It's not often that I am so deeply moved, but it seems for all the world as though Carl Sagan was incapable of saying anything that wasn't deeply moving, and this video may be the only justified use of autotune I've ever seen.
So I'd been thinking about this for a while now, and I think I now understand why it is that Governor Sanford, who left his state in secret for five days to visit his mistress in Argentina, refuses to resign. In the same way, I'm also pretty sure I know why Senator John Ensign of Nevada refuses to resign. Simply put, it's because doing so would, in their eyes, be acting against God's will.
An explanation is required. Both Governor Sanford and Senator Ensign are more or less fundamentalist Christians. Even more, they are heavily influenced by 'The Family,' a strain of Christian fundamentalism that apparently weds the language and appearance of the gospel to a version of the explicitly anti-Christian philosophy known as Objectivism. They are a sect which has determined that to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, and to visit those in prison is a waste of time, and the group that really needs our love and service and compassion are the rich and the powerful, who are, according to this creed, the foundation of our society, the virtuous ones who innovate and produce jobs for everyone else, etc. It's sort of a 'prosperity gospel meets Ayn Rand and makes sweet sweet love while crushing organized labour beneath its boot heel.' When they speak of serving the poor, or having a heart for the poor, they mean serving powerful businessmen and having a heart for powerful members of congress: the 'poor in spirit.' The poverty of the spirits of businessmen and members of congress may even be well established, but that's hardly what Jesus was talking about, and is, of course, neither here nor there.
As dictated by their fundamentalist faith, these men do not believe that they were put into power by their constituents. No, it was God who appointed them to their current posts. They are His elect, you see. His chosen. It was His hand which guided the election, explicitly not the votes of everyday people. They are therefore, in their own minds, not answerable to the people, but only to God. To resign now would be to act against the will of God that they use the positions to which they were divinely mandated to receive for the advance of the cause of His kingdom on Earth, and is therefore impossible.
That's pretty much all there is to it. Theocracy or bust, and no amount of naysaying will convince them of anything else. Come face to face with their own moral bankruptcy? Well, God's only testing them. Testing their resolve, and their willingness to submit to his will and to remain in the office to which He appointed them. And besides, God doesn't care about whether or not they've shown themselves to be hypocrites, or whether or not they're virtuous men. God just cares that they're obedient men, doing the work for which they have been Chosen. And by their own reckoning, they are.
In all seriousness, I've been reading the torture memos lately, and what amazes me about them is the sheer clinical banality of... I'm not sure. Evil, maybe. This is not the work of barbarians, but of civilized men with well-scrubbed hands. These men, while discussing a very real, very horrifying act, while discussing a victim being tortured on a table, dissemble. They split hairs. They try to justify their actions. They argue that 'pain' cannot be considered to be a distinct concept from 'suffering,' and therefore because Waterboarding inflicts no physical pain, it also inflicts no 'suffering,' and therefore cannot be said to constitute inhumane treatment, or cruel or unusual punishment.
... and I look upon this, and I see people arguing back and forth, I see people arguing for and against, I see them making the inevitable good points on whether or not waterboarding can be said to inflict pain and suffering, and I see the inevitable result: the victim remains strapped to the table, and continues to be waterboarded.
There is a time for debate. It has passed. Now it is time to arrest the criminals who have so freely confessed to having tortured, having approved torture, having ordered torture, and to have them stand trial in a court of law.
We must, must, MUST prosecute. We must establish once and for all that even when the country's legal authorities themselves act unlawfully, they are still subject to the law. And we must establish that we are not a country which will allow such barbarism to be carried out in her name. Otherwise, we're no better than the very fanatics the Bush administration claims to have embraced barbarism to oppose.
Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out and sort asunder, were not more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil.
I am writing to you to express my deep concern about the attitude of many politicians which seems dangerously focused on 'moving forward' when such an attitude is entirely inappropriate for the situation with which we are faced. I realize that what I want is a politically inconvenient position, but let's make no bones about its reality: we tortured. These are not my words, but the words of Susan Crawford, convening authority on military commissions under the Bush Administration: "We tortured Mohammed al-Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture." Never was a more damning statement issued by any American in modern history.
Men and women in the service of these United States have engaged in the practice of torture. An illegal practice under both International and our own law. We made it into law. We led the way in establishing torture's illegality. This must, must be investigated and prosecuted. We have a responsibility to uphold the law. If we turn away from our responsibility now, how will American citizens ever be able to look each other in the eye again without shrinking beneath the shame of it? For it will then be our shame. Ours is a representative government; everything our government does is done in our name and for our sake and, on some level, by our choice. If we as a people turn a blind eye to the practice of torture in the face of such a confession as was given by the Bush Administration, the guilt becomes ours. Becomes mine. Senator, I beg you not to let this happen. I do not want such barbarism and brutality as a permanent stain upon my conscience and upon my soul, and so it shall be unless it is investigated and prosecuted in a court of law.
Again, I realize that this is a politically inconvenient thing to ask, but the sentiment appropriate to such a horror carried out by our own government in our names is not 'putting the past behind us.' Rather it is time for 'NEVER AGAIN.'