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Steve Golay: New Thoughts on Abu Ghraib Prison

What the Iraqis don't quite see, and liberal Americans are frankly blind to, is the religious foundation (dare we say fundamentals) of democracy.  This lack of sight, or willful blindness, is especially so regarding our nation's genesis story and the revelation of the religious nature of its founding ideas, even within the most secular of those sources, the Scottish Enlightenment and its frontier adaptation of Greece and Rome.
 
President Bush understands that, if only because this is also the "testimony" of his own life's story. 
 
Understanding knows its own duties.  President Bush ought, if he's a witnessing man, if he is mindful to his own story and ours, to spread his tent in the squares and along the byways of Iraq, invite for hospitality and coffee whatever leadership is there, sit down as guest with guest and tell that story, his own and America's.  It is one the Iraqi people would listen too, the one that has been missing in all this chatter about blame, proof and keeping something safe somewhere for somebody.
 
Yes, Mohammed, there may, in a democracy, be a separation of this and that, but not of a nation's public square and its people's spirit and heart.  It is one that we know as Americans, if only we would pay more heed to our own founding story, even if this received democracy of ours is now being sorely tested. 
 
If you can, Iraq, take up the challenge of democracy, religious foundations and all, and do us one better.  Build a democracy upon a religious people and show us how we can recover what we, in America, are about to loose.
 
George W. Bush knows. 
 
Do not underestimate how much Iraq wants this religious vision of democracy articulated and confirmed by our vows, our speech and actions. Democracy is not about how many clinics Planned Parenthood can plant on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.  Democracy is not about the promise of 70 gay marriages in the land of the free.
 
This is our true repentance over Abu Ghraib prison.
 
The thought has occurred that maybe the abuses at Abu Ghraib ran riot to rot because we (some) had confused democracy with the unfettered freedom of digital sin, and the cultured death it must have laid upon the souls of those men and women even before they went to Iraq, or put on a uniform.
 
Such confusion reigns because ordered liberty, like ordered peace, didn't.  Go ahead, ask the big question under the President’s pitched tent (it's one we'll be answering in November): for liberty to be rightly free, and peace to be rightly defended, where does that order come from? Who or what calls it into being among a people and for a nation?
 
Go on, Bush!  Give ear.  Keep the coffee hot and the hospitality open and trustworthy.  Under your pitched tent, speak truth to the founding spirit of our nation and, as we say in America, they'll be on board.
 
Once they see that the President's personal testimony reflects the story of America's undeniable religious democracy, they will want one of their own.  We're not talking Taliban here, or those turbaned guys in Iran. We are, first, listening to the voices that spoke truth to our own founding, and then, with evangelical zeal, giving witness to what was handed down to us. Listening to and speaking about the voice of our founding is our first duty, even if, at times, in our current confusion we seem to babble truth into heresy.
 
Could it be that Moslems are saying no to our heresy and not to our democracy?
 
I put it to you, isn't this what the first week of November is all about: that a vision of democray rooted in the spiritual and religious life of a nation is possible in the Middle East, and recoverable here in America?
 
Maybe liberal America does see, and fearfully understands the vision put to us for our taking or leaving.  Under all the Bush-bashing maybe this is what is frothing and simmering.
 
If Bush wins in November so does the religious and spiritual foundations of democracy and its testimony to the rest of the world.  If America should ever be an empire that would be its conquering sword - the word it once heard and dare not drop silent on the battlefield.  Hold it high, this shimmering story of ours, and let it reflect the lighted torch of that tireless lady in the harbor.
 
Why not?  Who’s complaining?  It's story time in the public squares up and down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Invite even those tired and poor Americans, not wanting to fear their blindness. There's room in that pitched tent.  There's a story or two they need to hear over again and reclaim as their own.  And if they spill the coffee, and bitch and shout, there are enough Iraqis inside to hush down any rudeness toward the hospitality of the host.
 
Go on Bush, cast out all fear, a crusade has truly been called. Shut up, sit down! Who said anything about the Middle East?  Not there, but here have the trumpets been heard, in the land before us stretching into the horizon of November.
 
As they say in America, God bless.
 
Steve Golay

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