Thursday, October 19, 2006
SPECIAL POST FOR THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006
Billmon: I've opposed this war since it was just a malignant smirk on George Bush's face. I've spoken against it, written against it, marched against it, supported and contributed to politicians I generally despise because I thought (wrongly) that they might do something to stop it. It's why I took up blogging, why I started this blog.
But the question Riverbend has forced me to ask myself is: Did I do enough? And the only honest answer is no.
I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans.
My question to myself, in other words, is like Thoreau's famous question to Ralph Waldo Emerson when Emerson came to visit him in jail after he was arrested for not paying his poll tax as a protest against slavery:
Emerson: What are you doing in there, Henry?
Thoreau: No, Waldo, the question is: What are you doing out there?
It's easy to think up excuses now -- we were in the minority, the media was against us, the country was against us. We didn't know how bad it would be.
But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were:
Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.
But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.
I just hope that in the next life I don't run into Henry David Thoreau.