Why This and Not That? America’s Topsy Turvy Priorities

Why this and not that? I don’t understand my own country much of the time.

For instance, in his first major public speech after resigning from his position as head of the CIA, David Petraeus felt he had to apologize again for having had an affair.

But some elements of the CIA engaged in extensive torture and farmed out torture to foreign black sites through the past decade, and neither he nor anyone else has apologized for that!  (To be fair, it happened before he came on deck, though questions have been raised about torture in Iraq when he was commander there, too).

Why is a personal peccadillo taken more seriously than a widespread and systematic flaunting of US and international law?

Or, a Republican congressman took heat for saying that ‘wetbacks’ used to work on the family ranch.

But when Google commemorated Cesar Chavez, who worked tirelessly to organize and help Mexican laborers, they were slammed for doing it on Easter Sunday.  But isn’t the resurrection a message of hope for the oppressed, symbolically crucified by low wages and unfair working conditions?

So which is it, is it bad to put down laborers or is it bad to commemorate their struggles?

Or, the Republican Party is supposed to be the party of business and property rights.  They don’t want taxes to interfere with the value of homes.

But the biggest threat to property and to business worth in the world is now climate change, which will hurt property owners along seashores and will disrupt many businesses.

Yet the Republican way of dealing with this crisis to is try to pass laws forbidding people from pointing out that seashore property is suddenly worth less, and to try to convince the public that climate change isn’t happening.  Since climate change is already inflicting damage and the damage will increase, denial will not actually protect businesses or property.

Or, Republicans proudly take stands against burdens being placed on businesses and government interference.

But on gay marriage rights or abortion rights, Republicans are the strongest force in the country for government coming into our living rooms and actually laying hands on our bodies.

Why this and not that? I don’t get it.


Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared on April 1, 2013, on Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion, a website featuring commentary by Professor Juan Cole.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Professor Cole.

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