2012-10-23

Of Debates And Moral Causes

Against my better judgment, I watched last night's final presidential debate. The predictable result was that I spent the duration of my time cringing as I watched two very dishonest men saying alternatively embarrassing and genuinely dangerous things to each other and to the American people. The whole experience left me with the realization that we Americans find ourselves amid a few very important moral causes today that are being aggravated and escalated by all participants in the political system.

I say, "realization," but of course that is not quite the word I mean to use. "Realization" implies that this notion about the moral causes of our times dawned on me when I watched last night's debate, but naturally I knew it far prior to the debate. What watching the debate did was sharpen this notion in my mind to such a degree that I cannot stop thinking about. (I know! I'll blog about it!)

As faithful Stationary Waves readers know, I consider capitalism to be one such moral cause; indeed, it is one of the principal moral causes of our times. It's a human rights issue: the right to peaceably assemble, the right to free association, and the fundamental human right of ownership, including self-ownership. But this is only one of the several very important moral causes we face today. There are others.

For example, the US occupation of multiple Middle Eastern nations is a serious issue. Few nations have embarked on such an ostensibly imperialistic foreign policy, and all those throughout history that have chosen to do so have earned a reputation of hostile aggressors. Those of us who condone this kind of approach to foreign policy must be made to answer for their own morality.

Part-and-parcel to this occupation are the repeated drone strikes that result in the murder and terrorization of countless, innocent Pakistani civilians, including women and children. The results of these strikes include severe post traumatic stress disorder among the victims, the destabilization of a community not at all hostile to the United States, the brutal murder or maiming of people who are not enemies of our government, the evisceration of any concept of rules of engagement and Rule of Law, the denial of basic human rights to ordinary, hard-working people, and the series of secondary moral questions raised by using video game scenarios to dole out death and destruction, thereby stunting the moral functionality of the perpetrators of the crime.

Next on the list is the near one-in-ten US incarceration rate. When such a high number of US citizens spend hard time in hard prison - more often than not for engaging in victimless crimes that appeal primarily to the poorest segments of our society - we raise moral questions about what our society is and why our laws exist. Readers of this blog understand my strict and unwavering view that the consumption of recreational drugs is morally repugnant, but when nearly one-in-ten US citizens are incarcerated for participating in a set of behaviors that many more than one-in-ten US citizens find morally acceptable, it is time to start asking the difficult question. Can we continue destroying the lives of people in our own communities simply because we disagree with the choices they make about their own bodies? Certainly not!

The moral causes I have just mentioned - capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-war-crimes, and the legalization of victimless crimes - are so incredibly important to American society today that I find them impossible to ignore. The truth is, we are all so incredibly hungry for an end to these atrocities, and yet they have become so commonplace that at times we can't even see how hungry we are.

So it is more than disappointing, it is tragic to watch presidential debates in which both candidates double-down on their commitment to foreign occupations and drone-killings, double-down on their commitment to the drug wars, and double-down on their opposition to market freedom. It is heart-wrenching to watch a debate moderator ask questions about the moral authority we have to kill Pakistani children with flying robots, only to hear both major candidates advocate for this monstrous, horrific policy of death. It is emotionally eviscerating to hear them argue over which one of them is more capable of destroying trade relationships with our Chinese friends. It is downright disgusting to hear them speak of their using the mechanisms of the US federal government to cripple the economies and steer the political direction of faraway regimes that have no impact on the lives of ordinary Americans like you and I.

When will we all agree to stop the madness? Will you commit, here and now, to condemning these monstrous, evil policies regardless of which party perpetuates them? Will you advocate for a return to a free and peaceful United States?

Let me guess... I'm the monster for suggesting it?