This morning, in several different places, I have been faced with people who have scorned the grief I and others have felt over yesterday’s Military Commissions vote. America has never lived up to “ideals,” they say — usually followed a litany of all the horrors committed over the past 230 years of the nation’s history. America is not something special.
Attempts to explain that belief in those ideals doesn’t mean ignoring a) that in this country they have often not been observed, and b) other countries often do a much better job of following “American” ideals than we do, fall on deaf ears. Attempts to explain that there is a difference (in my eyes, at least) between disregarding the Constitution and dismantling it by law, are disregarded.
And the fact that someone like Martin Luther King saw enough in the ideals of this country to say
One day the South will know that when these disnherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the besy in the American dream and the most sacred values inour Judeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying the nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
“Letter From Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963, reprinted in Letters of the Century, Lisa Grunewald and Stephen J. Adler, eds.
….probably means nothing.
So maybe an emotional analogy will work.
If you lose something precious to you — a cat, say — you mourn. It does not matter how many other pets you have lost. It does not matter even if you recognize that the cat was ill, and quite possibly going to die anyway. You mourn.
An ideal can be something precious.
The anology is not complete — people have a personal attachment to their pets which most of them do not have to the Constitution — but you get the idea. It is not complete for another reason: many of us are experiencing anxiety about the future, as well as mourning.
So call me naive. Feel smug and superior, and holier-than-thou. Tell me how I’m just experiencing the shock of losing my privilege in society and welcome to the real world.
It doesn’t matter.