The American Experiment

A cautionary tale this 4th of July (the first time this holiday has come on a Wednesday (IIRC) since I began blogging a week after 9-11… or perhaps not). We bring you this WaPo essay by historian John Fabian Witt (a prof at the alma mater I share with Senator and future President Barack Obama)… also available by clicking on the picture of the American flag, as seen by most of the rest of the world these days. The subject of the essay concerns the rule of law as applicable to war, the spearhead of our President’s agenda to rule us as our master, rather than we as his (as envisioned by our Constitution… and by the whole “public servant” concept), and as you know, our lack of adherence to key components of the laws of war has become one of the raisons d’etre of this blog.
While the Republicans appear to have mau-maued their best candidate, and have left their field headlined with New York’s former mayor and clown-act, a former senator best known for being a fictional law and order district attorney (while in real life he decries actual law and order when imposed on Republicans)… and Mitt Romney, it would seem that the Democrats are poised to take back the White House in a mere 566 days, with even our worst candidate (yes, Hillary, I do mean you) infinitely more palatable than the likely Republican.
The question is, can we make it that far, given that that period of time is over 18 months, and the current President (and the Vice President to whom he has unnaturally deferred on almost everything) can continue to do untoward damage to the fabric of our nation (if not to civilization as a whole) in that length of time? Worse still… the branch of government the founders meant to be the premier branch– the Congress– continues to defer to the run-amok executive needlessly, lest the majority party be called bad names.
The Tenth Amendment to our Constitution reserves unenumerated power to the States, and ultimately to the People. Baby, that’s where this all may be going. Thankfully, at the moment our two premier states, California and New York, are governed by superstars Arnold Schwarzennegger and Eliot Spitzer… the states are taking the lead on matters like global warming and health care, and other things that the federal government of the super-rich and religious right are ignoring. Beyond that, boys and girls, it’s going to come down to us.
At a time when our commercial media have pretty much emphasized the commercial part and have stopped practicing journalism as intended by our First Amendment, the internet (and blogs such as those on our sidebar… and occasionally this one) have thankfully stood up. But we’re a long way from dominating much of anything, or capturing all that many hearts and minds. I’ve said many times I consider it ironic that I often read Pravda and the People’s Daily because I trust them more than the New York Times (and certainly our broadcast media). At a time when information is ever more accessible thanks to the internet and other technology… the American people somehow seem ever more dense… perhaps stressed out from an economy and a culture that’s eer harder and harder to maneuver in.
I don’t know. At the moment, the image above is what we look like from abroad to a great many people. As to whether that sight becomes the commonplace vision of what we look like to ourselves here… it’s up to us. It’s been 231 years since some of our colonial forbears took some action… their first battle as the new United States of America would be fought around a month later on the fields of Brooklyn, just yards from where I type this now… We lost that battle, but miraculously won the eventual war, and created the greatest human experiment ever. And yet, it can all be flushed down the toilet quickly– as the last five years have shown us.
Will we stand up and do our Founding Fathers proud, and prove to the world for all time that our experiment is not short-lived… that we are not just another country that can succumb to jingoism and nationalism in the worst way… but that we are bigger than that? We stand for the rule of law, and principle? We have the power…