2011-09-17

What We Forgot

Ten years ago, this country forgot itself. Again.

We forgot that global modernity is extremely complex, most people haven't adapted to it, and many never will.

We forgot that the bomber always gets through, whether it takes the form of an aircraft, missile, car, or backpack.

We forgot that valuing liberty includes accepting risk, and infringing upon liberty in the name of security requires a sound evaluation of that risk.

We forgot that war inevitably results in not only the death and privation of innocents but also atrocities and dishonor by all its participants.

We forgot that war is the ultimate bonanza for corrupt bureaucrats, embezzlers, grifters, and sadists.

We forgot that torture fails to provide accurate information, sullies our reputation as a force for civilization, provokes similarly barbaric retribution, and unfits our torturers for return to society.

We forgot that warrantless and secret surveillance, detention, interrogation, and execution are fundamentally incompatible with democracy.

We forgot that racial and religious discrimination always wound society and mar the search for justice.

We forgot that to defeat an "existential threat" would be hollow if we also injured our essential liberties.

We have forgotten many of these things before, and later remembered them. Some of them remain forgotten.  My American flag did not fly last Sunday, because I see nothing patriotic about another day that provoked our worst impulses.  It is flying today, as it does every Constitution Day, to express my hope that we remember our better selves.