Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

A little more than a year ago, President Bush (All hail King George!...oops, wrong country! Or is it?) invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq. He called it a "preemptive strike" for freedom and democracy and US national security. Of course, we now know that the reasons he gave for doing so were based on faulty intelligence (or, in my humble opinion, faulty intelligence interpretation, which is not the same thing). Yet Bush continues to defend his actions, refusing to admit that he was wrong and refusing to apologize for illegal actions of the US military. (And we're not even going into the war crimes being committed over there as we speak.) But this article isn't about the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq: it's about a trend that Mr. Bush has set with regards to "preemptive strikes".

In the US, the very notion of a "preemptive strike" goes to the very heart of the American judicial process and cuts it out. "Innocent until proven guilty" prevents "preemptive" arrests by police, like those in the popular movie "Minority Report". But now that Bush has made preemptive actions acceptable at the highest levels of our government, it hasn't taken long for this travesty of justice to make its way into the judicial system.

In March, 2004, amidst the flurry of activity and civil disobedience surrounding the issue of gay marriage, two men from Bucks County, Pennsylvania (my very conservative home state) applied for a marriage license and were promptly turned down. There was some mention made of a lawsuit that was to be filed at a later date in order to challenge the state's so-called DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law. But three days before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage (over 1700 couples have been wed so far on the day this is being written!), twelve legislators from Pennsylvania filed a preemptive lawsuit against the two men, who have been together for three decades. The lawsuit seeks to get the courts to affirm the constitutionality of the DOMA laws that were passed here in 1996.

However, just as Bush's policies on Iraq have "backfired" and are wakening the people to angry cries for true justice, so too does this lawsuit have the potential to backfire on the conservative faction that filed it. The two men sued had not even decided how to go about appealing the refusal of a marriage license and now they have three of the most powerful civil rights organizations in the state working on their defense. This lawsuit has the potential to work its way through the courts where, rather than affirming the constitutionality of the DOMA laws, they might be overturned. It may be too much to hope for to suggest that if this cases makes it to the PA Supreme Court that the justices in this state will do what the justices in Massachusetts did: order the state to abide by its constitution (which currently does not define marriage as one man and one woman) and the constitution of the United States and treat ALL citizens equally.

But the "preemptive" strike is not the only slippery slope Bush and his supporters find themselves on. Consider the situation in Abu Ghraib. Speak to any conservative on the matter and they'll tell you, "We might have overstepped some boundaries, but it's not as bad as what Saddam did to his own people!" This kind of moral relativism, where the actions of another are used as an excuse for one's own actions, poses all sorts of potential problems. Were the Rodney King incident to happen again, the cops could now use the defense that at least they didn't kill him like other cops have been known to do to detainees. Someone who robs a store of a couple hundred dollars could use the defense that at least they didn't steal as much money as, say Jim Bakker. A man who raped a woman could use the defense that at least he didn't rape a child like Marc Dutroux. A man who beats his wife could use the defense that at least he didn't murder her like John List.

Mind you, I'm a moral relativist. Morality is based on what an individual believes is right/wrong and what is morally proper for me is not the same for you. The difference is I don't use the things you (generically speaking) do wrong as justification to commit my own wrongs. What is morally wrong for me remains morally wrong even if it is morally right for you. When you do something that we both agree is morally wrong, that does not give me leave to do the same thing— just not as bad as what you did. Yet that is precisely the justification being given by the vast majority of Bush supporters who fail to see their hypocrisy for denouncing the abuses of American military and civilian prisoners yet condoning abused done BY the American military to Iraqi military and civilians.

But if you take a moment to consider the following, you might understand why we're in this ugly place that we are right now. When Saddam Hussein took power in Iraq, he did so with the full blessing and backing of the US government. Our government supplied him not only with the components but with the technological know-how to created the chemical weapons he used against his own people— and we did nothing to stop him other than to say "Now that's not nice!" In 1991, when George Bush was president, a representative of the Iraqi government informed the US government that Iraq was going to invade Kuwait. Our government did nothing— there was no warning against taking such action. Nine years later, the son of Bush is appointed to the highest office in our nation ONLY after "winning" a recount in a state where not only is there indisputable evidence that tens of thousands of voters— most of them Democrats and/or blacks— were illegally denied access to the voting booth but where his brother holds the highest office in the state.

America, you have GOT to wake up! Our nation is in mortal danger. When it was revealed the Bill Clinton had received sexual favors from a willing intern, the Republicans on Capitol Hill were outraged! Yet Bush's administration has lied to the American people, is responsible for the brutal torture/treatment of thousands of detainees (not only in Abu Ghraib but in Afghanistan and Guantanamo as well) and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and has placed this nation so far in debt for an illegal war that it will take generations to get back on our feet— and Republicans are SUPPORTING the man and seeking to re-elect him! Talk about moral relativism!

It's going to take a lot of effort on the part of the American people to stop our descent down the slippery slopes Bush has put us on. Maybe we should have listened to Thomas Jefferson, who advocated a revolution every 20 years to keep the politicians from gaining such a stranglehold on the political process. But we didn't and now we're in the position where one needs to be a millionaire (or have a friend who is one) if one wants to get elected to federal office. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people: it is a government by the rich over the poor. If we want to see our nation survive into the next millennium— or maybe even the next decade— we need to start that revolution and we need to start it now.

As an afterthought, if you don't think that Bush is all that bad, I'd like you to take fifteen or twenty minutes and read this.

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