Inauguration Day Reflections

I keep thinking that today is the day I can breathe a long sigh of relief, as though the past 8 years are behind us now and we can start moving toward a better future. Yet, I read in the news that President-Elect Obama has said that he won’t make an investigation into the actions of the current administration a top priority of his administration. I am beyond disappointed in this statement. It takes away my hope and replaces it with fear. Can our country live with this gaping wound? Should our country live with this gaping wound?

On the surface, it makes sense to press toward the future and focus our energy on fixing things that have long been broken. But this situation is more complicated than that. Denial ensures complicity.

If our elected officials engaged in illegal behavior–war crimes, abuse of power, illegal detention of American citizens, false arrests, etc. etc.–the American people have the right to know. How else can we change a system that would allow such things to occur in our name? How else can we find protective measures so that another administration doesn’t have the ability to engage in even worse behavior?

Further, the victims of such crimes have a right to some sense of closure. When a woman is beaten by her husband, we don’t say, “Well now that you’ve moved out, we don’t need to prosecute because you just need to look toward the future.” When a young man is murdered, we don’t say, “Well, the murderer moved to a different city so the family just needs to focus on the future.” When someone embezzles a million dollars, we don’t say, “Well, since you gave it back, we’re just going to look to the future.” Why not? Because first, the victims have the right to feel safe and secure. Second, ignoring a crime is also a crime–it’s called aiding and abetting.

And if the current administration did not engage in criminal behavior, the American people have a right to know that also. The suspicion that something illegal may have occurred has divided us in such a way that we can’t even begin to heal or to come together on important policy issues. And Mr. Bush has a right to that closure, to clear his name for the historic record.

An investigation into the decision making process of the Bush administration and the actions of Vice President Cheney would not be a matter of partisanship. It would be a matter of finding a truth that has been hidden from us for 8 long years. It would be a matter of ensuring that we can move forward. It would be a matter of healing a country divided by secrecy and suspicion. And it would be a matter of ensuring that we, the people, can and do trust the new administration to do the right thing.

So yes, there is a sigh of relief today, but there is also a genuine fear. As I begin composing a letter to my senators and my state representative asking for an investigation, I ask myself if I’m doing it out of fear–fear of what I’ve learned can happen to my country and my fellow citizens–or if it’s something else altogether. To some degree, it certainly is, but looking at the bigger picture, I do this because it’s the right thing to do. Because whatever the outcome of the investigation, my country could begin to heal.

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