10.16.2006

Us and Them

“That could never be me.”

Many think such words when hearing of the detainees being held year after year by the U.S. government without charge. Honest citizens and residents want to believe that those in custody are where they are because of their actions or affiliations, something that indicates guilt.

There is so much that disturbs me about the current actions of this administration that it’s hard to know what most to single out, but holding detainees without charge rises to the top.

Thankfully, many cry this complaint. Sadly, more do not. As I drove home today hearing a lawyer speak of this issue on the radio, I thought about the future, about what I would be ashamed of having not done, of having not said. It’s easy to justify inaction by believing that someone at a higher level has a better chance of being heard. It’s easy to turn this over to the columnists of major newspapers, to claim it's all been said. But only when common citizens use their individual voices does the argument gain power.

If concern for others doesn't draw you into this issue – people possibly guilty of nothing at all – examine it via concern for yourself. You may feel safe from suspicion at this point, but why? Can’t that change with the whim of politics? What stops an outspoken critic from suddenly being rounded up and tucked away out of view? I used to consider that unthinkable, but not any more. Not in our current climate. Not with the new laws being written. Why, as a country, aren’t we uniformly outraged by this twist in our politics? Why aren’t we afraid for ourselves?

I can’t think of a better way to keep people cowering and silent, fearful of being critical of behavior and views they see as wrong, than to wave the threat of indeterminate detention. I don’t understand how anyone can see this as anything other than a complete violation of human rights. If a detainee is guilty of a crime, charge him. Let him – and us – know the accusation. Let the evidence be presented in court. With anything less, we are guilty of the appalling behavior of which we criticize other governments.

When history examines this period in the future, I don’t want to hang my head in shame for my silence. I don’t want to use the excuse, “There was nothing I could have done.” I want to use my voice in any way that I can to express my outrage at what is being done in the name of security for this country. I want to call out to others to speak up as well. I want to scream that this is not the country I was raised to value. If we are so cloaked in fear that we cease to trust our own judicial system to serve our security, we have far greater problems than the threat of terrorism. We are terrorizing ourselves, and allowing common decency to evaporate.

I agree with those who point out that terrorists aren’t concerned with our rights. In response, I say, “That’s what separates us from them.” But if we don’t speak up, no one will ever know.

9 comments:

Neil said...

I assume that one of the reasons there aren't public accusations is a fear of the backlash from the Islamic world, but I agree with you -- better we face our fears than destroy what is supposed to be the foundation of our country.

jen said...

we are them, and they are us. it's a slippery slope we are on, and one so arrogant and blatant it makes it impossible to breathe at times. But you are right, deez...we should not remain silent.

acumamakiki said...

So much about our country and how it's changing scares me, I'm completely inert. I'm guilty of saying there's nothing I can do, being too scared of the consequences because I realize there's that fine line. Most people choose not to think of themselves in that situation because the possibility is to fearful and too unbelievable, until in it I imagine. I keep hoping it won't get worse and it does.

V-Grrrl said...

One of the things that bubbles in my subconscious as an expat is not knowing my rights. Here in Europe, I don't know how things "work" in the countries I travel in and not knowing that or what I'm entitled to by law is chilling. My rational mind tells me I'm in Western Europe for goodness sake, what am I afraid of? But my emotions remind me always that I'm a foreigner, I'm an American and I'M NOT IN AMERICA ANYMORE.

How much worse to be IN America and feel you're not in America anymore.

If you're so inclined, read Mary Pipher's latest book, Writing to Change the World.

Cover Your Mouth said...

This guy's always got lots to say about the detainee and torture issues. I find his writing to be clarifying, assuring, and - in this political climate - often brave: www.andrewsullivan.com.

fringes said...

What Jen said. Thanks for the post.

ecm said...

This made me think of a quote I've read which I was able to locate with the help of google...

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.


Pastor Martin Niemöller

Roberta said...

In MySpace there is this stupid and juvenile thing where if you have nothing really to contribute, commentwise, you can give kudos.
2 kudos.

elleveek said...

i am a blue woman in a red state (no purple here!)...and I suffer from a disease of sorts, the disease to please, which means too often i am afraid to speak up...one of the best things that has happened to me in the last couple of years, especially this last year, is that i have spoken up, out and in between...and i can tell you that most strongly disagree with me...and they make that abundantly clear...

but i sleep at night, knowing i my voice is emerging and getting stronger day by day.

keep speaking up deez...you're an inspiration to this pleaser.

everyone vote!