Opposition to Established U.S. Policies
Despite some troubling established power structures and procedures, I continue to have faith in the United States system of government, at least on matters of domestic policy. It remains generally true in this sphere that the president, members of Congress, governors, and state bodies of government cannot get away with everything, so to speak. After a grueling struggle, the U.S. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, only to see it challenged in federal courts. Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republican senators will no doubt pay some kind of political price for their recent victory. Even when all is said and done, more can be said, more can be done, and a lot can be undone. Without casting specific judgment on the judicial challenges of healthcare reform or the prospect of recall that now faces some Wisconsin public servants, I fully endorse questioning and challenging the decisions of those in power even after those decisions have been made. Opposition and dissent make us a stronger and better society.
When it comes to matters of foreign policy, and especially matters that rightly or wrongly fall under the heading of national security, I have almost no faith and am much disturbed and dismayed at the almost utter absence of serious and effective opposition. The Republicans and Democrats may argue over particular military engagements, but both share basically the same philosophy concerning America’s military power. Yes, President Obama apparently took particular torture techniques off the table, and yet he fully endorses the prolonged solitary confinement and forced nudity being inflicted on Bradley Manning. Indefinite detention will continue, and with Obama we have our government given the authority to kill an America citizen, without trial, far from any battlefield. I’m not holding my breath, but I’d like to see, from Republican presidential challengers in 2012 and from future candidates across the spectrum, serious and persuasive opposition to established ways of thinking about wartime powers. (Kudos to PJ Crowley for speaking out against the cruel treatment of Bradley Manning, especially as his dissent unsurprisingly cost him his job).
I must admit to finding hope in the Tea Party members and those protesting in the name of unionized public employees, not because I agree with all or necessarily even some of what these people advocate, but because they all represent a dissenting voice, a voice in opposition to what those in power are doing. When such voices multiply and magnify, the potential exists for fringe ideas (like, say, not torturing) to become mainstream. There’s a danger here, obviously, as a fringe idea (like, say, banning Mosques) may be a piss poor idea, but, again, that’s why opposition is so important. Sometimes terrible ideas gain favor and get enacted. A true opposition means that nothing is entirely solid, no law is written in sacred permanent ink, no policy holds that invincibility star from Super Mario Bros. Personally, I can live with the risk that policies I favor may be repealed or overturned; I’d rather look that risk in the eyes than see programs and policies I abhor face no effective opposition whatsoever.
Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer and editor with a background in literature, language, and philosophy.