Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama: Not Concerned About Right and Wrong, but About "Tenor and Tone"

When you live in a world where words and words alone are the beginning, middle and end of all matters, then it is perhaps understandable that one's principal concern for a dictatorship brutally repressing a populace crying out for freedom, is the 'tenor and tone' of the dictators.

The problem, of course, is that the real world goes beyond mere words and sophistry, and into concrete actions. Out in the world beyond the academic, the literary, the poetic prose, the nuance and the tortured moral equivalence, we face concrete things such as:

- killing of the lowest order: not in the name of preserving the life and liberty of one's neighbors, as soldiers must sometimes do, but in order deny our neighbors these god given rights,

- state repression: not mere crimes committed by society's outcasts, but sanctioned wrongs which cannot elicit punishment, and

- control of thought, speech and information: not a purposeful, debated and balanced weighing of competing societal interests, but a bald control of information as a tool to retain power.

I draw on these examples because those who live in a world of nuanced moral equivalences, those who pointed to the monitoring of suspected terrorist calls, or a handful of rogue soldiers in Abu Garib, as examples of the worst kind of state repression (often for purely partisan reasons), are now befuddled and muted when confronted with the stark differences in that which they have claimed were the same.

The reason there are millions of citizens crying out in Iran, as opposed to a handful of special interest groups with a cackle of special interest media following them around, is that there is a difference between grievances we experience in the West and the horrors those from countries like Iran must endure. It is quantifiable, calculable, and morally certain. Our handful of "repressors" at Abu Garib were investigated and punished in accordance with the law. Their repressors ARE the law. There is no comparison between state repression of freedoms, and the imperfections and grievances that will always arise in a modern democracy.

An epic battle is being waged at a time and place that will no doubt shape the history of our World. In this battle there is no mushy middle. There are no nuanced qualifications or limitations. It is not about tone or tenor.

It is simply about right and wrong.

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