“GOD DAMN AMERICA” March 18, 2008Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth, US Politics.
The comments by Reverend Jeremiah Wright have raised an emotional response, as if the people making decisions in the US Government can do no wrong and are thereby not accountable. There is an implication in responsible government that those that govern will be responsible to the governed, and they conduct their policies with regard to accepted ethical standards.
If we are to hold murders to account, if we condemn and punish regimes and their henchmen, the particular cases that comes to mind relate to the Nuremberg Trials, then our own behavior must be judged by the same standards. But while we hold people to the standards of truth and justice, we must not dehumanize them by word, thought or deed. The problem for the current American Government, and they are not alone, now or in the past, is that they explicitly believe and act as if they are not accountable “to the good opinion of Mankind”.
Let us not judge the United States by our standards by theirs. When it came to settling on who was best to write the Constitution, as distinct from speaking from the pulpit, his colleagues knew that Tom Jefferson, of Virginia, was the Man. He seemed to have thought, as a part of his philosophy of government, that ethical standards were integral to its practice.
Force and violence is the first rather than the last resort, and that it is domination solves problems rather than constructs patterns of inequality and injustice into the social situation.A classic example is shown by the increasingly repressive measures the Chinese Government appears to be using in Tibet to bring that situation back into control. Where nonviolence is made impossible, violence often becomes inevitable.
Violence inevitably creates injustice. Injustice “begets” (as the say, I understand, in the seventeenth century English of the King James Bible) violence. Our purpose in civil society is to rechannel anger arising from injustice, as it always seem to do so, into just settlements. We say to everybody make your case, and if you cannot let your advocate do it on your behalf, but do not act on your grievance, whether you are right or wrong. Thus it it contingent on a civil society to make that possible and to listen to grievances. To do that we must allow respect to the person.
In the seventeenth century the notion was abroad, at least among the Puritans and similar trouble makers, that God could speak through anyone, with the qualification that they had knowledge of the things of which they spoke. Oliver Cromwell accepted the principle, while seeing the practical implications. After the Civil War, various members of the Army were whinging because as usual they had not been paid, and had other issues, but it was an occasion for a change for the common man to speak. Oliver knew what to do to keep them quiet – send to fight a war in Ireland. A stratagem that worked a treat then, as now. But before that he wanted to make his position clear:
At such a meeting as this it has been said that we should wait upon God and harken to the voice of God speaking in everyone of us. I confess it is a high duty but when everything is spoken as from God I think the rule is: Let the rest judge.
. . . I cannot but think that in most that have spoke there hath been some things of God make known to us and yet there hath been several contradictions in what has been spoken. But certainly God is not the author of contradictions.”
Such enlightenment, did not preclude the persecution of the Quakers (more trouble-makers) by the significantly named Committee for Public Safety. While the republicans in this instance, did not succeed in creating representative democracy, only dictatorship, they established some principles. Over a hundred years later the enlightenment of reason was a stronger force than the enlightenment of God.
God, let us suppose a metaphor for truth, still gets into the act. Take the comments of Reverend Wright delivered over time, but now apparently to be condemned in their entirety (via Brutally Honest):
“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism.
“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.
“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.
As I remember Dr Martin Luther King presumed to talk for the voiceless. At Riverside Church in New York in 1967, he had in mind the voiceless in Vietnam. Today we could extend that to the voiceless and innocent in Somalia who are murdered in their sleep by cruse missiles, or those similarly murdered in Pakistan (via Juan Cole). Or those in Iraq or Gaza whose pain screams through our imagination as they suffer in the silence of indifference.
Will those who perpetrated murder and injustice be held accountable. Will the Chinese Government be made accountable for its actions behind the bamboo curtain it has drawn in Tibet. Surely the principles of civil society of necessity apply to global society? Accountability goes to issues of competence as well as wrong.
David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (via Common Dreams) identifies an item by item list of where those responsible for the decisions of the United States are not held accountable. He concludes, I think correctly by asserting:
Accountability means holding to account those who are responsible for a war that is illegal under international law – in this case, it means holding to account those who have been irresponsible and criminal in their behavior. It means holding to account George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and others. It means not just their disgrace, but trials to bring them to justice.
This is not a partisan issue – it is an issue of responsibility and accountability and, at a deeper level, an issue of restoring our decency, our dignity and our democracy.
The question is then, if not, then by who should exercise the judgment, or will the perpetrators escape the consequences? Or have we atheists removed God from history to our cost?
Ken Parish claims the bloggers right to express his opinion that:
It’s hard to know what to make of a blogger who simultaneously headlines his post after a missile attack in an Al Qaeda stronghold in northern Pakistan alleged to have killed 20 people. He seems to be suggesting that this is an appalling act by the US, but doesn’t explain why apart from the obvious tragedy of any violent death. Cole is keeping the focus on a region the MSM seems to have tacitly agreed to gloss over at present, but his extreme anti-Bush political bias makes his reporting deeply suspect.
But so far as I can see, Ken has decided taking up directly his concerns with Juan – as I am doing here. However, it is relevant to mention the link from Troppo to Obama’s piece at Huffington Post, “On My Faith, and My Church“.
Glenn Greeewald in his characteristically analytical way, helps to deflate the storm of protest directed at Reverend Wright, and by implication Obama, by pointing to the views of the assortment of other preachers of the Word, whose associations do not attract the same level of critical inquiry.
ABC News reports that Senator Andrew Bartlett is calling for an Olympic boycott in response to Chinese repression in Tibet and denial of human rights in other parts of that country. The sign held by the demonstrator in the accompanying photo of the ABC story caught my attention:
Tom Englehardt at TomDispatch is required reading on the ineffective application of American military power as on others subjects.