Saturday, January 08, 2005

Skewed Perspective

The letters to the editor of The New York Times this morning make many interesting comments on the topic of the Alberto Gonzalez confirmation hearings. This one, from Diane Runyan Bech of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, struck me as particularly interesting:

To the Editor:
Let me get this straight. If Alberto R. Gonzalez, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, had paid his nanny under the table, recent history shows that there is no way he could be confirmed.
But Mr. Gonzalez is merely the architect of a White House policy on torture that even Republicans believe has endangered the lives of American troops. Therefore, his confirmation does not appear in doubt.

Well said.
We have become a society so easily distracted by those who would "change the subject" rather than address it, that our politics have become akin to a through-the-looking-glass experience. If only it were an unreality.
In this same set of letters there are a few which attempt to justify Mr. Gonzalez's stances on torture. One uses the same "change the subject" strategy that many teenagers use -- don't pay attention to what I'm doing, pay attention to what so-and-so is doing.
Says Jamie Valeriano of Wexford, Pennsylvania:

A common thread runs through "Don't Torture Yourself (That's His Job)," by Maureen Dowd (column, Jan. 6) and "We Are All Torturers Now," by Mark Danner (Op-Ed, Jan. 6): the popular liberal leitmotif of the awful America appallingly torturing innocent people.
Maybe we should worry a little less about how terrorists are being treated in prison and a little more about what they are doing to us.
Yes, I know that as Americans we should be expected to hold ourselves to higher standards, but this is the war on terror, and these are terrorists. They aren't an organized army; they are violent insurgents who brutally torture American soldiers and civilians for the sole reason that they are Americans.
If a few embarrassing pictures were taken it is hardly grounds for the scathing attacks on Albert R. Gonzalez, John Ashcroft or America in general.

This letter makes me shudder. A few embarrassing pictures? The Rush Limbaugh-esque minimalization of the Abu Ghraib photographs is as appalling as the attempt to shift the focus.
I have often told my own daughter that the only behavior one can truly control is one's own. One can try to set an example to influence the behavior of others, but ultimately (and excuse my grammar here) "you have to live with yourself". (Sorry about changing from third- to second-person there. That last phrase just seemed to read better with a "you" than with a "one."