Ever so often, I enter reveries surrounding my American citizenhood, and what it means to live in one of the last bastions of freedom and economic prosperity in the world. How has it survived and why are its elected leaders ever-embroiled in attempts to undermine the very tenets of this nation’s independence? It’s the 4th of July 2007, a needless war rages nine time zones away, a scapegoat, I mean, traitor to national security was pardoned and the American political opposition may botch fighting the injustice. All in the name of defending the American way.
What is this American way? Is it a mindset within which someone like me now fears racial profiling, thanks to cultural ignorance and unabashed generalization on the part of the INS, DHS, border patrol and many, many Americans? Is it a path on which one needs never to have read this nation’s founding documents, mindlessly parrots the Pledge of Allegiance and consider him/herself a red-blooded ‘Merkin? After a high-school American history test on the Federalist Papers, which I aced, a classmate said, “You’re as American as apple pie, Maitri. Too bad you’re brown and not named Betty Sue.” A fresh American, living in a central Illinois cornfield at the time, I admonished Nate, “Like that matters as this country moves into the 21st century.” Who was the red-blooded and delusional ‘Merkin then?
Perhaps I underestimated the common sense and civic knowledge of the average American and his/her leadership, uncivil and uncivilized and, as if afflicted with a multiple personality disorder, incredibly tenacious and generous, for the most part. On the bright side, however, paying attention in history class, doing the suggested reading and watching copious amounts of CSpan as a bored teenager paid off.
Edit: The following discussion is intended as a response to those who argue that the president has unlimited pardoning power, even in the case of treason. Scooter Libby was not charged with or convicted of treason, but many, pro- and anti-pardon, bring up this argument just the same. My point here is that there are checks on presidential pardoning, including being able to call the president on abuses of that power.
Last afternoon, a classically-educated colleague pulled out Alexander Hamilton’s The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning Power of the Executive, a.k.a. Federalist 74, and I almost swooned over the prospect of an intelligent discussion regarding Bush’s pardon of Scooter Libby.
He is also to be authorized to grant “reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel.
… The expediency of vesting the power of pardoning in the President has, if I mistake not, been only contested in relation to the crime of treason. This, it has been urged, ought to have depended upon the assent of one, or both, of the branches of the legislative body. I shall not deny that there are strong reasons to be assigned for requiring in this particular the concurrence of that body, or of a part of it. As treason is a crime levelled at the immediate being of the society, when the laws have once ascertained the guilt of the offender, there seems a fitness in referring the expediency of an act of mercy towards him to the judgment of the legislature.
This is how Federalist 74 reads to me: Someone impeached from political office cannot be pardoned by the president, but someone guilty of treason can be. However, as emphasized above, pardoning a traitor requires a say from one or both legislative parties. Did the House or the Senate officially assent to the pardon of Scooter Libby before Bush’s granting of that pardon? It is the solemn duty of the American president to act within the rule of law, but he is one fallible person, hence the requisite checks. Is the House Judiciary Committee, led by John Conyers, aware of this, or are they going to continue playing lame ducks at next week’s supposed commutation hearing?
Again, what is the American way? Is it abject apathy in the face of all that happens outside a home’s or suburb’s boundaries? A lot of times, it feels like the maintenance of a bubble at all costs. A barbeque, pool, fireworks and friends await, but the point of celebrating the 4th of July – Independence Day – is also meditating on those laws and debates which keep us independent and active citizens. Let us hope not to completely lose the content over the form. In other words, don’t make me pull out Federalist 51, etc.
P.S. While on the topic of American government, let me take this opportunity to tell the dumbassed and time-wasting cretin of a mayor of Slidell that:
a) the founding fathers utilized the word God in humility and not sanctimony, and
b) they said God, not Jesus or Christian God.
An “All American city” should know everything about the separation of church and state.