Character Counts

A head’s up for all you folks who have been looking for something to celebrate. Something that will bring us all together, and give us a warm tickly feeling in our hearts that can only be associated with…irony. The President of the United States of America has proclaimed the week of October 21-27 to be National Character Counts Week.

We, the American People, are to commemorate this occasion with “appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs”. I don’t know about you, but I love an occasion to celebrate. I am always looking for more, in fact, and I am just so excited to have this opportunity. The question, of course, is in what way we should celebrate this momentous occasion? Looking though the wording of the document to get some ideas, I came across the following passages:

The character of America’s founders was exemplified in their willingness to risk death in resisting tyranny and securing liberty and independence.Our Nation’s character continues to define how we respond to those who threaten America’s core principles of liberty, justice, and equality.

Similarly, parents should teach their children by word and deed to understand and live out the moral values that we hold, such as honesty, accepting responsibility for our actions, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

So, I’m kind of torn. There’s a lot of stuff in there about fighting and killing and how that’s a good example of moral character, but that doesn’t really work for me. I like the part about resisting tyranny, though. That whole bit about liberty and justice and honesty gets me where it counts. It sort of sounds like a challenge, doesn’t it? Almost as if the President just said “Look to your Forefathers, America. Look to the Constitution, and the principles enshrined therein. Take a good look around and figure out what kind of example we should be setting.” Almost as if President Bush looked me dead in the eye and said “Bring it on”. Continue reading

Of Diplomacy and Nationalism: How We Argue Inside Our Own Borders

Recently, a study published by Johns Hopkins University estimated the Iraqi civilian deaths at 655,000. This was a careful, scientific study, peer-reviewed and meticulously backed-up by other sources. The statistic is horrendous, the implications ominous. You would think that someone other than the families of those killed would care.

Oddly, however, it seems that in the U.S. our need to justify our actions makes it imperative that we dispute even the most solid evidence that our actions may have had disastrous results. We pick apart numbers which would make us reconsider, hearken to higher goals, and remonstrate with ourselves to “keep our eye on the prize”. Those who find themselves righteously outraged are all too often ignored by those who are trying to find the truth, as their outrage hints at a brand of extremism, and we have enough of that going around already.

Obviously, presenting hard numbers is not enough. Holding out summations by our own intelligence services which indicate that our activities are counterproductive to our proclaimed goals is not enough. Providing evidence that our leaders have deceived us is not enough to change our minds, or even to make us insist on an investigation. And yet, we are cautioned to be moderate in our statements, to consider the other side, to above all make our loyalty to our country foremost in all our thoughts and deeds.

At what point is the middle path the path to hell?

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