War Crimes and the Need to Wreck Before We Can Build:
So few of us have the courage to face the upheaval our lives sometimes need. You can convince yourself you're happy, you're content, and the future looks bright, but then you get that job offer that says you need to sell your house and take the kids out of school and head to the new city. But you like your job, your house, and the kids' school, and the city you're in is kinda nice. Still, there's something in that new job that's tantalizing you, some challenge, something that says your life would be extraordinary instead of just good. Are you willing to leap? God, how hard it'll be for a while as you all adjust, all the regret and how much you'll miss what was so stable. That's a terror that so few are willing to face no matter how great the potential pay-off might be.
Sometimes the courage is needed when the situation is not so potentially optimistic. If, for instance, you discovered your cancer-ridden grandfather was a guard at Dachau. In the abstract, it seems like the decision is an easy moral equation: You report evil. You let the wheels of justice grind. You do right by history and by your grandfather's victims - how awful it is to say that, eh? The reality, of course, is far more difficult to face. The potential destruction of your family over your decision, the fact that you'll have to tell your mother that her dying father is a monster, the thought of your beloved grandpa in shackles. Yes, you could go on with your life, happy, successful, weeping at Gramps's funeral. But now you know, oh, god, you know. And every time you think about him, every day of your life, that thought will be there. Who are you responsible to? You know what's right. You know what to do. The question is only: do you have the guts to do it?
Since it's the movie du jour for all editorial comment, let the Rude Pundit add something about Wall-E, that goddamn beautiful cartoon that's made pundits everywhere have an analogy-gasm. One of the plots of the film involves whether or not the spaceshipload of doughy humans will ever be able to return to the trash-poisoned Earth. When a robot probe signals that it has brought back a plant from Earth, the ship's captain, who spends his days in a contented daze of cup-based foods and few duties beyond making announcements, has to initiate a protocol that might let the humans go home after 700 years away. The baffled captain seems distressed by the idea that he might have to complete the mission of the ship, but when no plant is found and the protocol is halted, he, a bit disappointedly, but a bit relievedly, returns to his daze. When the plant reappears later, the captain has to decide: go back to Earth to rebuild the destroyed place or stay in space, fat and content.
With the release of information in the book The Dark Side by Jane Mayer, that the Red Cross considered America's torture of detainees "war crimes;" with the words of Antonio Taguba, who stated flatly that the Bush administration had committed "war crimes;" with Scott McClellan, in his ongoing quixotic quest to show he's no tool, saying he couldn't say that the administration doesn't believe in torture (good to know Scotty's lost none of his ability to obfuscate through double negatives with a twist), we are left with that very real thing dangling there, filled with hope and despair: do we as a country have the courage to face what's happened to America during the 21st century? Are we willing to have war crimes trials, not just a truth commission or Congressional hearings, and admit, as a whole, that unless we do, we are abetting the crimes? Are we willing to fight all the battles with ourselves that we'll need to fight?
Because at some point, what's suppressed surfaces and it becomes active denial. An encouraging sign is the success of Vincent Bugliosi's book laying out how to prosecute George W. Bush for murder. That means the notion is in the everyday discourse of people.
Sweet jesus, it's so easy to just blithely go on with our lives, pushing the knowledge of what's right aside and telling ourselves, until we maybe even believe it, "I'm happy, I'm content, and nothing's to be gained by tearing shit apart." Except we know that the only way to go forward is to tear it apart and see what's left to build.