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Other Voices: Another’s view on the State of the Union

As so many times in the past, I again heard someone elicit Woodrow Wilson’s famous concept of “making the world safe for democracy” in defense of our current war in Iraq.

Those words are taken almost literally from the former president’s speech to Congress in 1917 as he requested a declaration of war with Germany in what was to be the war to end all wars.

I personally consider Woodrow Wilson one of our greatest presidents and hope that someday soon a second Ph.D. will be elected (his was in political science, no less). I wouldn’t whitewash his legacy, though; so let me concede that he was a flawed man and that his shortcomings and/or shortsightedness really showed in both his beliefs and policies. Some of his detractors might say that he could talk the idealist talk, but that was about it.



But back to that famous speech he gave. To be sure it was, in all, masterfully powerful, eloquent, and so very resonating with a great number of our nation’s most core ideals and values.

It struck me when I read it today. Sadly, it’s that it seems so out of touch with our current state of affairs that struck me the most. Here is a good link to it: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4943. And here is the one passage in particular that I’ll address, if only partly: “Self-governed nations do not fill their neighbor states with spies or set the course of intrigue to bring about some critical posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to strike and make conquest. Such designs can be successfully worked out only under cover and where no one has the right to ask questions. Cunningly contrived plans of deception or aggression, carried, it may be, from generation to generation, can be worked out and kept from the light only within the privacy of courts or behind the carefully guarded confidences of a narrow and privileged class. They are happily impossible where public opinion commands and insists upon full information concerning all the nation’s affairs.”




If you’ll indulge my meanderings, let me quickly make clear that I am not looking to criticize our current president specifically, or, perhaps I should say, exclusively. He’s just one of 43 men, who each in their own time probably got more things wrong than they did right. Though it is certainly the things that most of those past men got right that they are remembered for, which is why I like Wilson so much. Having said that, let me now criticize our current president. Clever? Here follows, begun with a question. Have you ever heard of Executive Order 13233? According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13233: “EO 13233 restricts access to the records of former US Presidents: ‘…reflecting military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President’s advisers, and to do so in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), and other cases…'”

Snoop around the link and you’ll see how former president Clinton himself spent millions of our money ensuring that certain records of the chief executive’s conduct in office would not become a matter of public record. And I’m sure that the above verbiage Mr. Gonzales settled on could cover just about anything. See, I’m an equal opportunity criticizer. Here’s the real rub that I’m going for: I agree with the whole of President Wilson’s speech, and in particular with the passage I brought forth. I see the recent executive order, and numerous other governmental actions like it, as going in exactly the contrary direction. The plain fact is that our nation’s government is secretive, very secretive. I find myself reminded of more famous words. “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Coming to a point, I find it truly distressing that we allow ourselves to live in the dark on the goings on of our government (and it is our decision to allow that). I find it disturbing, truly, that anything, even a fear of terrorism, could supplant in our minds and hearts the righteous fear of the awesome power we willingly give our elected officials. And, here it is, full circle, it seems to me that the best possible way we can “make the world safe for democracy,” would be to support and embolden the very principals of our own great democracy, right here at home. Our humble home could use some concentrated attention right about now, couldn’t it?


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