by Paul Balles
It wasn’t very long ago when the world view of the United States was one of a country that represented justice, democracy, freedom and moral accountability, even if only in the minds of the naive. –Bernie Suarez
Terms like justice, democracy, freedom and moral accountability are generalized with varied meanings for different people. They also mean something different for citizens of other countries who want to live in America.
Based on a recent Gallup poll, about 138 million adults would like to move to the United States permanently — more than want to move to any other country in the world.
But what does justice mean?
If justice is the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments, it also means equal treatment of the wealthy or VIPs, which America doesn’t do.
If the country represents justice, it does not hold untried prisoners in Guantanamo or in CIA rendition centres abroad. It certainly doesn’t support the use of “collateral damage” to excuse the slaughter of innocent civilians, wherever that may happen.
On occasion, President Obama has made a point of prescribing the principals of justice that have been welcomed by Moslems. In a speech in Cairo in 2009, Obama pledged:
“America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
Unfortunately, the President hasn’t been guided by his own spoken principles of justice. Only Israelis now applaud his speeches.
As for democracy, many people fail to realize that there are different types of democracy:
- Parliamentary democracy such as that found in England, with a bicameral system consisting of a “lower” house, which is elected, and an “upper” house that can be elected or appointed.
- Jeffersonian democracy was one of two forms of democracy in America.
- Jackson democracy was a political movement that emphasized the needs of the common man rather than the elite and educated favoured by the Jeffersonian style of government.
- Liberal or constitutional democracies are based on free and fair elections.
- Social democracy aimed to reform capitalism with state regulation.
When Israelis say that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East they either fail to understand that democracies have different forms or they lie.
Next up is freedom, which most people understand as the right to do as one pleases as long as your choices don’t infringe on another person’s freedom.
John Stuart Mill summed up freedom perfectly when he wrote “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
Freedom is violated when special interest groups or media refuse to allow criticism of people or practices or governments that they have special interests in.
This brings us to moral accountability, which in governance involves the responsibility on the part of political leaders to keep their promises to their constituents.
When past U.S. presidents or their henchmen commit crimes, they deserve the same treatment allocated to the poor or lower class.
Honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, and compassion are the five universal values best used in determining what is moral.
Accountability involves what should be expected from leaders in terms of both universal and local values.
Both American and Israeli leaders should be held to account for their criminal behavior, whether that involves pre-emptive strikes against weaker countries, illegal holding of detainees in concentration camps like Guantanamo and Gaza, the criminal occupation and destruction of Palestinian property, the barbaric murders of American sailors on the USS Liberty or the tractor slaughter of Rachel Corrie.
As much as anything else, President Obama should stop making grand speeches praising Israel and—at times—acting more like a deranged ruler than an honest, respectable, responsible, fair and compassionate American.
Only the naive believe that America is currently a paragon of justice, democracy, freedom and moral accountability.