Monday, June 20, 2005

The Great Work Begins

To me, there are several things that send a strong message about who we are as a nation and the status of our public education system is one of those things. In the United States, as opposed to other nations, a person's ability to achieve and rise above their circumstance is not defined by status at birth. While "a level playing field" is a fiction promoted by those who have the 50 yard advantage, a public education system that gives all children, and particularly the nation's most vulnerable children (those born into poverty), the tools for success is a necessity if we are to live up to our democratic ideals and our belief that in America, economic security and success (however one defines it) are not a birth-right.

The equality of our justice system, and in particular, its treatment of defendants and insistance on Constitutional protections for those charged with crimes, is another. Our ability to fight our enemies without becoming *like* the enemy (see Abu Gharib and Gitmo) is another. Many on the Right seemed practically offended when the tales of abuse of terror suspects began leaking out. They considered it anti-American to criticize the government because after all, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center.

What they failed to realize was that there was a difference between a terrorist and a suspected terrorist. In addition, they failed to realize that any real or perceived moral legitimacy we may have had evaporated the minute those pictures of naked prisoners piled up in the prison hallway with the smiling female guard posing beside them. Not to mention the very real instances of torture and death after interrogation. Did the Right really not see the irony that in fighting the enemy, we had in fact become the enemy? We chastized the muslim world for its deplorable human rights abuses, its anti-democracy viewpoints and its anti-American protests but in just the click of a camera, we had set our own troops and civilians in Iraq up for a major backlash and destroyed whatever weak ties we had in the muslim world in addition to putting our allies in a difficult position. So, to the Right I say this- it is precisely because I am American and because I support our troops safety that I denounce the abuse, torture and illegal detention of prisoners held at Abu Gharib and Gitmo.

And finally, the priority we put on ensuring that our nation's children have the most basic healthcare (not to mention basic things required for existence- food, water, shelter) because we understand that how we treat the most vulnerable members of society sends a message about who we are as a nation and because children literally are, as corny as it sounds, our future. And if we compromise them, we not only compromise their futures, we compromise our own. On this final point, we have a much work to do.

As the angel said in 'Angels in America' by Tony Kushner, "The Great Work Begins"