samedi, septembre 23, 2006


You'd think we'd get over it by now--trusting that our elected officials have any integrity, that is. In the great showdown that wasn't, Senators McCain, Warner and Graham have kept the letter of the law-Common Article 3 of the General Conventions- intact, while allowing the Administration to flout it whenever they decide to want to. Apparently CIA officers who torture prisoners in a manner incompatible with international standards of human rights will not be liable for prosecution. After all of the fancy wrapping paper is pulled off, we are left with the same stinking pile of garbage. So much for the soi-disant evangelical Christians in high governmental places. Apparently they have forgotten one fundamental Judeo-Christian principle of a godly life-Jesus' injunction to "love your neighbor as yourself."For the United States, setting a moral standard in the midst of war is not just a matter of paying respect to our heritage as a cradle of democracy-it is wise policy. When we give human rights homage in theory while abusing our enemies in practice, we set an example for fundamentalists in other nations who consider us degenerate and immoral already. Why should they not emulate us?

jeudi, septembre 21, 2006

Whose Life is it Anyway?

Lat. "you have the body" Prisoners often seek release by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another's detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error. Habeas corpus petitions are usually filed by persons serving prison sentences. In family law, a parent who has been denied custody of his child by a trial court may file a habeas corpus petition. Also, a party may file a habeas corpus petition if a judge declares her in contempt of court and jails or threatens to jail her. Electric Law
Habeas corpus is one of those phrases that is both maddening and a wonderful proof of our mixed breed American heritage. Where's the nursery rhyme that will help the average schlemiel remember what it means? "You have the body"...yeah, wanna make something of it?
However, in keeping with my new resolution to look up words I didn't comprehend instead of looking sage and erudite when someone mentioned them at a party or in a speech (or on the pages of the newspaper, for that matter), I decided to look up 'habeas corpus." I had the feeling that the precise meaning of this term might be pretty important in following the battle over the status of prisoners being held at Guantanamo and other potential future suspects in our battle against "terror."
In all of the outcry (still limited to a relatively small segment of the American public, not to mention some of the smarter members of Congress) over the rights of prisoners to see secret evidence or over the Bush administration's wish to define for itself the meaning of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, the fact that the Administration wishes to deny federal courts any jurisdiction over the Guantanamo cases has been almost ignored.
Congress has already apparently said that future alleged terrorists can't appeal their imprisonment in federal courts under habeas corpus. But if the President has his way, the men now languishing at the prison who have already filed petitions won't be able to have their day in court, either.
Forget about whether you can trust the word of this Administration. Make up your own mind about that. The fact is that we don't know whether these men or guilty or innocent...don't they deserve a full hearing in the sunlight of the American legal system?
Even if you think that these prisoners, whoever they are, don't deserve American justice, would you like to see the tables turned on us? If your son or daughter was imprisoned in an allegedly democratic foreign country (say, Italy or Finland), would you like to see them cast into the darkness of a judicial system where the evidence against them was secret and they were tried by military tribunals?
It seems as though each day brings new revelations of this Administration's assault on basic tenets of American democracy. That doesn't mean that we should stop being shocked, however. Or stop fighting. Today they are dicing with the lives of nameless, faceless "terrorist subjects..." Tomorrow...exactly who did you say you were?

dimanche, septembre 17, 2006

Corrective Lenses

One of the things they don't tell you when you have children is that, from the time they are born until they move into a college dorm (you hope) you are going to pick up whatever kind of virus happens to be going around their daycare or school. When I heard their dad's sniffles on the phone several days ago, I said resignedly "oh, you have it, too." But as it happens, even dry throats and stuffed noses have their hidden blessings. Awakening achy and irate around 3 a.m., convinced that sleep would be elusive, I searched under my pillow for the glasses without which I am practically helpless. As often happens, they were nowhere to be found. But as I looked out the bathroom window, I could see a brilliant light in the sky...a planet? A plane? The moon? I walked back into the bedroom, found my glasses, and gazed out the window at the gleaming grass and the quiet shadows of the trees. Lifting my eyes to the heavens, I was stunned by the brightness of the pre-dawn sky. That bright light above the trees turned out to be the crescent of the waning moon, silvering the trees and illuminating the well-watered lawn of my neighbor and his apple trees, where the deer parade like dogs to munch the fallen fruits. Ahead of me the Big Dipper gleamed towards the east-the Big Dipper, part of the constellation Ursa Major, is not technically a constellation, but an asterism (an interesting star pattern.) I must admit, at this point, that I was exultant just to be able to recognize the Big Dipper...I had no idea about the names of the other stars. As a plausibly well educated adult, I am embarrassed by the things I can't name-planets, flowers, capital cities, former Presidents. Having made rather a specialty of emotional literacy, I have neglected the abcs of the more basic knowledge that links us to one another. Some of us get away with this for years-some get found out by their kids. As a mother of children who are still reasonably young, who soak up knowledge like young plants soak up the rain, I am particularly aware of my ignorance. I resolved, as I stared out at the starry night, that if I came across a phenomenon that raised a question in my mind, instead of trying to obliterate it, I would attempt to discover some kind of answer. This morning a couple of screens of Internet inquries led me to a site called Astronomy for Kids. There I read that the Big Dipper is very close to the Pinwheel and Whirlpool galaxies. There are also several double stars in the Big Dipper. Take your telescope outside your country house on a clear night and you should be able to see both the galaxies and the double stars. If you don't have a country house, find a friend with one-a view of the heavens undimmed by the lights of malls and developments is well worth a bribe of chocolate, flowers, or a nice meal. By the way, we earthlings reside in the Milky Way galaxy- a spiral galaxy which contains, clouds of dust and gas (nebulae), planets and asteroids. It takes 250 million years for our sun to pull us through one revolution around the center of the Milky Way. But enough of this...if I told you everything I know about the planets, we'd be here all night. Or at least another five minutes! Now, can anyone tell me why up until the early Renaissance so many painters portrayed Jesus and the saints as looking so expressionless? This question fllitted through my mind in worship this morning as I looked at stained glass window of Jesus with his arms extended to all of us-but I didn't want to raise my hand and interrupt the preacher's sermon.