I don’t know about you, but one of the things I am looking forward to with the new administration is the capacity to feel outrage over my government again.
For years, the Bush administration committed atrocity after atrocity. There was torture, there was the wiretapping without warrant of members of the public and the military, there was the blatant stifling of science in the name of political and religious agendas, there was the outing of a career CIA operative for political revenge, there was the politicization of the Justice Department and other parts of the administration which should never have been politicized, and I could go on. The Supreme Court had its share of bad decisions — the Ledbetter decision chief among them — and Congress, too, disappointed mightily, most notably in its refusal to hold people accountable.
After a while, it began to be too much. Another outrage against conscience, law, or common sense on the part of the President, the Court, or the Congress, elicited an emotional response of “Yeah, it happened again. So what else is new?” Burned out and jaded, I suffered from “outrage fatigue.” When you expect absolutely the worst from your government, nothing it does can come as a surprise or a shock.
But this is a new day, to use a hackneyed phrase. I have hope and expectations for and from my new president, and from the new Congress. (I view the Supreme Court as a lost cause, at least for now.) I have standards they need to meet.
They are going to fail in some of them. In some cases it will be a difference of opinion, in some cases because I think they are just plain wrong, and in some cases dangerously wrong. Indeed, there are already one or two areas where I see the Administration heading off in what I think is the wrong direction. (Afghanistan? Really? And in a rather more trivial matter, we could discuss Rick Warren. Or not.)
Over the next four to eight years, I fully expect to be outraged by some of the decisions made by my government. It is an institution made by man, with all that that entails. The men and women who inhabit its branches will fall short, although hopefully from error rather from corruption.
But I have hope that they will not fail so much of the time. This, more than anything, makes the possibility of outrage so much more palatable than its certainty.