Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Outrage Mirror

Before the threats against theaters catapulted the Sony hack into the national spotlight, there was a certain amount of predictable outrage at former Vice-President Dick Cheney's response to the "Torture Report" released by Democrats in the Senate.

The problem I have is with all the folks we did release who ended up on the battlefield … I have no problem [with torturing innocent people] as long as we achieved our objective.
Dick Cheney, as quoted by Andrew Sullivan
It's easy to read Cheney's words and become angry. And therefore, a number of people have. But, for myself, I don't see Cheney as saying anything different than what any number of Americans believe: Americans are important, and other people, especially those who have hurt us or that we are afraid may hurt us, are unimportant. This philosophy seemed to drive quite a bit of Bush administration policy and rhetoric. When then-President Bush (in)famously stated that other nations "were either with us or against us," he was basically saying that they mattered only in as far as they had taken sides in our dispute with radical Islamic terrorism.

The Bush administration was very big on the philosophy of "American exceptionalism," and a number of Republican lawmakers are still very big boosters of it to this day. And in this, they're in line with a number of American citizens. And a large part of that exceptionalism was the idea that we're simply not subject to the same rules that other people need to be. In the role of being the World's Policeman, we often act as everyday police officers are allowed to - being above certain laws that everyone else has to follow.

Dick Cheney holds up a mirror that we demand to see as flawed. But perhaps it isn't. We should be prepared to see that, and, if it turns out to be true, change it.

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