Saturday, March 18, 2006

"...beyond the power of extrication..."

Last night on PBS, I heard Gore Vidal quote from John Q. Adams' speech on Fourth of July, 1821. Q's words were chillingly prophetic. I looked them up.
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
Turns out, to our shame, that changing "from liberty to force" also encompasses torture. Not every son of a president who is distinguished from his father by a middle initial and who attended Harvard turned out badly. The first one turned out rather well.