Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Cost of Fighting on the Dark Side

By Cassandra D

Digby over at Hullabaloo has a thought-provoking post on torture and the price we pay as a society for engaging in it, inspired by this piece from the National Journal.

Here's a snippet from Digby:

When the smoke finally clears, and we can see past that dramatic day on 9/11 and put the threat of islamic fundamentalism into its proper perspective, I wonder if we'll be able to go back to our old ethical framework? I'm not so sure we will even want to. It's not that it changed us so much as it revealed us, I think. A society that can so easily discard it's legal and ethical taboos against cruelty and barbarism, is an unstable society to begin with.

At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them.

There are a lot of dark episodes in our country's history, ranging from slavery to the internment of Japanese Americans to supporting brutal dictators abroad. I have never felt that the United States was perfect. But, in the past, I had always believed that at least we, as a nation, try to improve our behavior, and that we place enormous pride and importance on progress towards virtue. Among the times that I have felt most patriotic are those in which our nation criticizes itself and demands better of its citizens and leaders. I have looked askance on nations such as Japan, with its denials of its World War II atrocities.

I hope that Digby is wrong. I hope that one of the defining values of the United States will continue to be the constant quest to form a more just, ethical, and virtuous world.

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