Fittingly enough for an election year, themes of flag and country threaded the news the past week.
Right and wrong, God and patriotism: grand subjects all.
If only we measured up.
There goes the neighborhood
Millions of Iraqis and Afghans have been displaced by the wars in their homelands. Bombed out of their homes, forced from their violence-wracked neighborhoods, many live in refugee camps. Many want to return to rebuild their lives. Many want to come to America.
Entrance quotas limit the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. to a few thousand each year.
A Saturday story introduced Tucsonans to a few of their new neighbors, a lucky 40 of the tens of thousands who wish to resettle in America.
They suffer from the trauma of leaving their homes, bear the scars of torture and the memories of kidnapping, and struggle with a new society.
Many of the Citizen’s online commenters don’t seem to be in an Emma Lazarus sort of mood. If it were up to them, the “Mother of Exiles” would no longer be our guide. “Send them to Mexico, instead” was a popular sentiment.
Freiheit und Gerechtigkeit
“Freedom and Justice:” Our schools suffered from more distraction this week as a silly contretemps erupted over a Gale Elementary School teacher leading her class in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Those atheists again, you say.
Not so fast. The trouble this time wouldn’t be a passing mention of a supreme being, but mentioning him in Spanish. And American Sign Language to boot.
Anne Lee’s second-graders recite the pledge in English, then in Spanish, then in ASL.
Lance Altherr, a member of the Minutemen, started the controversy when he discovered his 8-year-old son was reciting the pledge in Spanish.
He complained to Lee’s principal, Paula Godfrey, posted about the Spanish-language pledge on a Web site, and raised the matter with the school board.
The result of Altherr’s campaign? Lee has received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, including one that extolled the “exhilarating” prospect of “Nazis, klanners, skins and Aryan Nation members marching and protesting in front of your school.”
Sounds like what your average American family wants its children exposed to.
Far better that they learn a few phrases of German than the language of our neighbors?
A peak by any other …
Another ruckus was raised among online commenters by the renaming of Phoenix’s Squaw Peak. Now known as Piestewa Peak following a decision by the federal Board on Geographic Names, the mountain’s moniker was first changed by a state board soon after Lori Piestewa was killed in Iraq in 2003.
Piestewa, a 23-year-old Hispanic-Hopi mother of two from Tuba City, died when her convoy was ambushed. Some of the members of her company, including her best friend Jessica Lynch, were taken prisoner; others died.
She was the first American Indian woman serving in the U.S. military to die in combat.
The feds require a five-year wait to consider changing the name of a geographic feature. Many American Indians felt Squaw Peak was an offensive name and had been trying to change it for years.
Some decried the change as political correctness run amuck.
One online commenter was more charitably inclined: “Lori Piestewa’s memory lives in a postive way . . . for those who bemoan the change. What ulitimate sacrifice have you made for your country?”
Teach us nothing . . .
Perhaps not ruffling nearly enough feathers was the news that many senior administration members were complicit in the harsh interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists.
Nice euphemism, that: “harsh interrrogation techniques.”
Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, then-national security adviser Condoleeza Rice met in the White House and approved pouring water into the lungs of detainees, among other “harsh techniques.”
Practicing the same techniques, namely waterboarding, led to sentences of up to 25 years at hard labor for Japanese soldiers tried after World War II.
Then, our government didn’t call it a harsh interrogation technique. We called it like it is: torture.
American troops have been court-martialed for using the “water cure.” American courts have awarded Filipino victims of torture, including waterboarding, hundreds of millions in damages.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was also present at the meetings, reportedly said at the time, “History will not judge this kindly.”
His qualms at the time weren’t enough for him to disagree with the decision.
While issues of language and culture can readily boil our melting pot, this is news that Americans shouldn’t take lightly.
Senior members of the Bush administration met in the People’s House and approved the torture of detainees, most of whom have never been charged, convicted or proved to be involved with terrorism.
History cannot judge this, or us, kindly.
Editor’s note: Online Editor Dylan Smith is filling in for Judy Carlock, giving his own twist on the week’s news. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 806-7735.