Accountability and the US Government

For as long as I can remember there has been an ongoing discussion about America’s responsibility for problems within the US and around the world. It is a worthwhile discussion. I think that if you want to improve yourself and the world around you it is necessary to take a hard and honest look at things.

Whatever the situation it didn’t just happen in a vacuum, there were a number of factors that led to the current status of things.

In regard to the US government there are many different angles that we can take. I’d like to respond to something I received in an email regarding the “I am sorry” campaign that is currently taking place.

“We are ruining the world more than anyone else, partly because of our size and partly because of our influence. People look up to us.

I have a problem with this statement because it doesn’t use concrete examples, there is no meat for discussion. I can agree that the US is very influential and that as the sole superpower this influence is magnified further and that there are countries that look up to us.

But without examples of how we are “ruining” the world it is like trying to clap with one hand. Not to mention that so much of this is subjective. Fortunately the author provided a little bit more than just this nugget.

“We didn’t even show up in Kyoto, and our factories win the belching contests hands down.”

The question of whether U.S. factories win “the belching contest hands down” is something that cannot be answered without doing some basic research. I am not going to claim to have done that, so it is possible that it may be true.

But I can also assert the truth that there are policies and mechanisms in place in U.S. factories that monitor the safety. Spent some time reviewing the OSHA web site and you will see a huge list of requirements that must be followed by U.S. factories. The significance of this is that these are policies that are designed to have a positive impact upon the safety and well being of US citizens and anyone else employed in those factories.

And these policies along with those created by the Environmental Protection Agency are part of a U.S. effort to protect the environment within the U.S. and without.

I am sure that there are compliance issues that we can discuss. I am sure that there are people and factories who violate policy and I am sure that there are many improvements that we can make. But I also know that there are countries that do not have similar institutions or policies to protect the enviroment.

Given those facts I’d be very curious to see how we match up against them.

As for the Kyoto Protocols the writer referred to there are several things to consider. We always should work towards protecting people and the environment. And there are many good ideas that have been floated for how to do these things.

The problem is that there is a gap between good ideas and good execution of good ideas. Sometimes even though you act with the best of intentions you still find yourself falling short and potentially creating new problems.

“Terrorists don’t apologize for their actions, but thoughtful citizens do.”

Thoughtful citizens also avoid knee-jerk reactions. Thoughtful citizens consider all angles and understand that nothing is black and white. Thoughtful citizens do not give terrorists permission to slaughter people because the “thoughtful citizen” disagrees with a war or other actions their government takes.

Thoughtful citizens hold accountability to be very important and understand that there are other cultures in the world that are different from their own. And they recognize and acknowledge that sometimes this creates situation in which the thoughtful citizen and kind must engage and undertake activities that are truly distasetful, but are required for the common good.

As Rabbi Gordis said on a slightly different topic:

“When a human life is saved by removing a critical part of the patient’s body, the correct medical decision may have been made, but the trauma is real, and no one involved has any cause for rejoicing. The loss is permanent, and life altering. Even if the patient survives.”

During this time of turmoil we should continue to ask questions of the government and ourselves. But we should also be vigorous in our pursuit of the truth of these matters in such a way that we get beyond catty remarks and simple platitudes.

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