Talking about Unfathomable Wrongs

Day by day practically, we seem to be learning about the unconscionable wrongdoings the previous administration deemed "necessary." I put the word in quotes, because it is so unbelievable to think–despite so much evidence reported, even then, to those in power–anyone could choose to torture when for so many reasons, including the safety of our citizens throughout the most tumultuous places in the world, that it could in any way be a necessity. Way down the list of my questions, a long slide from how did this go on and nobody stop it or speak out and get heard is this: how in the world do I speak to my children about our own government perpetuating so many horrific and immoral actions supposedly on our collective behalf? It's hard enough for a pacifist to tell her children that there may be justifications for having a military at all (although one as big as ours, I haven't been able to come up with any really good reasons for that). I haven't had to talk about this specifically with them yet, but I know I will. To lay all the blame on Dick Cheney–tempting though that may be–really doesn't answer the critical question (to my mind), which is what happened to the checks and balances, the laws and the legislators? I feel as if the fabric of our morals simply frayed. We should have been able to name it loud enough then, to show the disappearing cloth, but somehow, we did not.

I believe I may say something not about cynicism, but about fear. Fear must have squelched us more than we even know. As defeating as a scandal like Watergate was, it didn't touch the sense of abandoning the rules (without consequence) that the final outcome of the 2000 Presidential race did. From there, 9/11 and a kind of knee-jerk patriotism–go, war–ensued, all based, I think, on disbelief and fear. Being a whistleblower can be a dangerous business. Speaking your truth, audibly, is also risky, but that's what I can offer my children: an invitation to speak their truths.

And that's why I'm grateful to my friend, Tom Weiner, who writes about Vietnam war resisters and is reminding many of us to be thoughtful about the connections between that senseless war and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He recently shared on his blog, Iraq & Vietnam War Stories, a post the apology made by a US soldier, Matthis Chiroux, for what Chiroux believes were unjust actions in an illegal war. Chiroux's confessions are extremely disturbing. However, what's heartening is his willingness to apologize. That's a step away from fear; a step toward justice.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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