Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Unwilling Collaborator

From the first time I learned anything about the Holocaust, I was left with questions: Didn't the German people know what was going on? How could they allow their country to murder millions of people? Why didn't they stop the horror?

The same kinds of questions can be asked about the American people over the last eight years. How were we duped into a war in Iraq? How could we allow our government to kidnap suspected terrorists and take them to secret prison sites? How could we allow prisoners to be held indefinitely without charges? How could we allow the torture of prisoners? How could we stand by as our lofty American ideals were tossed aside in the "war on terror?"

I don't have the answers, but I can say what happened as I lived through the days after Sept. 11 when the world stood with us in horror at what had happened on our soil. I began to have a feeling of uneasiness when the first waves of patriotic fervor overtook almost everyone around me. In our town, practically everyone was displaying the flag in support of our country, but this show of love of country almost imperceptibly slid into sideways glances of suspicion about those who did not fly the flag or wear a flag pin every day. 

I began to be afraid of my government. They were moving from the first moments when they pulled everyone together and calmed fears after 9/11, to a headlong rush toward finding terrorists, or suspected terrorists, or potential terrorists, at any cost.  Indeed, the word terrorist came to mean practically anyone that the administration rounded up and tossed into prison.

They suspended the rule of law, even though their hired lawyers always found ways to express that everything they did was still within some strange interpretation of the letter of the law. 

They decided that we no longer needed to follow the Geneva Conventions about the treatment of prisoners in war time.

They ignored everything our country stood for. 

All the while that I am writing my cheerier posts about dogs and cats and knitting and reading and my newly adopted state of New Mexico, I am thinking about what has happened to my country and wondering how we can deal with these terrible things. 

I think, too, about the German people back during World War II. Did they feel, as I do, that they were unwilling collaborators in a great and terrible sin?


BZ said...

What happened was the press and the party in opposition at the time felt the same as you--unpatriotic if they questioned the government in the aftermath of 9/11. The last years are a great example of why Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third president, advocated distrust of government. His idea was correct then, correct in the 1960's, and still correct today.

Margie's Musings said...

Actually, I believe the press was "managed" during the last administration. I know opposing voices were not encouraged and anyone who had that type of approach to their journalism was not invited to the press conferences and if they were there inadvertently, they were not called on. It was a very scary time in our history. We almost lost our democracy.