I have written much about the meaning of empathy and benevolent reciprocity. This entry is about what these concepts are not.
Guantanamo Bay prison Camp (Gitmo), located at the southern tip of Cuba, is a major source of frustration for me. The Bush Administration brought deep shame to the U.S. with their Gulag Archipelago of torture camps–torture of suspected terrorists, many of whom were completely innocent, having been the victims of the U.S. policy of handsomely paying “snitches” to finger people with terrorist links. Quite obviously, many thusly accused were those with whom the “informer” had a personal grudge and had no connection to terrorism at all.They were well paid simply to get rid of someone they didn’t like. Quite a temptation, wouldn’t you think?
Today, with 154 untried prisoners in perpetual political limbo, Gitmo still stands as a black symbol to our shame. Conservatives blocked President Obama’s two attempts to close the camp. On his first day in office, the president signed an Executive Order to shut down the camp and try the prisoners in the U.S. The conservatives squealed like angered chimps, leaped about, shook branches, and then blocked funding for the shutdown and transfer. This inhuman action has continued, along with fighting and blocking other policies and legislation, and it is all with pointed political purpose—to make the president appear to have broken his promises, turn the voters away from him, and thereby regain power. For the conservatives, it’s all about politics and power.
Patriotism is defined, in part, as devotion to one’s country, especially the ideals set by its founders. George Washington, for example, after capturing 1,000 Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, ordered that they be treated with the same rights for which our young nation was fighting. After the Battle of Princeton, Washington wrote of the prisoners; “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road.”
By continuing to honor this concept of kind treatment for our enemy prisoners, we gained the moral high ground around the world. We were highly respected for this, and a few other nations soon followed. We were leading by example! This is why, in the closing days of WWII, German troops went out of their way to surrender to U.S. troops instead of the Russians.
Will conservatives in this nation ever wake up and realize that their “leaders” are not patriots and certainly are not honorable men, but turncoats to the values that made our nation great? Will the conservative base ever be able to put themselves in the place of an innocent prisoner, tortured and held for life without trial? Think about it. What a living hell it must be. Where is the humanity? Where is the empathy? Where is our honor?
— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus. What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?