The War of Ideas

A person who is willing to defend an idea by using methods that explicitly contradict what he so fervently supports, stands in opposition to his own principles. He becomes an enemy to himself. He becomes a living casualty, for he has morally perished by renouncing his convictions. This, despite their protestations and jingoistic justifications, is what proponents of torture in America have become – living casualties.

Invariably, these casualties have the best intentions; they are often among a state’s bravest and most loyal citizens. But what they seem to confuse, and what ultimately leads to irrational justifications, is that their state is an idea. An idea stimulated by years of human misery rooted in despotism, fed by cruelty and protected by autocratic impunity. The West, specifically, forged these ideas by replacing apathy with empathy. They were intellectualized by forward thinking, albeit often hypocritical, moralists and social philosophers like Locke, Voltaire, Paine and Rousseau. These humans witnessed the product of tyranny firsthand, and provided posterity with the framework upon which our society now comfortably rests.

This framework was codified in the Constitution of the United States, and more specifically, the eighth amendment therein. It was further buttressed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has since seen additional reinforcements with the ratification of numerous international treaties.

As a result, these ideas became laws, which represent and uphold our values. Once these laws become discretionary, the ideas upon which they find purchase will be subverted, and the identity of our society will be forever altered. Thus, these ideas are not simply suggestions to be assented to when convenient, nor are they only applicable to our citizenry – they are universal. In other words, they are applicable to our enemies, even if our enemies reject them. To do otherwise is an admission of defeat – a willful modification of one’s own identity.

Thus the adherence to our laws are both practical and moral imperatives; the veracity of which cannot be inhibited by false dilemmas, parochial perspectives, jingoism or xenophobia. And even if contradictory actions render practical consequences, the benefits are illusory, for to attain such ends one has pursued means counter to his values. These living casualties, then, must recognize their own transformation, and ask where the true battlefield resides – is it in the deserts to the east, or in their minds? A certain degree of introspection must occur before a moral resurrection can take place, but if their passion lies with their country and its safety, it necessarily lies with the ideas upon which it was founded, and therefore the return to true patriotism is but a quick reflection away.

Categories: Philosophy

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. 70 odd years ago the US tried and hanged 6 (i think it was 6?) Japanese officers for conducting, wait for it, waterboarding U.S. POW’s. There’s really else to say on this matter.

    Great post. Timely, and needed.

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