Now we are not only a nation of torturers who openly advocate the practice in war, we are again a nation of killers whether we are shocking and awing people en masse, or we are executing them to demonstrate that we are either superior to, or as dehumanized as, those we would eliminate. I am at a loss to understand what this solves or whom this pleases. Prisons have been demonstrated to be excessively costly and pointless as a social corrective. With privatization, they have become lucrative local sources of tax income even when they are obsolete, brutal, or past their usefulness. As a private prison is subject to little or no public scrutiny, we are telling their operators that anything goes as long as they stay in the black.
Capital punishment costs more than life imprisonment, and it is profoundly divisive. When we kill someone in this process by mistake, it is, or should be, a heinous blight on the nation. Even as some of our leaders have tried to pull away from the dangers of this practice, the courts, influenced by the Republican right, have recently exacerbated the problem by deciding that the risk of causing suffering in the condemned is in the public interest. Such a decision may possibly cause an inmate to die in agony, but it will most definitely insure that we as a nation slide deeper into our acceptance of torture as an acceptable social device. The inmate will at least have the release of death. We are left with the knowledge of what we have become.
As the last eight years have shown us, becoming more brutal will not increase our national or international strength. It just inures us to more of the suffering we create and further reduces us among other cultures around the world. We are no longer trustworthy members of the civilized world. Worse still we have begun to lose important parts of the fabric or our republic.
Over the past seven years we have watched the steady erosion of the right of free expression partly as a function of the administration’s threat against habeas corpus. Those who object to the national agenda feel a growing threat to their right this administration’s self-destructive weaknesses and follies. They have cause for alarm because in the absence of the right to a speedy, open trial, people can be effectively disappeared into the federal system.
This Administration uses fear as both threat and persuasion because it can think of nothing constructive to replace it. Threats, bribery, propaganda, graft, intimidation, and harassment have become their tools. At the same time, the pursuit of happiness is open to an ever smaller group of people as real wages decline and the economy is devastated by inept and corrupt administration practices.
The United States continues to decline as an economic power in part because there is no longer any incentive for the average person to work hard if his wages decline in value and he/she is working to ship his employment abroad to cheaper labor under abusive conditions. Citizens realize that no matter how hard they work, government policy insures that their buying power will continue to be reduced. The problem is not taxation, but rather a policy that openly discourages organized labor while at the same time encourages the centralization of wealth.
That is not to say that either of these political or economic conditions need be as they are. We must be careful that the whoever takes over the White House and thus the Judiciary, does not sneer at the Constitution as an inconvenience to his/her will as does Mr. Bush. Much of our economic woes could be ameliorated with a national push to improve the environment around the world by the use of recycling and new energy sources other than those that are carbon based. As important would be compelling corporate manufacturers to pay to clean up the environmental damage they create including the cost of recycling and/or disposing of packaging as well as their products.
The labor of ordinary citizens goes to enrich a select group of corporations and wealthy individuals, who, it is increasingly clear, have no commitment to the fate of our nation. They simply pick up and leave the ruinous conditions and the tyranny they create. They trade in other currencies as the dollar declines in value, and they are provided with unique investment instruments such as hedge funds in which only they are allowed to participate.
The current Undersecretary of the Treasury openly endorses this state of affairs.
It is no wonder then that we are a nation divided by deep mistrust, cultural animosity, and greed. The pursuit of happiness has been subverted along with our liberty, and now we are the agents of a policy that denies the significance of life itself.