Thursday, May 5, 2011

"World View of the Young"

(Below is a possible explanation for what I saw at Ground Zero the other night. See my posts further down with thoughts, and snap shots on the night Osama was killed.)

MSNBC just did a story on something that I had wondered about as well --- why were so many big celebrations after the announcement of bin Laden's death particularly raucous among college students around the country?

They showed footage of various campuses and interviewed a couple of the students who explained that they were in the 6th grade when it happened and were just thrilled that it was finally over and that justice was finally done. It was truly a huge, patriotic moment for them.

I realized that the "War on Terror" has been going on for half their lives, so it seems like forever to them.

And it reminded me just how much the zeitgest of the moment is "reality" when you are young. The war on terror, and the militarization of America is just the way the world is to young people today.

Which is probably why they also believe in this:

A new study by the American Red Cross obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast found that a surprising majority—almost 60 percent—of American teenagers thought things like water-boarding or sleep deprivation are sometimes acceptable. More than half also approved of killing captured enemies in cases where the enemy had killed Americans.

When asked about the reverse, 41 percent thought it was permissible for American troops to be tortured overseas. In all cases, young people showed themselves to be significantly more in favor of torture than older adults.

Torture has been around as long as there have been wars, but media coverage of enhanced interrogation techniques has risen the visibility of torture since the attacks of September 11. Could the generation who came of age since the towers fell have a different notion of what’s acceptable in a time of war?

“Over the past 10 years, they’ve been exposed to many new conflicts,” says Isabelle Daoust, who heads ARC’s humanitarian law unit. “But they haven’t been exposed to the rules.”

The reasons may be even more nuanced than that—a combination of social and political factors new to the national conversation since the Bush administration claimed that today’s enemy was different from the ones we’ve fought in the past. Intelligence attained through controversial interrogation techniques, Bush’s lawyers at the Department of Justice argued, may be the only way to save American lives. A 2006 dossier detailing the U.S. government strategy to combat terrorism described the difficulty of pursuing new enemies who constantly “evolve and modify their ways of doing business.” As a result, the document suggested, the military would have to evolve its understanding and treatment of the enemy.

Legal scholars see societal influences that may be responsible for de-stigmatizing torture, including increasingly graphic media. “I think it suggests the national conscious is becoming more and more corroded and more accustomed to the violation of fundamental principles of human rights and international law,” says Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard, who blames programs like 24 that trivialize serious issues. (Tribe, along with nearly 300 legal colleagues, sent President Obama a letter last month decrying the prison conditions of Bradley Manning, the army private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.)

It's a new world. Just as it was when I was growing up in the 1960s under the influence of the peace movement and the changing social norms of that time. It took me quite a few years to realize that everyone (except my parents) didn't see things the way that I did. I just thought that my worldview


the world. At that age it's 'all' you know. It will be interesting to see how they evolve over the next few years.

By Digby | Sourced from Hullabaloo


Zaek said...

I think it's a real trend and is bad. Human rights have always been a mainstay of humane values, and their corrosion is a terrible sign for which the Bush administration and the U.S. imperium are primarily responsible, though Reagan opened the gateway.

Human rights were the core of Carter's foreign policy, but were greatly downgraded when Reagan instead placed the emphasis on terrorism.

I agree with the woman, who herself had been tortured, who said "Torture is evil, pure and simple."

In the 1970s I watched a broadcast of William F. Buckley, Jr., in which he replied to his liberal guest, who had brought up the subject of torture, "I despise torture as much as you do." Buckley was a notorious right-wing asshole, yet even for him this was an obligatory reflexive reaction, part of intellectual furniture of the time. That we're junking it is a terrible degradation of the public ethos. It opens up a Pandora's box of pure evil.

Anonymous said...

I keep telling you guys that it's over. It's the end. Finis. What don't you understand about that? Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

Sion said...

The US public rejoicing at the killing of Osama bin Laden almost made me grateful for the comments of that old sheephead, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who feebly protested that he thought the killing 'did not serve justice' and that he was 'uncomfortable' about the shooting of an unarmed man.

The key word is 'justice'. There has been a lot said about 'justice being done'. In fact, justice plainly has had very little to do with it. By 'justice' what people actually mean is 'punishment', and what they really mean by punishment is 'revenge'. We have had our revenge: let us rejoice.

There is a huge distinction between justice and revenge. The former requires us to argue our case - to examine and reaffirm our values and demonstrate their validity. The latter simply gives us the emotional satisfaction of inflicting pain in retribution for the pain we have suffered. Justification of torture would be unthinkable in the context of the first; while in the context of the second it is hardly questioned.

The absence of justice from the public discussion of the case is worrying, for it is a symptom of a serious degeneration in the quality of public conscience. More worrying still is that there has been so little comment on the futility of the killing of Osama. It was a mission without a purpose. Osama had become a nonentity. He was no longer an important player in the terrorist network he had spawned, and his program of Muslim-Arabist Jihad had been superseded by events. The recent revolutions throughout the Arab world have not been calling for Jihad and the creation of a Grand Caliphate and the imposition of Shariah: they have been calling for the overthrow of vicious dictatorships that had once been installed by the machinations of Western powers, and for their replacement by democratic governments and civil liberties. Hadn't the policy makers in the White House noticed any of this? Osama and his murderous cronies had been sidelined and they were best forgotten. Osama's killing has simply created a new focus for Anti-American feeling and has given the world an image of the US as a brutal, vengeful killing machine. Not so very different from the man they killed.

By contrast, I wonder how many rejoicing young Americans have been following events in Libya? How many will rejoice when Gaddafi is finally overthrown (or killed)? And will they rejoice principally at the death of a dictator, or at the creation of a democratic state for a free people?

UnfunnyKitty said...

My generation is a sad and a strange one, but in their own way all of them are. I've heard more than once that my generation is bringing with it a new identity of conservatism and rule-writing, marking us as perhaps the single greatest piece of evidence against intelligent design. The fact that we approve of wholesale violence and torture doesn't surprise me in the slightest if that is true. Good luck and God Speed us all when we're the folks meant to be in charge.

Zaek said...

Yep, barbarism seems to be fast gaining ground. This no doubt is one reason why Jane Jacobs titled her last book "Dark Age Ahead."