Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Torture and the Republicans Who Love It

I've been so tangled up in my fiction writing that I haven't made a blog post for some time. I also think that, since President Obama has taken office, I've simply been less angry about things. Life seems a little more tolerable when you have an administration in office that thinks more along the same lines as you do.

I saw a little bit of the President's speech to members of the CIA yesterday. This was on the heels of his declaration that the U.S. would end torture practices like waterboarding and the news that the practice had been used hundreds of times on key terrorist suspects. Of course, the usual Republican representatives were paraded out to the media to denounce this policy reversal, but what else is new? Their argument is that Bush's policies kept us safe after 9/11, but what else do we have to compare it to? He was the only president in office during that time. Only time will tell whether a change in tactics will make us more vulnerable or not. I think President Obama knows that there are bigger issues here than safety, and I agree.

About a year ago, I was watching an old movie serial, or cliffhanger if you prefer, on DVD. I'm a huge fan of those campy, action-filled stories and this particular serial was made toward the end of World War II. It was called Secret Agent X-9 and starred future Sea Hunt actor Lloyd Bridges in the title role. At one point, Bridges captured a Japanese spy and was interrogating him. The Japanese spy said something like, "You can torture me all you want, I'll never talk!" Bridges replied, "We're Americans. We don't torture." I felt so sad when I heard it. That's what being an American used to mean: play by the rules, live by a code of law, and don't sink to your enemy's level. The Bush adminstration threw that all away, and now those laid-off employees of a failed regime still voice disdain at President Obama's attempt to regain some of what America once stood for.

The Republicans rode on Ronald Reagan's cult of personality for almost three decades, and during the previous campaign, some still evoked his ideals to get their man elected. They have to remember, though, that Bush and his gang were not cut from the same cloth as Reagan's men. Cheney and Rumsfeld were old Nixon cronies who exhibited even greater paranoia and vindictiveness than the 37th president did. Their "destroy the village in order to save it" view of American policy simply makes no sense, unless your only goal is solely to promote the wealth of large corporations and preserve the consumerist enslavement of its citizens. I'm not against capitalism by any means, but we were not founded entirely on the principals of supply and demand, but rather the principals of freedom and civil rights. Yes, our forefathers were wealthy land owners, but I doubt that rampant capitalism was on the mind of Jefferson when he proposed the Bill of Rights.

I'd like to believe that Ronald Reagan, had he experienced a terrorist situation like 9/11 during his watch, would not have endorsed the practice of torture. I know sometimes he exhibited a disconnect between his words and his actions, but somehow I think the notion of torture would have set off alarm bells in his head. He was a product of the Hollywood that made movies like Secret Agent X-9, and he believed in the ideals that those movies professed. The reason why so many loved Reagan during the 80s was because they wanted to live in that Hollywood fairy tale as much as Reagan did, and I think selling a dream goes a long way in motivating people to make that dream a reality.

Right now, the Republican party is focused on a smear campaign to discredit President Obama and undermine everything he is trying to accomplish. Instead of attacking the President, they may want to look inward and recognize how much they lost in their support of policies that are counter to American ideals. During the last campaign, I saw newspaper ads saying, "What would Ronald Reagan do?" I don't think waterboarding would immediately jump to mind.