American Empire? -- Your subhead to Mr. Hagney's "Pax Americana," (10/3/02) asks, "If America is indeed an empire, is it in decline?" That's not a question; it's a fact, because Hagney states categorically that America is an empire. And with that I have a problem myself.
"Empire," by any reasonable definition, implies conquest and control of countries or regions formerly sovereign. It was eminently reasonable to use the term "British Empire" or "Roman Empire." But where are American possessions? Puerto Rico? Guam? Maybe. But if that association makes us an empire, it's hard to find any nation that has no empire.
It has long been a parlor pastime of intellectuals to compare America with Rome, and to find parallels with the decline of Rome. And there are parallels.
But the decline and death of Rome was not so much of its empire as it was of its civilization, of a way of life that had made it strong and stable, and from which way of life its citizens gradually strayed into sloth, hedonism and self-seeking. If Hagney would agree to that point, then he and I might agree that there are vivid similarities in our own American civilization.
For America has become hedonistic and self-seeking in the extreme. A culture, a way of life, which could give us the greatest generation, has begun to crumble away into a culture of drugs, cynicism, gratuitous sex and violence, selfishness and distrust -- distrust of government, of other age and social groups, of anyone or anything that stands in opposition. Ridicule of civility. Intolerance of authority. A near-worship of adolescence.
Hagney writes that, "there is the tendency to silence internal opposition as civilians are mobilized in a united front against the enemies of the state." In this I believe him to be correct. But the tendency to silence opposition has its ugly parallel on the campuses of some of our most prestigious universities, where opposing views are often shouted into silence.
Hagney may blame the current administration for this state of affairs, and he may have some justification in doing so. But the current administration is led by, and largely composed of, Americans nurtured in the culture that now pervades and poisons American society. Is the demise of the republic reversible? Or do all great civilizations go the way of the Romans? Let the new parlor games begin.
Diocese Shouldn't Counsel -- I would like to clarify the real problems associated with accepting Catholic-sponsored counseling for sexually abused victims of Catholic priests. Rev. Steven Dublinski, the Diocese Vicar General, says "counseling reports are strictly confidential between counselor and client." The truth is that the attorneys for the Catholic Diocese may subpoena client-counselor information given in confidence.
The Catholic Review Board is not a valid option for priest-abused victims because it lacks credibility by its self-elected membership of Catholic exclusivity. There are no priest-abused victims on the Review Board. The Catholic Review Board is set up to determine who is entitled to counseling. This board is a public relations tool used by the Catholic priests to show concern and solution. But in fact, it only confuses and complicates the very difficult recovery from despair and possible suicide that every priest-abused survivor must face.
These are life-threatening issues for survivors, and Catholic priests and their attorneys define these life-saving issues in business terms for the Catholic Church. For conflict-of-interest reasons, the wonderful people and work of Catholic Charities are not the proper choice to aid sexually abused victims of priests.
Wake Up, American Media -- Does the media have a broader responsibility to the people of the United States than merely reporting the police blotter, the latest corporate scandal or the obsession of the President to escalate the current U.S. attacks on Iraqi military installations?
For example, should the media (with its capability for research) inform the public that the President's "pre-emptive attack policy," is a crime under U.S. domestic law, and also under international law? And that if the U.S. undertakes such an attack on Iraq, that the President would be subject to impeachment for violating his oath of office "to protect, defend and preserve" the Constitution of the United States? Or should the media ignore executive branch lawlessness?
Should the media inform the public that under Article VI of the Constitution "all treaties made" are the supreme law of the land; that violation of treaty provisions is an impeachable offense?
Does the media, because of its special, protected status under the First Amendment, have an obligation to promote participatory citizenship, or is its primary responsibility to the advertiser, commercial sponsor, corporations who contribute to the bottom line?
Not only Iraq is under attack. Constitutional liberties of all, citizens and non-citizens alike, are under the most pervasive attack since the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts under the first Adams administration.
The media, with few exceptions, is silent, if not overtly complicit, as silence is the voice of complicity. There was a day when two institutions, the courts and the media, were twin protectors of constitutional liberties. Unfortunately, that day seems to have passed, and former defenders, once lions guarding the gates, seem to have become mere docile felines, purring in their sleep.