Honestly: I can't even begin to imagine what to say about the vote on the torture bill. I just can't. I think I used all my words up beforehand. And how could I even start to describe the unbelievable, unAmerican, utterly corrupt cynicism of doing something like this as an election ploy?? As far as I know (and I am more than willing to be corrected), FDR actually thought, stupidly enough, that Japanese-Americans might be a threat. Woodrow Wilson thought the same about the Reds. Probably the only precedent is Joe McCarthy, but -- amazing as it is to find myself writing this -- he did so much less damage.
I see that over at dKos, they are arguing about whether or not to calm down. I have no particular interest in calming down, myself. I don't see any reason at all to think that my reaction is disproportionate or over the top. Horrible times call for horrified responses. I am having one.
On the other hand, I see every reason to think especially clearly just now. I am even less interested in wasting my anger on the wrong targets, or failing to identify the best means I can come up with to help reverse this thing. And it is my anger which makes me feel this way. I am much too angry to be even remotely willing to respond in any way that makes it even the tiniest bit more likely that this bill will stand. Lashing out blindly is for lesser occasions. Right now, it feels to me like a luxury I cannot afford. (Though I personally will be giving everyone who was on the right side of this several days of complete amnesty for anything they say. I will enforce the posting rules because I have to, but I will not hold anything against anyone.)
That said: it seems to me that this is just about the worst possible time for people to start wondering whether it's worth working for Democrats. There is an enormous difference between Democrats having control of one house of Congress and their having none. For one thing, does anyone here actually believe that if President Bush asked Democratic leaders to move this bill through, they would agree? Or that this nightmare of a bill would have made it out of a Judiciary Committee chaired by Pat Leahy or John Conyers? Someone clearly has the ability to make Arlen Specter cave on command; having briefly seen Leahy on CSPAN this afternoon, I can say: he was truly beyond furious, and if he ever caved on something like this, I would be very surprised. I'm not really up on Ike Skelton, but do you think that if Carl Levin were chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee, this would have just sailed right through?
No. Having control of one house of Congress would have stopped this in its tracks.
Moreover, thinking for the long haul: I think that if Democrats take either chamber, they will hold hearings. There is more than enough corruption to look at; I would nominate spending and contracts for Iraqi reconstruction as an obvious first step. I think that if those hearings exposed anything remotely approximating the level of corruption I believe to be present, it would not only have the immediate effect of helping deserving people to find a home in our nation's correctional facilities and deterring future offenders; it would also do a lot to undermine the Republicans' claims to be strong on security. The idea that Republicans can be trusted with national security is, in my opinion, ripe for collapse. They have screwed up all manner of things, and some of them, like Iraq, are incredibly obvious. There is, I think, a lot of skepticism of Bush that is -- well, in my current state, the only analogy that leaps to mind is: it's completely dissolved, like the sugar you dissolve in water when you're making rock candy, and then someone drops in a paperclip, and it crystallizes. Clear evidence that the Republican leadership had not just completely screwed up Iraq, but had, in addition, sold the country's interests down the river for their own enrichment, would crystallize some things in our country, I think.
God knows not in everyone's minds, but in a significant number, I think.
That will only happen if the Democrats retake one house of Congress. And for the sake of the country, that means, to me, that I have to work as hard as I can to make that happen.
This is one of those times, like the Red Scare or the internment of the Japanese, which we will look back on with shame and horror. But it is by no means the worst thing that we have ever done as a country, nor is it the most complete betrayal of our values. That would be slavery. Neither the Red Scare nor slavery just ended all by themselves. They ended because people worked very hard to end them. In the case of slavery, they worked for decades, and then for another century after that to get anything approaching equal rights for African-Americans.
Personally, I don't begrudge anyone any expression of fury or grief or despair, in the short term. But we will not get past this if we let ourselves yield to despair. We just won't. And, as CharleyCarp said in comments, every day that goes by is a new injury. A whole host of new injuries, in fact: to all those who are deprived of their rights; to their families, who may not even know they're alive; to their children, who might have gone for nearly five years now without having seen their fathers; to any American soldier who suffers in the future because of this; and also to our ability to feel unproblematically proud of our country and what it stands for.
I mean: if Andrew gets sent abroad, I want him to worry about the soldiers under his command, and how his friends and family are doing, and whether he made the right tactical decision or the wrong one, and where exactly he put his flashlight. I do not want him to have to worry about whether his country stands for what he hopes it does. I want that to be one of those completely unproblematic things that it would never cross his mind to worry about, like whether or not the sun will come up, or whether he'll go on existing in four dimensions, not two or seventeen.
And for Andrew not to have to wonder, and innocent detainees' kids to hug their fathers again, and for all of us to know that in our country, people can't just be tossed in jail for no reason without even a chance of proving their innocence, some of us are going to have to work really hard. And if not me, then who? And if not now, then when? (Or, in a literal translation: if not now, there is no when. I've always preferred it that way.)
Besides, as my grandmother always said: it is not worthy of humanity to give up. To which I would add: not that there aren't times when it's really, really tempting.