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The Responsibilities of Citizenship

In a massive bombing campaign to end World War II Allied forces, led by the U.S., destroyed many German cities.  Many civilians were killed and even more were displaced, their lives destroyed or devastated.  The rationale was that, while not every German was a committed Nazi, Germany as a whole had voted the Nazis into power and bore responsibility as a society for fostering and then tolerating the horrible deeds done during their reign.

The other day I was reading yet more revelations about our government’s spying on others
, and was struck when I read about the accusations that we were listening in on the German Chancellor’s cell phone.  This came within weeks of having recently read similar accusations with regards to the leaders of Mexico and Brazil.  I remarked to my wife how crazy this all seemed to me.  Why, I wondered, would we be spying on our allies, and specifically their leaders’ phones?  Who was making these decisions to do so? 

My wife, who was raised in Venezuela and Chile, ridiculed me as a naïve American.  She explained her beliefs to me that seemed too conspiracy thinking for my tastes, casting America in a villainous way.  I told her that the “America” she was referring to sounded a bit like a corporate-directed political monster aimed at world domination, which she seemed to agree with.  I explained to her that I was fairly certain that the CEO’s of major American companies were not in the room when the decision to wiretap the phones of foreign leaders was made.  I explained to her that I was an American and that I found the spying to be offensive, and was pretty sure that most Americans agreed with me.

And then the analogy to World War II Germany struck me.  My wife was (at least partially) right.  We Americans are naïve, and we have entrusted our nation’s leadership way too cavalierly and seemingly with way too few checks and balances.  Who the hell are these people at the NSA that made the decision to wiretap those phones?  Their actions are disgraceful and will surely lead to consequences that every American will bear in some way.  We may not be attacked militarily, as Nazi Germany was (although we may again one day), but we might very well lose our status as the global economic leader.  Nations may choose to boycott our products, or lean towards replacing our dollar as the global currency, each of which would bring painful consequences for us all.  

The bottom line is that we Americans have no excuses for turning blind eyes when our government does things that are inconsistent with our desires and our values.  We must hold our government accountable lest the world judge us by these actions.  And God help us then.

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