This morning, I opened my email to find a message from a right wing correspondent. The message simply contained a link to an article entitled: Guantánamo detainee resurfaces in terrorist group.
I guess the implication is supposed to be: "See? Barack HUSSEIN Obama has only been in office for a few days and LOOK! He's turning all of his brother terrorists loose..." or something like that.
I have to say, however, that the article prompted me to think a little bit about what it means to be an American. Here's part of my email back:
I don't deny that most of these folks are VERY BAD MEN...
What bothers me about Gitmo is that a Free Country, like the United States, can lock up people who are NEITHER Prisoners of War- and thus protected by the Geneva Conventions, or CRIMINALS- thus protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Why is "protection" important? Do I really care about a bunch of grease-ball desert dwelling killers?
The answer is no, I don't give a damn.....If I just left it up to my personal feelings I would love to see them all fry in hell.
I could allow myself to say all the foulest things I sometimes feel about them...
But there are two good reasons why I try NOT to give into the hatred I often feel.
THE SELFISH REASON:
The first is, I admit, selfish: I know that if certain people on the far left came to power, they'd toss the likes of you, my conservative friend, in jail so fast it would make your head spin...
...I also know that that, if certain people on the FAR RIGHT came to power, I would wind up in an internment camp before I could say "My Country 'tis Of Thee".
The Men who wrote the Constitution knew this, as well; on almost every page of the Federalist Papers, they warn that human nature can be a wicked thing- and that our only hope of escaping the evil side of human nature is to bind it up in rules and regulations- to keep us from acting like the animals we are.
Because I would not want to be subject to the whims of others, with a right to due process of law, so too, I would extend that right to others...
Notice, I didn't say I would let them off the hook- what I said was I would FOLLOW THE RULES - before throwing them into prison...because I know that, in the long run, those RULES are there to protect ME not THEM.
THE OTHER REASON:
As I said before, if it were just up to me and my emotions, I'd love to see these people fry in hell. I am not a nice, or civilized guy at heart...If I didn't TRY really hard, I personally could find hatred in my heart for these people. If I gave into the emotions I felt on 9-11, I could easily vote to "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."
But while that is sometimes who I am, it's really not who I WANT to be.
And that is also my wish for my country... OTHER Nations can lock prisoners up without trial, because it's the easiest, and often the SAFEST way to do business....
but America needs to stand for something MORE than just safety and simplicity- don't you agree?
Ever since the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, we have aspired to be the "Shining City on the Hill"- first articulated by John Winthrop and alluded to by Americans as different as John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
If we wish to stay faithful to that dream, then we must hold ourselves to a HIGHER standard than the rest of the world. For other countries, their thinking can be limited to "self-interest"...but for the United States...we can only START at self interest....if we are to fulfill the dream to become a shining city on a hill, a place where Justice always Triumphs, where Hard Work is always rewarded, and where we are free to worship as we wish, study as we wish, think as we wish...then we must be better than average....
We've got to Catch the Bad Guys...AND we have to catch 'em fair and square.
I'm not sure that Gitmo has lived up to that standard. In some ways, I think this was one of George W. Bush's big mistakes...to treat these people, not as criminals, but as something like prisoners of war.
Because they are prisoners of war, and because the world EXPECTS more of us...because we ARE America...we have to live up to the Geneva Convention, etc.
IF we had treated these guys as common criminals, I think we could have brought them into our justice system, given them a fair trial and then, when the crime warranted, sent them to the gas chamber.
To me, that's part of the tragedy of Dick Cheney and co. The man got so frightened after 9/11 that he forgot that our country, and our freedom are greater and stronger than any scraggly band of thugs from the desert....
...in his panic, he chose to throw away the rules...which he should have HELD all the more tightly- for that is our best protection as Americans.
I know it's a case of "coulda, shoulda, woulda" but I have to wonder if, had we followed our own rules, and sent this creep to trail, would we be reading about his death by lethal injection today, rather than the fact that he is free to kill again.
Looking forward to your response....