My friend George composed a wise and enlightening post for his blog reminding us of the importance of the ideas of George Orwell in these strange and frequently frustrating times, frustrating for those of us who stand up for rational responses during this time of war and divisive politics. One of his trolls lectures on and on about the need to confront "islamofascism" and the "axis of evil" to win the "war on terror," as though these words bear any substantive meaning. These words, in the language of the "conservative" political agenda and their punditariat, are employed to cow us into excusing such recent American moral excesses as torture, the invasion of Iraq, or the surrender of our civil liberties.
I don't need to be lectured about the so-called "war on terror." I've already won it. I refuse to be terrorized. I refuse to give up my rights and freedoms, my moral sense of justice, my principles--my American-ness, if you will--in favor of security. I'm perfectly willing to die for my country in my country, if I have to, to save it. But I want it to be a country that refuses to torture or make up excuses to invade countries, one that doesn't spy on me or listen to my phone calls, one that doesn't make up fake language to scare us into giving up our civil liberties and our ethical principles. I consider this a more authentically conservative stance, since it prefers the Bill of Rights over political vicissitudes, Rovian or otherwise. If Wolf Blitzer asked the troll whether he'd pick national security over civil liberties, he'd answer, like Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd, "National security," in a blink. I'd say, Dodd should have said, "What's the difference?" The supposition that one must choose is really to ask the question, "Do you want America to be destroyed from outside or inside?" William Kristol can froth at the mouth all he wants about the suitcase nuke scenario, how it excuses torture, but, really, if the loss of my innocent life, or even, heaven forbid, the loss of an American city, can cause us to toss out our uniquely American ethos to buy a little more security, then this whole America thing is pretty shaky. We can be ethical and secure, even if it makes security more challenging. We possess the strength, the rationality, and the creativity as a nation to meet the challenge, unless we surrender, whether to the outside, or from the inside. What's the difference?