A question came up a few days ago about what would you ask Senator Obama if you had the opportunity to speak to him directly. I really have only one question and it's the one Sir Thomas More, who was a Chancellor of England when Henry VIII was king, asked his overzealous son-in-law in the film 'A Man For All Seasons':
"When the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"
More put his faith in society’s system of judgment—the law. The great beyond remains unknown to humankind. Earthly society and laws offer the only shelter from the uncertainties of the universe.
That's the problem that faces us now - the one that may finally break this great social experiment called the United States of America. I read a review in the Washington Post by Andrew Bacevich of Jane Mayer's new book called 'The Dark Side' in which she has written a vivid account of our leadership's deliberate undertaking to make torture the law of the land.
Above all, the story Mayer tells is one of fear and its exploitation.
"That fear should trump concern for due process and indeed justice qualifies as a recurring phenomenon in American history. In 1919, government-stoked paranoia about radicalism produced the Red Scare. After Pearl Harbor, hysteria mixed with racism led to the confinement of some 110,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. The onset of the Cold War triggered another panic, anxieties about a new communist threat giving rise to McCarthyism. In this sense, the response evoked by 9/11 looks a bit like déjà vu all over again: Frightened Americans, more worried about their own safety than someone else's civil liberties, allowed senior government officials to exploit a climate of fear.
"Her account suggests implicitly that the present period differs in at least one crucial respect. Whereas the earlier departures from the rule of law represented momentary if egregious lapses in democratic practice, the abuses orchestrated from within the Bush administration suggest that democracy itself is fast becoming something of a sham."
For the first time in my memory we find ourselves living in a country where our highest officials risk arrest if they visit certain other countries.
I guess my main question to Barack Obama would be, 'How do you feel about returning this country to the rule of law?'