Tuesday, June 5, 2007

This American Life

I spent the trip from Chicago to St. Louis yesterday listening to podcast episodes of This American Life, and I came away with two things (one specific and one general).

My specific thought relates to a phrase from one of the later acts of the episode "The Center for Lessons Learned." Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson was (supposedly) debating with Fox News' Sean Hanitty about whether or not we should have gone to war in Iraq (my "supposedly" indicates the success with which they actually stayed on that topic). Mayor Rocky at one point accused President Bush of committing "crimes against the peace." Now, I do think president needs to be held legally accountable for the lies he told and the resulting consequences, but the phrase "crime against peace" bothers me in light of the book The Faces of Injustice by Judith Shklar. Shklar does not consider peace and order to be valid reasons for standing by while injustices occur; admittedly she's speaking about life within a democracy like ours, but this fact might make her point even more valid, since aren't we trying to promote democracy? I also wonder exactly what peace US intervention committed crime against. It doesn't seem like things have gotten much more peaceful since we arrived, but have we made a whole lot worse?

I think they way the US went about involving itself in the state of affairs in the middle east was mistaken, for a variety of reasons. However, I'm not sure that I believe it can't do some good (assuming it isn't too late for that now). I know that I'm far from the only person to wonder about a nation's responsibility to intervene in the inhuman affairs of other nations, but a part of feels that if we had a totally hands-off policy ("It's not our problem so we refuse to do anything about it), I would also be unsatisfied. Bush may have committed crimes against his own state and people, and the peace of our soldiers was certain shattered when they were sent off to the middle east, but if their presence is a "crime against the peace," I'd like someone to explain to me what that peace looked like.

My second thought, after listening to several stories and having just finished "Duty Calls" a particularly harrowing tale about a man who leaves his home to go take care ofhis alcoholic mother and delinquent half-brother, I realized that no one needs to write fiction about real life, because life is far strange enough on its own.

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