Monday, July 4, 2011

Quote Of The Day

A special quote of the day for Independence Day, by literature Professor David Bromwich, concerning a special address President Abraham Lincoln gave 150 years ago today:
Today, as in Lincoln's day, we are involved in "a struggle for maintaining ...that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men -- to lift artificial weights from all shoulders -- to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all -- to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life." Yet the main peril in that struggle today comes not from any foreign power capable of destroying us from without, but the lapse of thought and faith that threatens us now from within. We are divided between two parties: one that thinks government should be used for nothing but wars, another that thinks government should be used for wars (whether justified or not) in order to prove the value of government for other purposes as well.

To Maintain a Republic
Many years earlier, as a young candidate for another office, Lincoln said these words, which are perhaps even more meaningful today:

"All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, ... with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."
- Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, 1838.

If you don't know why I am worried about this by now, then you should check the human rights and torture keywords here. Over the last few years, our government has abandoned the idea that it is restrained by the rule of law when it deals with people who are within its jurisdiction or its reach, even its own citizens.

We can, and very likely may, lose this country to our own indifference to what it really means.

UPDATE: Perhaps the most egregious example of how lawless our government has become is courtesy of Marcy Wheeler:
When Anwar al-Awlaki’s family sued for due process, the government invoked state secrets, even as Crazy Pete Hoekstra and a stream of anonymous sources have leaked details of the drone targeting of him for over a year. One of the things Robert Gates specifically invoked state secrets over is whether or not we’re engaged in military operations in Yemen.

Our “Public Debate” about Drones Is a State Secret
Al-Awlaki is an American citizen living in Yemen. He is being targeted by robotic aircraft, at least potentially. The Obama Administration claimed the right to kill him without trial for vague offenses. When his relatives tried to sue in court to find out what was really going on, the government successfully invoked state secrets as an excuse not to talk about it. It doesn't get more lawless or unaccountable than that.


Paul Sunstone said...

I agree with you about the danger the government now poses to the lives and liberties of citizens. I just wish more people would see it. But we are such a heavily propagandized people today. The problem is not only what the government is doing. It is also what keeps us content with what it is doing.

Cujo359 said...

Yes, plus if they see the danger, then they might have to do something about it, which can be both time consuming and hazardous. There's a motivation to not see things, and I think there are some smart people out there who use their intelligence to make sure that they don't see it.