Thursday, January 05, 2006

...or does morality matter afterall?

Someone (probably me) asked me why I am so deeply and personally bothered by torture and lies and domestic spies.

It doesn’t really affect my daily life. I’m one of the good guys. Well, the good-but-conflicted guys at least.

Beyond an intellectual exercise in morality, isn’t it hysteric and indefensible to recoil from doing whatever is needed to feel safe and secure?

I could try to see it the other way (and I have tried)…that to beat the other guy you have to convince him that you are scarier than he is.

Lewis Black (comedian) mused that to scare the crap out of America’s enemies in the world, we should elect a dead president in 2008. ‘Re-elect Regan’, beseeches Black. ‘He scared the hell out of people when he was alive (and talking tough about nukes), think what he’ll do to them now that he’s dead?! Then have Justice Rehnquist swear him in a silent ceremony.'

That should convince would-be terrorists we are mentally unbalanced enough to be capable of going further than they (who must afterall have some rationalizing capacity, indecipherable to us though it may be).

Didn’t the Soviets have some success with kidnapping the families of suspected kidnappers and then asking the very reasonable-sounding question, “Is this really the nature of conflict you would like to have if it involves your loved ones?

But then their regime isn't quite the model we are aiming for, eh?

Mass murder isn't kidnapping though. So a game of chicken is not really scalable up unless you start blotting out cities. Kennedy threatened it, but then nobody had started shooting yet, so he didn’t have to prove anything.

So we can’t really bluff. We have to be hard and heartless on an individual scale when dealing with the hard and heartless.

And then one day we wake up and realize we are hard and heartless, not merely acting the part of bad cop the get the other guy to fold. On some metaphysical level we are what we are, right? Once we stop thinking and start doing a thing, when do we cross the threshold that we become the thing? If you have this answer you probably know when a human becomes more than just a cell with an agenda.

Riddle: When does a police state become a police state?

Answer: When you don’t have a right to point out that it is one.

Well, I do worry that we are headed there even though it seems a bit farther off than one should worry about. I worry about it because our executive is working on the Nixon theory that 'if the President does it, it’s not illegal.'

We only wiretap bad guys anyway. Well, that's not entirely true since U.N. Secretary Bolton (Bush appointee and one of Cheney's guys) ordered wiretaps of other politicians and administration officials when he was in the State department and NSA gave them to him.

So I don't really buy that these guys have the discipline in them to keep it professional and only use the info to fight terror.

That's the best my new-dad-sleep-starved intellect has been able to piece together.

Or does morality actually matter afterall?

Is it enough to know that it is wrong and see that any amount of rationalizing is just trying to make a wrong thing look right...'from a certain point of view?'

(gee, thanks for manipulating me OB-Wan. You couldn't just say my deadbeat dad IS Darth Vader? Like I gotta get my hand cut off before you think I can handle it? Hellooo, no hand-- kinda hard to 'hand-le' it now!)

If we allow others to do a thing in our name, or even allow them to co-opt our implicit consent we are equally guilty. We held the German public to that standard some time ago over other secret prisons.


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