Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

When Will “Decent Americans” Do the Right Thing?

Today, I received an email from Steven Watt, one of the attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union who is working to end “extraordinary rendition,” the practice of kidnapping SUSPECTED terrorists off the street, taking them to countries where torture is allowed, and “interrogating” them indefinitely in the hope of finding some useful scrap of intelligence.  Watt quotes Khaled el-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was a victim of this practice–kidnapped by the C.I.A. and tortured in another country until finally they admitted they had the wrong person and el-Masri was repatriated to Germany.  Germany has protested this abuse of their citizen to no avail.  Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case against the U.S. government for his treatment.  Watt says that el-Masri told him not to lose hope because “one day decent Americans will do the right thing” and end this horrible practice.

My question is when? German citizens did not stop the Holocaust. The dying went on until the Allied soldiers liberated the death camps.  Americans and Canadians did not protest the rounding up of citizens of Japanese descent and herding them into concentration camps until the war was over. (In both countries there were also attempts to ship them back to war torn Japan, too.) So, when? When will “decent Americans” close Gitmo, stop torture and rendition, and restore the rule of law? In this country where most consider themselves Christians, I get people telling me not to comment on such things here–that they are not part of Christian discipleship. If such opinions are widespread, no wonder Christians are doing so little to stop these things, now.  Instead of leading the way, we are leaving it to secular organizations like the ACLU (which many Christians despise) to “do the right thing.”

If, like me, you don’t think “doing the right thing” on these matters should wait for a new president or some more “politically expedient” time, or decades from now when conservatives tell us that the “war on terror” will be over, or until the parousia, but that we need action NOW, then click here to tell Congress, “Don’t Wait for ’08,” but stop these abuses NOW.  Then call them. Then write letters to the editorial sections of your local paper. Then find more ways to speak out. Don’t be silent.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It is never the wrong time to correct injustice.”


October 17, 2007 - Posted by | human rights.


  1. I have to say that it’s things like this that give me confidence in the doctrine of Total Depravity. I see no cause to regard people as decent since we’re all complicit in this general apathy toward evil.

    Comment by Aric Clark | October 17, 2007

  2. Yeah, Aric, as Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Original Sin is the only empirically demonstrable Christian doctrine.” Still, our silence and complicity in these particular depravities is shocking to someone of my generation who grew up when Carter was making human rights the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | October 18, 2007

  3. This song was written in 1964; shows how little has changed

    We Didn’t Know
    (Tom Paxton)

    “We didn’t know”, said the burgermeister ,”about the camp on the edge of town”
    “It was Hitler and his crew that tore the German nation down.”
    “We saw the cattle cars, its true; maybe they carried a Jew or two”
    “They woke us up as they rattled through, but what did you expect me to do?”

    Chorus: We didn’t know at all, we didn’t see a thing.
    You can’t hold us to blame, what could we do?
    It was a terrible shame, but we can’t bear the blame.
    Oh, No, not us! We didn’t know.

    “We didn’t know”, said the congregation, singing a hymn in their church of Whites
    “Press was full of lies about us, preacher told us we were right.”
    “The outside agitators came, they burned some churches and put the blame
    “On decent southern people’s names, to set our Colored people aflame”
    “And maybe some of our boys got hot and a couple of Niggers and Reds got shot”
    “They should have stayed where they belonged!”
    “The preacher would have told us if we’d done wrong.”

    “We didn’t know”, said the puzzled voter, watching the President on TV.
    “I guess we’ve got to drop those bombs if we’re going to keep South Asia free.”
    “The President’s such a peaceful man, I guess he’s got some kind of plan.”
    “They say we’re torturing prisoners of war, but I don’t believe that stuff no more”
    “Torturing prisoners is a Communist game, and you can bet they’re doing the same!”
    “I wish this war was over and through, but what do you expect me to do?

    (c) Tom Paxton/Deep Fork
    Recorded on “Ain’t That News”, Elektra EKS-7298

    Peace, John Rasmussen

    Comment by John Rasmussen | October 18, 2007

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