from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Some terrific comments from a friend 

Okay, I'm prejudiced, since it is in response to the diary I posted previously. But I thought I would post her remarks, unedited in their entirety, so others could enjoy them. Here they are:

I think CONSIDERING puts the essay in just the right tone.....you have, perhaps, wisely, placed the idea of a commissioner breaking this law in its full philosophical light and correctly delineated the idea of resisting or disregarding a law as something different than breaking laws which may or may not be just so that a higher purpose can be achieved--- that of being a whistleblower and alerting Americans to the dreadful hijacking of our country by absolutists and tyrants. This puts the consideration of breaking this particular law into the realm of a tactical decision.....what would be the consequences of such an act on the process of vetting confidential and potentially damaging information by commission-members which, if not independent, are at least expected to act with integrity. Would civil disobedience, which is, in effect, what you ask us to consider here, be jeopardizing the public's access to future oversight and information..... ie could commissions function with mutual  trust if they did not agree to abide by certain ground rules? Would the result of such a drastic and inflammatory act be worth the price?-- that is the calculus.

One thing I remember from my years in the civil rights movement is that the rank and file often acted out of blind faith, clear vision, and inner conscience--- but the leaders who shaped the overall strategies and prioritized actions were extremely hard headed in picking their fights, gauging the consequences, and focusing their energies-- all in clear realization of the consequences not only for themselves but for others. Civil disobedience was of two sorts--- 1) protest an unjust law (freedom rides) or 2) breaking a just law in pursuit of something more important--- in the latter case, the laws that were violated often were small  and carried small penalties--- obstructing traffic, marching without a permit, refusing to disburse, trespassing.  These violations of small but reasonable laws (on the face of it) carried small but reasonable penalties.

Move ahead to Daniel Ellsburg, the whistleblower who leaked The Pentagon papers..... he violated office norms of confidentiality for a higher public good and faced serious possible consequences for doing so. He did NOT have to function as part of a committee and weigh the strategic, tactical consequences of his act with a group of leaders struggling towards consensus though he benefited by having a mature anti-war movement to take up his legal defense once he had leaked the information. In his case, the information was absolutely critical to the public's right to know and the public would probably not have learned about it in any other way. Nevertheless, the consequences were potentially catastrophic for him: a long, long prison sentence,  That he went that extra mile took courage noone has a right to expect from any other person. All we can say is. thank God for this great 20th century hero and appreciate his over the top fortitude.

Back to the case at hand--- I could never CALL on one of the commissioners to become a whistleblower, because that is too much to ask of another human. Nor have i weighed the tactical and strategic and political ramifications of such an act and would hope that potential public whistleblowers from the commission give these factors very careful consideration. I would caution, despite being an admirer of Thoreau, against simply leaking the information as a gesture of personal, moral purity and an unwillingness to be complicit in fomenting or sustaining the evil of torture. But all  this is certainly a matter worth considering and considering very seriously.

One final thought--- given the Machiavellian predisposition of the Bush administration to justify breaking the law in pursuit of vaunted higher purposes-- security, freedom and democracy, etc. would civil disobedience, of the sort that violates a reasonable law for a higher good be an appropriate act? By legitimating such a stance would a willful, public whistleblower be underscoring the Bush administration's disregard for law, due process, and the clumsy but crucial niceties of the democratic process?

As Gandhi himself noted. civil disobedience relies on awakening the conscience of others to the injustice at hand--- it awakens dormant conscience. One problem with torture as practiced directly or indirectly by the Bush administration is that many people are initially in agreement with them--- many Americans will do ANYTHING to insure their own precarious sense of security and safety.  We are a people who grew up stars from Death  Wish, Billy Jack,  and Mission Impossible dispensing the brutal  but effective justice of force in a society perceived as breaking down.

We have a president aggregating to himself the divine right of kingship, very much like the early Stuarts, and perhaps the best strategies of resistance are to blog, sneak, leak anonymously,  revitalize grass roots support groups, work with faith-based and civic groups to shine the light on what is going on--- we do need to reach beyond ourselves as activists as we now have a sense of our own strength. We need to build bridges of dialogue with those on the other side of the fence and listen and as well as disseminate the information we think is vital. So many Americans, ourselves included, have an us versus them mentality right now. The best message we could deliver to other Americans is that in time we and they might be considered to be "them." As Pogo said, our mantra should be, "We have met the enemy and they are us."

Please edit, post, or quote if you have a mind to--- I do not have time to edit this very well, but I hope you can make sense of it.


FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?