Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Against Torture... Reckoning With The Burning Bush In Our Midst

In the brave new world where hashtags reign a little less than supreme, the #TortureReport has become a source of contention about what kind of society we are. People of conscience cannot ignore the kind of uncivilized brutality that has been a prominent feature of our national machismo for generations. Truth be told... this machismo, which has been celebrated from the entertainment perches of Hollywood to the political podiums of the Capitol, has become the Achilles Heel of our democracy.  We cannot pretend that we are unaware of the activities of our CIA with regard to the legacy of morally repugnant actions that agency has pursued in the name of the American people over many decades. It is mind-boggling to listen to the rationalizations of the criminality of torture in terms of its "effectiveness". The moral illiteracy of those who indulge in these rhetorical orgies is appalling. The complicity of the Press, while not surprising, is nonetheless disturbing. Many still hold on to the idea that they are a vital organ of our democracy.  They still claim that mantle, but we have good reason to doubt.

The ever resilient Nelson Mandela, patriarch of a new and revolutionary consciousness, articulates a vision of our humanity that we must all necessarily embrace in our efforts at building sustainable democracies in a more viable world. Our communities, he insists, must be built by people who realize that to guarantee our own freedom we must respect and do everything we can to enhance the freedom of others. He speaks to us as a man who endured nearly three decades of State persecution in his own country, South Africa, under an Apartheid regime. A society that predicates it's security on the continued oppression of people will never be truly viable. Indeed it is actively sowing the seeds of its own demise. There is a great body of evidence pointing to the fact that our rogue-ish behavior as a nation functions to create the very insecurity we claim to want to deter. We reap what we sow.

At the very core of our idealism as a nation is a philosophical insistence that "all persons are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". This is the central idea informing the exceptionalism we claim as a nation. Those who insist on the validity of the fundamental ideals informing our nation's origins, it's growth and  it's development, must never forget that our Faith has its genesis in a moral and ethical relationship with the God of Moses. That would be HIS/HER voice calling out to us from the “burning bush” of Justice. It is a voice that demands that we reign in our scandalous propensity to the kind of obscene bloodlust that issues in torture and murder. The Righteous Source from which that voice emanates speaks to the reality that we are inextricably connected in our "being", and are therefore essentially affected by all the circumstances that touch each of our lives.

The voice of our supreme moral and ethical Source declares in no uncertain terms that, as a nation,  we must take off the boots of moral ignorance which weigh us down in the muck of injustice. Those boots keep us from advancing overdue liberty-promoting actions toward the persons we have withering away as captives of an unjust process. They are being held in Guantanamo and our other prisons, known and unknown. These captives yearn for deliverance from the liberty-suppressing, life-thwarting circumstances prevalent around them. Their angst becomes the stuff our insecurity... Their pent up rage the impetus of coming explosions.  Our unjust war in Iraq gave birth to what we are now regarding as a terror born out of the Arabian sand. According to a National Geographic article, half a million Iraqis were killed in the war between 2003-2011. Can we discount the tragic consequences of this unjust war? Can we avoid it's tragic consequences? Arab lives matter. They matter just as much as American lives.

The undeniable dynamism of that voice coming from the "bush" of our fate, holds our feet to the fires of Justice. Cover our ears as we might, that same voice echoes disturbingly from the distant “wilderness” of our beginnings as a nation. A nation founded on the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for all. We have a history still stained by the disgrace of Slavery. A reminder that by "all men" we did not mean all men. Today in America we still have to be reminded that Black lives matter. They matter just as much as White lives... Or Brown lives... Or Red lives... Or Yellow lives. Those who would articulate the dynamic instructions of our moral core are required to have an exegetical moment that is ontologically meaningful. This is not a time to resort to the kind of meaningless obfuscation that calls a crime "a mistake". Repeating platitudes that comfort those who choose various convenient states of inaction while ignoring the need for corrective action, will only cement us in a place of cultural and spiritual decadence. Our claim to moral and political exceptionalism is about to go up in smoke. It is time to return to the faith expressed in our foundational rationale for being America... Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

Beyond the parochialism of our claim to some special existential privilege, ours is a Faith resonating in the powerful vibrations of the internationally acclaimed Robert Nesta Marley:
"Jah come to break downpression,
Rule equality,
Wipe away transgression,
Set the captives free... Set the captive free!... Set the captive free!"  (From the song “Exodus”...)

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