James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Duty

What led me to write the "The Divide" post below (and also "Good Men, Good Intentions") is a surpisingly civil discussion e-mail discussion I'm having with a war supporter at the Libertarian Republicans group.

One thing that didn't occur to me when writing "The Divide," because I thought it disappeared at the Nuremburg trials, was "My country, right or wrong." It was said that even if I think the war on Iraq is unjust and unconstitutional, I have a duty to back my country in a time of war. History will judge whether the President's actions were right or wrong.

What can one say to that? How evil or insane can one's own government become before one is morally justified in resisting it? We're supposed to send our young ones to die, and poison Iraq's cities with uranium-tipped shells, because we follow orders and let history judge the President?

Does not history also judge the people who "went along" when their leaders destroyed their own constititons and became aggressors abroad?

Nobody ever has a "duty" to ones country. You have a duty to your conscience, to your values, to the things you love. That may or may not involve serving one's country in some capacity. Certainly, when the country is in actual danger, and the enemy is capable of surrounding the capital, one would probably not want to obstruct the decisions of leaders just because you disagree with them. But when "defeat" means ending the occupation of a tiny harmless country that never did pose a threat to us, I am inclined to believe that hoping for that defeat, that getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible, will save more American lives and help our country more than would continuing the war.

Obeying the conscience does more good for the country than obeying its leaders.

3 comments:

  1. I think you go too far though in saying no one has a "duty" ones country. If the country were rationing, it would be actively wrong to otherwise. It would be your duty to ration, and you would be acting against it if you refused. I think you mean we have no duty to agree with poor governance...and in most contexts I would agree. (Those who happen to be in uniform have a duty to do as they are commanded. "Take the hill" means take the hill now: no dissention.)

    However, in the case of speaking one's conscience, I believe it is duty that requires you to speak your mind. As voting citizens in a representative democracy, we are responsible for selecting a government to represent us. If the government has a duty to represent us and govern in a way that is best for the country (and it does), then we must have a duty to let them know how to represent us. Furthermore, when we believe the government is acting against the best interests of the country, we have a duty to vote it out.

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  2. Just how far does this identity with "my country" go? When a guy holds me up at gunpoint, is it supposed to bother me less because he was born between the 49th parallel and the Rio Grande? What's so friggin' special about being born on the same chunk of real estate, that I'm supposed to identify with robber baron corporate CEOs who live here, against working people like me on the other side of the world?

    Big Bill Haywood's "bum without a blanket" quote comes to mind.

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  3. Gaurav Ahuja8:17 PM PST

    Why should go along with rationing? That makes no sense at all. This notion of duty is wrong because nations are artificial. It would not be actively wrong to oppose otherwise to oppose rationing because it always seems to be for a bad purpose and with a false precursor that fools the people i.e. the bombing of Pearl Harbor which we heavily provoked and knew was coming. And just because we live in a so called representative democracy doesn't mean politicians will listen to I or you. That is a stupid notion which people most know. Hence, why many people never even bother to register to vote. Voting out one of set of people for another does not help as seen since for the past 200 plus years in American history. It just replaces different people who are actively pursuing the same ends(power). That was a good article Mr. Wilson

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