A few days ago, the US 9th Circuit rejected the appeal of a woman who depends on medical marijuana. She sought a court order to prevent federal officers from arresting her for the use of this substance, even though its use for medical purposes is legal in California where she resides, and her doctor has testified that the life of this 41 year old mother of two depends on it. In other words, the 9th Circuit held the law up against the life of an American citizen and decided that the law wins.
Now Alberto Gonzalez is free to arrest her, incarcerate her and leave her to die in agony, which he will no doubt do without a second thought. When the law threatens to take the lives of innocent citizens, it is the responsibility of judges to interpret it in such a way that this is not allowed to happen. Barbarians choose their ignorant rules over the lives of their people. Civilized human beings do not pervert their laws in this way.
But perversion of the law and the waste of American life is the byword of the present government. After 9/11 George Bush, knowingly and with evil calculation lied to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I watched Colin Powell’s presentation before the United Nations. I was impressed with our intelligence and proud of our president’s resolve. We had brave leaders.
But what has transpired since has made it abundantly clear: Colin Powell knew that he was lying. George Bush knew that the whole thing was a big, fat lie. So did Dick Cheney, so did Donald Rumsfeld, so did Paul Wolfowitz and Karl Rove. They all knew.
Nevertheless, they sent our young men and women off to suffer and die, and created the ugliest war in American history. And history is going to show that, unlike the Viet Nam war, another exercise in contempt for the lives of the people, this one is going to prove extremely dangerous to have lost.
But what of our lives? What difference do they make? To this monster that is the federal government, apparently not a lot.
Let’s go back to the months before 9/11. It is now a matter of public record that Condoleeza Rice, as Chairman of the National Security Council, was sent 11 specific warnings that terrorists might be planning to hijack airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center.
She did nothing, and not only that, those warnings were classified?almost certainly illegally?until after the last presidential election.
Federal judges don’t care if a 41 year old mother dies as long as the law is upheld. The president doesn’t care if thousands of our marvelous young soldiers die as long as it fulfills his political ambition. And Ms. Rice doesn’t care if thousands of innocent civilians die in an inferno as long as it serves whatever dark purpose keeping silent about those warnings served.
This administration threw away an American city rather than do the work it knew was needed to preserve it from a type of storm to which it has been exposed from its founding, and will always be exposed. Threw it away and let its citizens die and left them impoverished, so little care does it have for our lives.
Now, I would like to tell you the story of another kind of American–unlike the monsters I have been discussing, this was a normal human being, an American of a kind who would be greeted with disdain in the halls of power now.
This man lived down the street from me when I was a little boy, and I will never forget him. He was a famous man, a general–a thin, frail-looking man who always had a smile for a gaggle of little boys who might stray onto the grounds of Fiddler’s Green, which is what he called his home, of a Saturday morning.
This man was General Johnathan Wainwright, who had been left in command on Corregidor after Roosevelt regretfully ordered a sad but determined General MacArthur to leave for Australia. General Wainwright commanded 12,000 American soldiers against an army of 250,000 Japanese who controlled both the sea and the air. There were also 60,000 Filipino troops, who, like the Americans who suffered and died in that fortress, showed great courage.
General Wainwright led his troops through what was without question the most horrific captivity ever experienced in the history of the American military. Suffering from beriberi toward the end, dragging himself along on a cane, he moved endlessly from post to post, a shuddering wraith in a dirty uniform, determined to show his men that their general was there for them.
You know what he was? He was a typical American, pretty much like any of us. And he valued us. Our lives mattered to him.
When I saw the pictures from Abu Graib, I thought to myself how those memos written by Alberto Gonzalez, which led inexorably and certainly to the institutional use of torture by the CIA and the Pentagon, had literally spit in the faces of General Wainwright and the noble Americans who suffered torture and agonizing death at the hands of the Japanese? whose nobility in life and death said that we Americans are better than that. We value life. We value dignity. We are better than the barbarians and the torturers and the cowards.
My granddad knew General Wainwright a little. He once told me, "Wainwright used to day that a general’s job is to save lives."
The job of government is to protect us, to preserve our lives and make them better. So why have we ended up a government that considers itself and its laws more important than our lives? The very idea of judges who would put law above life?these people are, quite simply, beneath contempt.
This is a great country. It has given the world the finest examples of military conduct, judicial compassion and governmental excellence that have ever been seen.
So where have these ghastly judges and the ghouls in Washington come from?
The people who have infected the judiciary, the executive branch and much of the legislative just plain do not have the preservation of life–of our lives–as their top priority. If they valued life, they would never condone torture. They would never go to war based on lies. They would never ignore warnings at peril of our lives. They find a way to make the law protect our lives, not sacrifice us to it like victims to some heathen god.
But they did all that, and so much more. We will soon be rid of the worst president in the history of our country, and all his marching maggotry. But these wretched judges will continue on and on and on, infecting our republic’s very marrow with their contempt for us. No matter who wins the next election, they must not be as bad as the people who nowfinfest the executive branch. They must not infect our judiciary with more of these cold, inhumane creatures. Because, if we don’t get some good people at the helm soon, and humane judges and humble, compassionate public servants in place of our present bunch of pompous cowboys, this republic cannot survive for long, not as it is now constituted. At some point, the states will begin to pull away. Washington will face a stark choice: send in the troops or let the states go their own way.
If it comes to that, we can be assured that they will send in the troops. But not the ghost of General Wainwright. Heroes don’t march in such armies.
I remember riding past Fiddler’s Green of a Sunday morning, on our way to church. Dad always gave a salute. Nothing was said.
Why did that old cavalryman call his shady little house Fiddler’s Green? Because of an old cavalry song that had moved him in his life. This is how it goes:
Halfway down the trail to hell,
In a shady meadow green,
Are the souls of all dead troopers
Camped near a good old-time canteen,
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers Green.
When will we once again have a government than honors the sacrifice of the heroic men and women who made this country so humane, so compassionate and such a marvelous example to the world?
And what of us and our children, so many of them leaving lives and limbs in a foreign land of little concern to us, under the heel of or own government’s arrogant lies? When will we have a government again who honors them, and does not try to prevent us even from photographing their coffins when they come home, and leaves the maimed and crippled waiting among the rats and the flies?
When will we have servants again in government, instead of these posturing martinets who imagine that getting elected to the humble labor of running a republic somehow makes them lords?
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