We, here in the United States -- especially in high government and industrialist circles -- rarely voluntarily admit to wrongdoing or mistaken action. We merely curse the messengers for not understanding our greed or our intentions, or even for just bringing a transgression to wider audiences, like the electorate.
Often, rather than acknowledge that there might be something wrong with U.S. military training -- or, at times, the improper exercise of power -- government, military, and industrial leaders work overtime to cover up and eliminate evidence of their blunders.
The most salient example, perhaps, is the case of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. It would be difficult to deny the pedagogical value of the July 12, 2007, U.S. helicopter attack video from Iraq, now entitled "Collateral Murder." Since its release, with thousands of classified documents, our government and others have put up numerous roadblocks to WikiLeaks. Military personnel tell me they are not permitted to access Wikileaks, even with their own computers when off duty. The video itself went viral almost immediately after it was released and is now widely available on YouTube. If you feel you can stomach watching it, one version has more than 12 million views.
The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday offers a reminder that such a combination of arrogance and fear wasn't always the way the United States conducted its business.
Thanksgiving became a holiday as the result of an October 3, 1789, proclamation by Pres. George Washington. In fact, his "Proclamation of Thanksgiving" was the first proclamation ever issued by a U.S. president.
After listing some important things U.S. citizens have to be thankful for, Pres. Washington writes:
"And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and related duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the People by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed."
While modern leaders are so often full of themselves and their special interests, Pres. Washington recognized that nations err; that our own nation errs. Where today among our ridiculously polarized right and left might we find such humility? Acknowledging weaknesses or errors in judgment in this polar Republic is tantamount to political suicide. Crush the enemy--the not-me, the not-us--fair play and forgiveness be damned.
There is yet another point in the passage, the notion of a "government of...constitutional laws." He didn't write "a government of departmental rules and regulations that have no basis for authority in the Constitution, but of "constitutional laws," evidence that there actually was a time when the Constitution mattered. Today, of course, it is too often ignored. If you're drawing a blank on an example, read Article I, Section 10, Paragraph One: "No State shall...make any Thing, but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts." What Amendment negated that requirement?
Whatever your faith or its lack, let's pray, wish or hope for a government that is "a blessing to all the People." George Washington set a mark that few have equaled. We should be thankful for his example.