It is our responsibility, our duty, and in our self-interest to criticize the people to whom we have handed over our power/vote. We chose them, supported them, funded them, obeyed them. We are personally responsible for their actions. They represent us and everything they do reflects on us. It is delusional to expect others to give us a pass for the actions of our leaders. We certainly don't do the same for them.
If our president, the leader of our nation and in this case the leader of our political party, kills foreigners with drones we will be held responsible. We will suffer the consequences of those actions, just as we hold Republicans responsible for voting for George W. Bush. They chose him because they wanted to be winners and Bush promised them that they would be able to use that power to grab more money, force the poor and minorities to show them more respect and obedience, and kill foreigners at will. Liberals chose Barack Obama and they do not just have ownership of some gay rights and health insurance reform, they have ownership of a lot more. From Jimmy Carter's op-ed, via Glenn Greenwald, we are also personally responsible for:
"top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens"And, via John Cole, Matt Stoller also points out our responsibility.
"our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the [Declaration on Human Rights'] 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
"Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces”
"recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications"
"drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior"
This alternative narrative is a hard truth to hear, because it carries with it an implicit rejection of American exceptionalism. Yes, American institutions are no better, and in many ways are more malignant, than those of many other countries. Yes, our political leaders, our press, our military leadership, operate in service to sociopathic aims. Yes, our freedoms are often an illusion, unless you fit a very narrow criteria. Yes, our banks are run to rob us, yes, our CIA spies on us, and yes, our government is fundamentally anti-democratic. Yes, our President is a con artist, and yes, nearly every reporter who writes about him participates in this set of lies, because of careerism, social financial reasons, or a simple lack of competence or imagination.
But, the idea that the king is always good, which is where the hope and change narrative draws its deep strength, is something we do not have to accept. We as people can break this spell, and speak to our own dignity, as citizens. We can learn our own power, if in no other manner than in saying at the voting booth and in public, “I do not accept your lies, and though you might take it by force, I will not grant you my consent willingly.” We can choose not to address our political officials by their titles. We can work to organize ourselves, and our lives, with those of us who understand that power is something that must be taken, with money, organization, but most of all, with moral courage. It is not something that politicians have except through our consent, consent we have been giving for decades, to a rotten political class. This is what they truly fear. This is why they spend tens of billions on propaganda, on advertising, on symbols and personalities and celebrity. This is why they hide the workings of our government and banks and institutions of power in the language of boring bureaucrat-ese. This is ultimately why they are weak. Because in order for them to do their work quietly, we must go about our day, and believe either the hope and change narrative, or the Kenyan socialist narrative, scoffing at the opposing “team” who thinks what we do not. Instead, we can choose an alternative narrative, that power and consent come from us, come from the choices that we make, as people, and as citizens. And we will no longer believe that Barack Obama, that cool, brilliant, self-aware con artist is anything but what he has revealed himself to be. (my bold)
Power is terrifying because it comes with responsibility. All we have to do to avoid this responsibility is refuse to use our power. The concept of power and responsibility seem very vague and far away. Most people are only concerned with their immediate world, the actions that directly affect them. But when you give away your power you can't keep the part you need and give away the part you don't need. You have given all of it away and it's no longer there when you need it. So you simply say that you don't need it. Obama's cool. He's got it. Let him handle it. Trust him to do his job. And then you go back to your daily life, and people die from bombs and joblessness is ignored and banks grow richer while we grow poorer. I am reading the same economic warnings that I read in 2008. It is terrifying. Which is worse--lose an election or lose a nation?
Mr. Cole and many of his commenters were very displeased by Stoller's words. Stoller was immensely insulting and disrespectful of their authority. They believe that Obama is better than Romney, which is undeniably true but short-sighted. They only look at what they might gain and ignore what they might lose. They do not weigh the long-term consequences against the short-term consequences or exercise their power for their own personal gain. They work only for the personal gain of their authority, a defining characteristic of authoritarianism.
If we will not be more moral or wise, let us be more greedy. We trade economic gains for social gains but money is power, and if we don't trade votes for jobs we will continue to be utterly powerless and dependent on the charity of our elected officials, who will only reverse their assault on our civil rights when they need our votes.
And yet, how do you tell people that their authority thinks they are chumps when they were raised to respect and obey authority? Tell them their parents were selfish, foolish and cruel to teach them to obey? For most people the idea is an absurd and evil accusation. They do not believe it; they cannot admit that people we love can harm us, even if that harm was done unwittingly and with the best intentions. We love our parents so much that we can't bear to admit that they forced us to mistrust our own judgement, underminded our self-confidence and self-esteem, and left us looking for someone to obey for the rest of our lives. We might be willing to die rather than admit it.
We certainly would rather let strangers die than admit it.