Judith Miller and Civil Disobedience
Recently, I’ve begun looking for good non-music content from my iPod. I’ve found at least to date there aren’t a lot of decent podcasts just yet, though it looks like NPR is getting their act together on this front soon. Audio books have seemed to be the best bet so far, though I am loath to pay much at all for them. The good new here is that there are quite a number of free or very cheap recordings of public domain works. On Friday, I downloaded Leaves of Grass and Civil Disobedience from the Telltale Weekly site.
Civil Disobedience seemed an appropriate listen in the wake of Judith Miller’s recent jailing, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude for her bravery in accepting this incarceration to protect the ability of the press to expose corrupt and illegal behavior by officials in government, business and NGO’s via confidential sources. In an era when so much harm can come from the actions of these powerful individuals, it is vital we protect the ability of people of conscience to act as whistleblowers through the press. Whatever imperfections arise in the use of unnamed sources, and however heinous it is that Valerie Plame’s CIA role was revealed, the basic pact that a person can speak to the press in confidence and have that confidence defended is essential.
Thoreau describes the importance of such people of conscience, which I had expected. What surprised me in the essay (which I had sadly never read) were the echoes between the Mexican War and the Iraq war. In the following, see how easy it is to replace “Mexican” with “Iraq,” in word and concept:
“The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.”
“…when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when…a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is that fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.”
Rebellion is maybe a bit hyperbolic, but Thoreau reminds that–through our actions or inactions–we are party to this war, and we should be so as conscious choice, and a choice of conscience.