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'Shining City Upon a Hill'? Who Turned Out The Lights?

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David Benton
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On January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan addressed the country from the Oval Office. In what would become his Farewell Address, the President evoked his "shining city on a hill" imagery in describing the country.

"And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home," said Reagan.

What has happened to Reagan's vision? What has happened to America's stellar example? Who turned out the lights?

During the Cold War, the U.S. was rightly admired as the leader of the free world vis a' vis the domineering and expansionist Soviet Union. The United States held the moral high ground in that comparison, especially concerning such issues as basic human rights, the rule of law, and the inviolability of individual liberties. The United States held to a higher standard. We stood with the oppressed. We helped the little guys. And the rest of the world admired us for the nobility of our stance and the rightness of our cause. It was unfathomable to think that our government would ever sanction the use of torture, no matter what the circumstances; or conduct targeted assassinations, kidnappings and indefinite detentions of alleged enemies, without some sort of due process and oversight.

What has happened? Those high standards have been ripped to shreds and dragged through the muck by the policies of the Bush Administration, while its lackeys in the Republican-controlled Congress have stood at a safe distance, nodding in approval. Indeed, our cherished United States has fallen from its pristine perch. It is no longer considered a radiant example or a beacon of light by the other countries of the world. Ironically, it has taken up the former mantle of the Soviet Union and become the 'evil empire' in much of the worlds' view.

How did we get here? Our descent into the valley of darkness was hastened by such infamous Bush and Republican-endorsed policies as:

" Watering down the Geneva Conventions concerning the issue of torture and the efficacy of using torture to extract intelligence and confessions

" NSA wiretapping of domestic phone calls without a court order or court scrutiny/oversight

" Giving the government the power to detain people indefinitely and arbitrarily. (e.g., the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus)

" Employing the use of kidnapping (Extraordinary Rendition) of anybody, anywhere in the world, suspected of being an enemy of the state and holding them incognito and without charges indefinitely

" Withholding support for democratically elected governments because we don't like their brand of freedom and democracy

" Reserving the right to 'regime change' governments/leaders who don't dance to our hegemonic tune

" Targeted assassinations (via Hellfire missiles fired from Predator drones) and callous disregard for the "collateral damage" that ensues

If Ronald Reagan was still alive -- and lucid, he would decry this deplorable state of affairs.

This rubber-stamp Congress has been particularly egregious for its complicity in not stopping the Bush Administration from driving the country into the abyss. Not only did the Bush neo-cons, aided and abetted by the GOP dominated Congress, create the train wreck in Iraq...but the Republican controlled Congress has failed to provide the historic checks and balances and essential oversight that Congress has traditionally performed in the past in keeping the executive branch honest and above board.

While a handful of Republican Senators have stepped up to the plate and have taken a stand against the recklessness of the Bush White House in undermining and circumventing the Geneva Conventions, it is far too little, and far too late. Given the dangerous trends that are happening in the world today, including the delicate N. Korean standoff and the downward Middle Eastern spiral, it is clear that the unilateral, 'bomb 'em to the stone age,' 'you are either with us or against us,' foreign policy paradigm unleashed by the Bush Administration and compliantly endorsed by the lapdogs in the current Congress, has failed. A revitalized loyal opposition in the legislative branch is essential to counter-act the New World Order's would-be emperors.

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Communications consultant based in Richmond, VA.
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