Tuesday, July 04, 2006

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. "
~ The Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776.


I'm hard on America.

I criticize and complain and point out faults of the government. I complain about American foreign policy and its sometimes horrendous effects on the Kurdish people in the past and the present, and what those effects may be in the future.

When I criticize and complain about the US government, at a certain level I am also criticizing and complaining about the American people because, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his Gettysburg Address, this government is "of the people, by the people, for the people." If Lincoln's words still hold true, the American people are burdened with a great responsibility.

This responsibility is no longer confined to the shores of the United States proper. As I understand American history, the advice of President Washington to the American people, urging them to avoid foreign entanglements, was nullified by the entry of the United States into the Second World War. At the end of that war, isolationism as an American policy was effectively ended and, in spite of certain isolationist attitudes that are still expressed today, it is impossible for Americans to go back to an idyllic time when they had less influence in the world, or believed that the vast oceans which separate them from the rest of the world would serve as impenetrable, insulating barriers. Those impenetrable barriers are now crossed in a matter of hours.

The actions of the American people, as expressed by their government, affect the rest of the world, for great good or for inconcievable suffering, even to the remote mountains of Kurdistan. As such, Americans cannot ignore their own foreign policies or remain ignorant of them. They cannot abdicate their responsibilities as citizens of a democracy, allowing government to work solely for strategic, or national, or special interests. Citizens of a democracy have a moral obligation to do what is right and just.

If I thought that the American people were callous and uncaring, then the time for discussion or criticism or dialog would be over. But I do not think that, at least not of all Americans and maybe not even of most Americans.

We see time and time again, that the American people can be moved to active compassion. When there is a disaster, the American people are the first and most generous with sending aid, whether it takes the form of money, food, medical supplies, rescuers, medical personnel, and anything or anyone else that is needed.

We saw it in Operation Iraqi Freedom, an operation which has given a fraction of the Kurdish people a chance at freedom.

We saw it in the recent outpouring of support by an American community in Virginia for their Kurdish neighbors. If not for the response of those Americans, I have no doubt that the unjust sentences handed out to the Harrisonburg Kurds would have been far harsher. I still remain adamantly opposed to the Patriot Act. I remain opposed to even relatively minor punishments of the innocent. But a courtroom jammed with American citizens in support of the innocent is justice defiant in the face of the strict, inexorable justice that characterizes the letter of the law.

If, through their foreign policy, the American people stood defiant against other, massive injustices--regardless of special interests--the entire world would be a much better place.

Americans are not a perfect people and America is not a perfect democracy. However, America is far closer to realizing the universal ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as those ideals are expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, than certain other countries, countries that wear a mask of democracy in order to conceal a heart of fascism.

If the American people wish to be a force for good in the world, they must renew their faith in, and commitment to, those foundational, political ideals, because they are the source of America's strength.

If not, America will one day wear a mask of democracy in order to hide a heart of fascism.

Before I forget . . . Happy Birthday, America.

6 comments:

philip said...

Mizgin, just recall that a few years ago we had a President who ostentatiously proclaimed human rights as the central principle of his foreign policy...but because he was unable to make the necessary strategic compromises, his foreign policy was a disaster. For example, to smash AlQaeda, the US had to cut deals w/Pakistan and other CentAsian dictators...wasn't this a necessary choice?

Could it not be argued that the KRG is not entirely democratic and law-abiding? Does that mean it should be condemned without reservation? Of course not, we need to maintin a sense of proportion and context.

Principled Idealism divorced from realism can leave you looking like a toad with a tire-track down his back. You need to have both.

philip said...

BTW, we had a lovely July 4th...as you might imagine, GRILLING was a central feature of it. We had a menu from the farm, the prairie, and the oeans:

--Italian herb-and-spiced chicken kabobs

--Buffalo-burgers, w/chopped scallions and mushrooms mixed in

--Fishcakes, made w/grilled salmon and tuna

It was a welcome change from the various combos of grilled LAMB that we had last week...Of course, they were delicious, too..

arcan_dohuk said...

i dressed like an indian and danced around fireworks until i burned my self. it was a fun night.

arcan_dohuk said...

"I believe the Iraqi Kurds are prepared to be Iraqis, Iraqi citizens of Iraq. They have the region. In their region there are important issues to work out, like Kirkuk’s status, understandably of concern to Turkey. But we and Turkey agree that Iraq must remain one country."

the above excerpt is ambassador Frieds answer to Zaman's question about iraq. it's clear, from judging his response, that he regards kirkuk as part of the kurdish region. "in their region they have important issues to resolve" and then goes on to mention kirkuk. if you read between the lines its as if he's preparing turkey for that to happen and ends by repeating himself about iraq's borders.

he uses "believe" with regards to kurdish ambitions. its almost like is not sure what course they'll take.

Mizgîn said...

Philip, my biggest problem is that Americans are so insular and so willing to let the government do whatever it wants, especially over such "complicated" issues as foreign policy. Check Samantha Power on many examples of this, and on many examples of Americans who have tried to make a big difference for others under threat of genocide.

BTW, I'm eating at your house on the next Fourth.

Arcan, man, it's the Fourth of July, not Newroz! A word of advice: Don't dance around or jump over fireworks. That's almost as bad as dancing naked with Satan.

On the positive side, I think you will do fabulously well at law school :P

As for this State Department toadie, he is talking about making a deal and when you make a deal, you have to give up something . . . or betray someone. When making a deal, therefore, you must be very, very careful. Especially with Turkey, because it's the whore of the region and LOVES to screw everybody.

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