Saturday, May 20, 2006

Learning from history

Insightful post on the Huffington Post from Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago. He points out that we need to ask ourselves what responsibility we have as citizens to preserve our civil liberties. He also puts this question in historical context: as a people, we have failed to ask this question before and regretted it later:

"Throughout our history, Americans have silently approved serious, sometimes grievous abuses of civil liberties, only later to bemoan their failure to act responsibly. During the Cold War, the public failed to challenge the witch-hunts of Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities; during World War II, most Americans sanctioned the mass internment of Japanese-Americans; during the post-World War I Red Scare, the public cheered on the deportation of thousands of innocent aliens; and during World War I, most Americans approved the criminal prosecution of thousands of individuals for criticizing the war or the draft. After every one of these episodes, the public came to acknowledge its error and promised not to repeat the mistake again." (Emphasis added)

To quote George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." We are sadly repeating history now. I hope we don't have to wait until 2009 to stop.