I just got back from a two week trip to Germany.  I had a wonderful time, and came back in love with Munich and Berlin.  My best friend just moved to Berlin.  I went to Germany for the baptism of his son, my godson Otto.

Last week I visited a place where 200,000 Jews, gays and others were either killed, moved someplace else to be killed or made slaves by their government.  A few days before that I visited an exhibit on law, justice and torture during the Dark Ages.   I can’t help but think of how these two places connect to the upcoming debates about Harriet Miers.  

originally posted at my blog: Politcal Porn
I did not have much of an idea of what Germany is before going there.  Almost everything I knew about Germany was from WWII movies and history books.  I delibertly wanted to not just visited WWII sites, including the Death Camps.  I wanted to see and experience Germany today, in the context of it’s over 1,000 years of continous civilization.  Of course, part of its history include the Holocaust – so my visit included visiting some Death Camp memorials.

Visiting Europe, this recent trip to Germany included, always makes be realize how American history is chopped up into to halves – before and after the War of Indepdence.  Before and after.  Most other places – especially in Europe, Asia and Africa – have many befores and many afters.  History isn’t so easily cut in half.  Visits to walled cities from the 1500’s and stone castles from before stand out as stark reminders of how long it has taken humanity to reach the current state of lawful and humane society.  We have far to go, but have come far as well.  This historical perspective helps me see how far we have to go – how unfinished the enlightenment really is.

Life was crappy before liberal democracy took hold.  If you gossiped, you had to wear an iron mask with a silly face – with a metal tounge sticking out and big floppy ears.  Worse was the pig mask you’d wear if you acted like a pig.  We don’t do these things anymore.  But we still do torture. Upon seeing the devices of torture I wondered if the shame masks (as they were called) will become common practice soon enough.

The new job for Court nominee Miers will be to protect us from the Dark Ages.  That’s what the rule of law is all about.  It’s about not needing a wall to protect your city from hordes of invading strong men – the Bushes and Cheneys of the world.  

Rule of law is not enough, as Germany’s recent past reminds us.  Moderation and values of life and human dignity matter more.  Europe reentered the Dark Ages in 1915 and stayed there until past 1945.  The end result was the Holocaust, which is only the worst of many other evil acts during the 30 years of Europe’s return to hell.  Nothing compares to genocide.  But wars of aggression come close.  With America on the fast track to this kind of hell, now is time to consider how important our legal instutions are in defending us from governments that value greed and ideology before life and human dignity.

All this brings me to last week’s news about Miers: She digs gay rights.  According America Blog, Miers  supports equal rights for gays and lesbians.  Well, almost.  You see, she said that gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as other citizens – but that sex between consenting same sex couples should remain a criminal act.  America Blog seemed happy to report that Miers at least supported the idea that gays and lesbians are not second class citizens.  But it sounds like another example of gays accepting too little.  I don’t care about the theory of equal rights, unless it leads directly to the practice of equal rights.

Today when I see all of the wonderful normalness of modern Germany, the people flirting, working, laughing, fighting, living I cannot help but wonder how normal Germans from another time turned into such monsters.  But I don’t see those monsters as just being German, I see them as humans first.  All humans, throughout all history, have had the capacity to become monsters.  With this in mind, I wonder if my America is becoming the next land of monsters, myself included.

originally posted at my blog: Politcal Porn

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