Saturday, February 18, 2006

dick cheney, curling, democracy, haiti

It has been an unusual week in the news cycle, beginning roughly seven days ago with the small note that Dick Cheney had shot a fellow hunter somewhere in Texas. An accident. The story laid low for a few hours, and then it began to gain some traction, as they say, because of the delay between the incident and the reporting of it via the national news media. The national press was offended that they were either bypassed or snubbed; in effect, that they were marginalized. This became a simmering stew for a day or two, spiced somewhat by the hunting victim's ( a millionaire lobbyist/attorney friend of the vice-president) experience of a minor heart attack. The comedians piled on, as did the political cartoonists, and, to be honest, some of the responses were pretty funny. Finally, the vice-president consented to a public interview on Fox TV (friendly territory) and took a few swings at conversational softballs. The subtexts in all of it had to do with many, more important issues that seem to avoid media attention or knowledge, such as energy policy, or torture (new photographs of abu graib were released this week in the larger world, as headlined on the bbc), or the treatment of enemies. These issues, after the week of obsession with the hunting accident, are still with us, and will affect us for some time---the relation of energy policy to gasoline prices and to our relationships in the middle east; the matter of torture and the harm that it does to the victims, to those who carry out the torture, and to our national sense of possessing a higher moral ground; and the very serious matter of civil liberties, liberties at the heart of the freedoms our country so prizes.

I have seen very little of the Olympics, but isn't curling the most unusual sport you have ever seen? And can you make any sense of a decision-making process that would include curling but exclude softball?

It seems to be dawning on the political leaders and commentators of the west that a polity based upon spreading democracy around the world may issue in outcomes like the ascendancy of Hamas, and the present leader in Iraq, and a potential Shiitie theocracy in Iraq. These democracies might indeed perceive life, the value of life, the rights of women, the freedom of he individual, the place of religion, and the events of recent history in ways that are incomprehensible to us. Is democracy a sufficiently virtuous value, or does it need to be complemented by something else: human dignity, or non-violence, or human rights---virtues that protect the marginalized, for whom we often want to be the advocate.

I am in prayer for the people of Haiti, and praying in particular that Preval will be led to be in advocate for the large numbers of desperately poor there, and that policies will be created that lead to the emergence of work for the Haitians. Yes, I know that I am praying for a miracle!


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