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More blogs »Posted on Mar 12 2013
I don’t ordinarily write here, or preach, about political things, but Rand Paul did something last week of Biblical proportions. Biblical proportions? What do I mean, “biblical”? “Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff! Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!”
Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but it IS of the magnitude of Red Sox and Yankees fans coming together on an issue. Broadly, that issue is civil liberties. Specifically, during the confirmation hearings of John Brennan to be the new head of the CIA, questions came up regarding our use of armed drones in the war on terror, much of the policy of which was developed by Brennan. Drones have been a secret program, very little is known about the details of their use. This lack of transparency has led to questions. The Attorney General, Eric Holder, was asked about his opinion regarding whether it was Constitutional for the President to launch an attack by drone on an American citizen in America who was not currently engaged in violence, and the vagueness of the reply led to Rand Paul’s filibuster.
Digging deeper, an armed drone was used to kill an American (Anwar al-Awlaki) in Yemen. This raised questions, because on the one hand he was actively involved plotting terror against America with Al Qaeda, on the other hand he was an American citizen. Far less known, though, is the fact that two weeks after Anwar al-Awlaki was killed, his estranged sixteen year old son Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi and a teenaged cousin, both of them Americans, were killed in another drone strike as they ate at a café.
These incidents raise serious questions related to the 5th Amendment of the Constitution, and with increasing talk of the use of drones in the United States, and after a lack of clarity in answers from the Administration, Rand Paul rose in the Senate to filibuster in an old-school way, he spent the 13 hours of that time actually talking about the 5th Amendment and drones.
The response was amazing. In a country that seems to pick sides in politics like we do in sports (and denigrate fans of the other team just because they’re fans of the other team) Rand Paul drew support from across the political spectrum. When I saw strong supportive comments from Cenk Uygur, Van Jones, Eugene Robinson and Jon Stewart, as well as from many folks Libertarian and Republican, I knew something special had happened. People from across the political landscape were discussing the substance of civil liberties, not the politics of it.
By illustration and self-disclosure, it took me back to the days after THE 9-1-1, and the Patriot Act. There was debate over whether wiretaps could be enacted without a warrant, and the same questions about Due Process and the 5th Amendment were raised. My party at the time was in the White House, and I thought “we can trust them not to abuse wiretaps… We have to be able to stop the terrorists!” The reply to a thought like that often was “but what will we become if we surrender our values in the process?” Another way to look at it is when you begin to compromise, you put yourself on a slippery slope, and it’s not easy to predict where you will end up.
The verse comes to mind “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7: 1-2, NKJV). I didn’t ask questions before, I have serious questions now. What Rand Paul did last week was jump-start a dialogue on a serious issue, and he brought together people who ordinarily are adversaries to participate in that dialogue. For a moment, as I reflected on my own lack of consistency over the years, people of different philosophies discussed together a major topic in a civil fashion. It was wonderful to see. It was… American.
If you missed the reference in the first paragraph, it was from the movie Ghostbusters. Included here are two links to begin your reading if you want to follow up on the topic debated by Rand Paul. I’m very glad that for once in America, instead of talking against each other, we seem to be dialoguing with each other. It’s healthier, and I think it’s rather Christian.