never see that money again, and reflecting that it may be spent killing an out-of-work delivery person in a place far away, or bailing out wealthy bankers who got a little too greedy, or throwing more money at a problem no amount could solve, or taking the home of an elderly couple so that it may be bulldozed, and the land granted to some Congressman’s golfing buddy, who specializes in developing strip malls. I will endure the artificially high prices of a market handcuffed by collusion and regulation, and hear about a recession from bank-employed market strategists whose jobs are in no danger; and through all of this, ordinary Americans will come to know the difference between being broke and being impoverished–between being a slave with a generous master, and being a slave with a discontented one–when with all of their honest labor and goodness, the people of this country should have known neither. It is difficult today to read the words of Jefferson or Paine, Goldwater or Reagan, and not become frustrated or saddened by the nuttiness of a nation that has given up on the idea of liberty, only to serve the ever-changing, highly propagandized collective ideal made up by a tiny elite in a city hundreds of miles away. My aim in writing you is only to ease the sadness and frustration I feel for the individuals of our society, and restore my own confidence in my worldly pursuits; I know these things don’t interest you all that much, and I certainly will return the favor by humoring your repulsive stories of creepy crawlies inside dead bodies. But, I feel that if I can awaken you to these issues–that if you, the American _____ ______, in your infinite compassion and enviable wisdom, can recognize the recent errors of our nation’s ways and want to see them corrected before they become our greatest mistakes–liberty may still find a rightful home here. So tell me, am I crazy?

Respecfully,