Just two weeks to go until the mid-term elections, and the political climate is (as we Americans have come to expect) rapidly degenerating into a quagmire of finger pointing and name calling, as each “side” tries to blame the other for all the turmoil the average citizen hears in the evening news. Recently, the conservative trend has been to try to blame the liberals for the upsurge in violence in Iraq. In a recent interview, Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking from his White House office was quoted as saying:
I think they’re very much aware of our political calendar here, I really do. And when you see the kinds of things that happened this year, for example, when the Democratic Party in Connecticut purged Joe Lieberman, in effect, drummed him out of the party on the grounds that he had supported the President in the global war on terror, that sends a message to the terrorists overseas that their basic strategy of trying to break the will of the American people may, in fact, work.
Now, ignoring for the moment the blatant lapse in logic of this sentiment, let’s consider the will of the American people, and what might be happening to break it.
The United States has, throughout its history, been viewed in many different lights by other nations. For the most part, the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” has bought first and foremost into its own mythology, her people often proud to the point of arrogance, sometimes wrong but never in doubt. We have touted our freedoms as a beacon to the beleaguered, our collective lifestyle as the solution to many of the world’s problems. And with good reason: with our passion for innovation and belief in the triumph of hard-working individuals we have built one of the wealthiest, most powerful nations in the world. As many of us heard as children (and I caution my own son, now)–“You think you have it bad? Imagine how it would be to grow up in a third-world nation!”
Unfortunately, as so often happens when a civilization gets too comfortable, we have often forgotten to put ourselves in others’ shoes as we matured. For that matter, we have forgotten to carefully safeguard the very things which made us so proud, in the first place. It is this slow erosion of the foundation for our beliefs which is breaking the will of the American people–not the continuing death toll in Iraq.
If the majority of the people in this country believed that we had been led into the war in Iraq on valid premises, we would be willing to accept the deaths as acceptable sacrifices for a noble cause. If we could be assured that our troops were wanted and needed by the Iraqi people, we could accept their absence. If we knew that our men and women were being fully supported by the government that sent them overseas to fight, we would not worry so about whether they should be there at all. If we knew our intelligence agency was holding itself to a strict code of moral conduct in their investigations of others, we would not worry about the definition of an “enemy combatant”.
If, in fact, our government had conducted the War on Terror as a true war, and treated it’s opposition as combatants under the Geneva Convention, we would not feel the need to cry out about their treatment, and if there were accountability on the part of the government for its programs to investigate terrorism, we would not feel the need to take action to ensure it.
Given the list of (at best) egregious errors committed by the current administration, and given that it continues to insist that they were all absolutely the right thing to do (thereby assuring the American people that all we have to look forward to is more of the same), one must pose the question:
Who is trying to break the will of the American people?
In the end, however, perhaps the mad race into the abyss our government has spearheaded is a good thing, as it will strengthen the will of the people to maintain the freedoms of which they have been so proud. Perhaps more people have now read the constitution than ever would have, had we not gone so far astray. Perhaps the will of the American people is growing in a way which the current administration finds objectionable, but it is growing, nonetheless. When those who applaud the straight and (increasingly) narrow path our leaders would have us tread bemoan the breaking of America’s will at the hands of the terrorists, perhaps our answer can finally be that our will is strong. Strong enough to defend our borders while accepting that freedom is our inalienable right. Strong enough to never rest until the country is back in the hands of her citizens. Strong enough to demand truth and justice. Stronger, perhaps, than they would have ever dreamed.