Tuesday, November 22, 2005

torture and national tragedy

Digby writes of torture and says:
At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them.
Everyone knows the world changed on 9/11, but it changed in different ways for different people. For me, 9/11 was the day I saw how weak our commitment to morality really was, how quickly we would sell our freedom, how quickly we would kill to make ourselves feel safer, how little we valued the lives of anyone not like ourselves. I thought back to all the years we'd spent lecturing the world on civil rights, morality, and the rule of law, then watched our government round up thousands of people on the barest of pretexts and hold them indefinitely.

And for what? 9/11 was a shocking event, tragic for all those involved. On a national scale, it was a small event. Our reaction to 9/11 has caused far more damage--political, economic, moral, loss of innocent life--than the event itself. If we were willing to inflict this much damage on ourselves after 3000 dead, how much would we sacrifice for 10,000?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

the last abortion clinic

Last night, we watched a split screen TV. On one side of the screen, we watched Frontline on abortion access in the deep south. On the other, we watched election returns trickle in, with a measure restricting abortion starting out ahead before eventually falling behind. When we went to bed, Prop. 73 was behind by the narrowest of margins. It was a bit uncanny to watch the architects of abortion restrictions explain their strategy while watching their latest attempt play out in real time. We woke this morning to find that the measure had been defeated, and to read the comments of the measure's backers predicting that eventual success was inevitable.

I'd heard that access to abortion was difficult in some areas, but the Frontline report drove the point home in a way that mere knowing it did not. The fact that only one clinic in the state still provides second trimester abortions--and that that clinic is in danger of being regulated out of existence--was startling. The notion that Mississippi could have legislated all of its clinics out of existence, all without passing a single law that failed the "undue burden" test, was stunning. Perhaps there's a model there for other constitutional rights that make the majority uncomfortable. Instead of attacking the rights head-on, nibble at the edges with lots of small regulations. Make sure that the individual restrictions are so small that no one could reasonably claim that their elimination would threaten the right, but keep adding one small restriction after another, until the right no longer exists.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

harrowing fiction

Shakespeare's Sister discusses passages from Scooter Libby's novel, and asks:
What kind of mind comes up with this shit, dreams up scenarios where children are raped by animals to train them in prostitution? Oh, right. A conservative one.
I'm pretty sure that conservatives don't have a monopoly on disturbing sadistic and sexual imagiry in fiction, and I'm pretty sure that the ability to dream up disturbing scenes for disturbing effect doesn't mean that the dreamer is disturbed.

Ignoring fiction for the moment, there is a thread in conservative political rhetoric of sexual and social armageddon, an implicit (or sometimes explicit) assumption that the only thing standing between us and the abyss of degradation is law. You see this when nationally syndicated pundits write that without the Law of the Bible, there would be no reason not to murder, that without tbe moral and legal condemnation of society, men couldn't help being seduced by the hedonism of the gay lifestyle. They say these things with such passion, such conviction, that it suggests personal experience, that they either know or are people for whom only strong, enforced law stands between them and dissolution.

I have talked to street corner evangelists, and heard their stories of being saved from hell in the here and now by adhering to God's Law, how they were weak and following the Law made them strong, and I have wondered about the strength of the desires they wrestled with before they found their source of strength, how strong those desires must still be, and I have seen the rage in their eyes when they see people living happy lives without denying themselves pleasures that the Law forbids. And I wonder how much they still want what they deny themselves, and how much that suppressed desire fuels their rage.