Ethics or Politics? Choose!
– by David Matthews 2
Imagine someone coming up to you and just handing you an envelope full of hundred-dollar bills. Doesn’t explain why, just that it’s “a gift”. The following month, you get another envelope just like it. And again, and again, and again.
Eventually you get to know this strange benefactor. You know his name, but he doesn’t really explain why he’s giving you the money, just that at some point in the future he’d ask for something, and you’d better do what he asks.
Years go by, and then one day this benefactor is in your home, with a gun pointed at your family members. He tells you that it’s time to “pay up” for all the money that he’s been giving you. All you have to do is watch as he uses your family members as target practice. You don’t have to pull the trigger; just stand there watch. If you try to stop him, though, he’ll demand ALL of the money back that he’s been giving you for all those years.
Is it worth it? Is it worth watching your family members die right in front of you by the guy who has been giving you hundreds of dollars over the years?
That’s precisely the kind of deal that America has had to work with for countless decades now.
On one hand, we have this so-called “American Exceptionalism”… that circular logic from Alexis de Tocqueville that declares that we are great BECAUSE we are great, and BECAUSE we are great, we have an obligation to share that “greatness” to others. We “love” freedom, and we want to supposedly SHARE this freedom with as many nations as we can. (That part is also known as “Manifest Destiny”.)
Then on the other hand we have… POLITICS. Amoral, sociopathic, “let’s make a deal”, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, and then “dance with the one who brought you”. Politics dictates that you have to make deals with people that you otherwise don’t want to work with in order to get something that you want.
And that brings us to that unfathomable deal I mentioned… getting hundreds of dollars every month over a series of years in exchange for watching your “benefactor” do something horrid to your family later on. Of course if you KNEW that this would be the exchange from the onset, you’d probably say “no”, which is why that kind of understanding is never made up front.
America has had to make that kind of unsavory deal pretty much from the onset. We sought aid from France and Spain, which at the time were ruled by monarchs, to get rid of the oppressive rule of King George III during the American Revolution. They didn’t do it because they loved freedom; they did it because it was a kick in the Imperial British gonads.
We brokered deals with despots so we could get what we want, and in exchange, we’d often have to help them stay in power, or at the very least not help their enemies remove them from power. It didn’t matter if their enemies were pushing for the same kind of freedom that we cherish. We made the deal; we had to follow through with it.
The problem is that these things have CONSEQUENCES to them!
We back a dictator and what happens? We get linked to that dictator and EVERYTHING that he or she does. And then everything that we supposedly “stand for” and “cherish” and “desire” becomes suspect.
Oh, we like “freedom”? So why are we supporting someone who is running a police state and throwing people in prison for wanting the very things that we take for granted here? Would WE want that in our country?
Let’s get brutally honest here… yes; we are hypocrites when we do this. We’re not just SEEN as hypocrites… WE ARE hypocrites when we trade in our ethics for politics. There’s no getting around it. All of the breast-beating and talk radio bleating about “freedom” and “liberty” and “founding fathers” and “heritage” and “history” means absolutely NOTHING… NOTHING AT ALL… if we don’t practice what we preach!
What’s worse is that history has shown repeatedly that backing the wrong political horse HAS come back to HURT US!
We backed the Shah of Iran in the 1950’s. Not only did we back him, we helped stage the coup that put him in power. (You can thank the team of Eisenhower and Churchill for that little deal.) And because of the Shah’s dictatorial ruling style, we became linked to anything bad he did. Sure we excused it as being “needed” for oil, and “needed’ for the Cold War, but it also gave room for a theocratic cleric named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to take over in the mid 1970’s. So rather than “spread freedom” to other lands, we are responsible for putting a dictator in charge, and then setting the conditions for a theocrat to come to power. And we’ve been paying the price for that deal ever since!
We backed a thug in Iraq named Saddam Hussein. Not only did we back him, we gave him ENDLESS arms and supplies, which he used not only against the Iranians, but also against his own people. We ended up paying DEARLY for that little deal, didn’t we? And not just once. In fact we COULD have removed Hussein from power after Operation Desert Storm, and we SHOULD have removed him, but we didn’t, because we supposedly made a deal with the other Arab nations to keep him in power. We traded our reputation for reassurance that we wouldn’t have another Khomeini come to power, even though it was our actions that CONTRIBUTED to Khomeini being as powerful as he was.
Same with Manuel Noriega of Panama. We backed him because we supposedly “needed” him to help supply the Contras in Nicaragua. Yet another “Cold War” deal… better dead than Red, right? Or, in our case, better to be hypocritical bastards than to let another country in our hemisphere go Communist, right? Bad enough we dropped the ball with Cuba…
So now we have people rioting in Egypt. People aren’t happy with the ruling style of their leader. The people there aren’t happy, period. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who sees himself less of a leader of people and more like the pharaohs of old, was reportedly trying to stay in power long enough to turn the country over to his son. Too bad a failing economy and those pesky little peons have to spoil it. I mean, the country there has only been under “Emergency Law” since 1967. (That’s a little nudge to those Americans who think that the USA PATRIOT Act is as “temporary” as they claim it to be.)
But… Mubarak is our “friend”, right? I mean, he’s the only “friend” that Israel has. He helped us out in Desert Storm… never mind that he refused to support the Iraq War in 2003. He’s an “ally” in the so-called “War on Terror”! Shouldn’t we have an obligation to SUPPORT him?
Where does it end? Where do we draw the line and say “NO”?
Think about this… we traded our ethics for power in Iran and we ended up with a nation that encouraged global terrorism against us. We traded our ethics for power in Iraq and we ended up with a monster that we had to send TRILLIONS of dollars and thousands of servicemen to their deaths to deal with. Every time we back the wrong horse around the world, we not only trade out what we believe in, but we also end up creating new enemies that come back to hurt us later on. History has PROVEN this time and time again! When will we figure it out?
There was a German immigrant by the name of Carl Schurz; former US Senator, former Ambassador to Spain under President Lincoln, former Secretary of the Interior under President Hayes, and formerly a Union Army general in the Civil War. He had some strong words to say about patriotism and living up to ideals. He condemned the jingoistic sentiments of the time that screamed “Our country right or wrong” and instead countered with “Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."
And that’s what we need to ask ourselves. When will we have the courage to PUT it right?
It goes back to that deal at the start of the story. The money was exchanged a while ago, the deal has been made, and the family members are lined up. Choose which is more important.