By now, if you’re interested enough in news to be reading this, you’ve read about the crimes committed in Iraqi prisons by Coalition troops. While guarding Iraqi prisoners, they abused them.
I don’t know enough yet to know the extent of or all the facts around the abuse, but I do know enough to know that abuse happened, and that those in charge at various levels were somewhere between supportive or ignorant.
So, you’re asking, what the hell is a post about this doing on Winds of Change on a Good News Saturday?
Because to me, the news is good news.
The news isn’t that people were abused. I’m sorry, but that happens everywhere and has happened throughout human history. As a species, we’re pretty cruel.
In many societies, though, cruelty is the norm. It is not only expected, but those who practice it well are rewarded.
In our society, they are shamed, and fired, and arrested.I feel much the same way about this as I did about the revelation that the kids who were arrested for a brutal rape of the ‘Central Park Jogger’ after a night of ‘wilding’ in Central Park were found innocent. I’m sad – sad that the rape happened, sad that the wrong people were charged and convicted of it. But I’m proud, and glad, too.
Because in this society, the least of us – poor children who turned brutal, Iraqi prisoners of war – have rights too, and there is someone out here who will defend those rights. And those defenders don’t wind up in gulags or standing against blood-spattered walls, but on the front page of the New York Times.
…none of this changes the fact that I’m proud because we live in a society where we are willing to face up to and admit our mistakes. To correct them where possible. No politically connected prosecutor was able to bury the confession or prevent the DNA testing that ultimately appears to have exonerated them. I’m thrilled that we have been able to take the fruits of our technology and apply them, fairly and objectively to support the interests of people who would normally be beneath consideration. I’m excited because I believe that these tools…the technology and the open legal system…that are the product of this society will be used in the future to prevent bad things from happening…like convicting the wrong people of horrible crimes.
I’m interested in why our three reactions are so disparate, and it cuts to one of my significant core issues, the alienation of many of us from our society and the overt disgust with all the instruments of government. In other words, the collapse of legitimacy.
I’m interested in why it is, when we correct the injustices of the past, and devise tools to ensure that it will be difficult to make the same mistakes again, we are dwelling on the “Oh, no, we were so bad” rather than the “we’re getting better”. See, I think that real liberalism…the kind that builds schools and water systems and improves people’s lives…comes from a belief in progress.
We aren’t perfect. No one is or ever will be…to quote William Goldman, “Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something.” But we can either keep trying to get there or sit on the floor dwelling on our shortcomings. Which one would you rather do, and why?