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September, 2004

America as Jekyll & Hyde

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Norwalk Hour on 9/29/04 in the Letters to the Editor section. I received this in an email from my mother this morning along with this message:

Hi all, The following letter to the editor appeared in my local newspaper this morning. For those who know The Hour, it was quite a surprise just to find anything so thoughtfully structured and beautifully written within its pages. Even more than that, however, it was heartening to see something that has so troubled me articulated so effectively.  As the author says, the coming election is about far more than Bush and Kerry's personalities, it's about the future of democratic ideals in America. I have taken the liberty of typing it up -- it definitely deserves wider distribution!

I am sick with dread about the election on Nov. 2.  Who am I?  Just about every civilized person on the face of this planet.  This election is not, as many radio and TV news personalities would have it, a horse race popularity contest between Incurious George and Flip-Flop John.

It's a referendum on the character of America.  Too much has happened, and too much has come to light, for it not to be so.

By now it must be clear to every American that we are at war; not just against terrorists, but with ourselves.  Over the last three years, we have been battling over the right response to the 9/11 attack, and who the right target is.  We've fought over who is a patriot, what questions should or should not be asked, and what torture is and when it is ever OK.  Our populace and our Congress remain evenly divided and deadlocked in a deeply polarized and hostile embrace.

We present to the world the pitiful spectacle of a once-respected Dr. Jekyll wrestling with his darker demon: a gentle soul hunched over in painful spasms, lashing out with monstrous clenched hands and shrieking like a tormented animal.  They watch in horror as our collective Hyde gains dominance, and the brute mollifies his inner terrors with inexcusable acts of inhumanity and thuggery.

I speak of the unapologetic bombing of people who did not, and could not, harm us; of the indiscriminate torture of detainee in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan; of the reckless imprisonment and abuse of hundreds of immigrants innocent of terrorism and the havoc brought to their families here at home; of the secret surveillance of our own citizens; of our government's labeling as "terrorist sympathizers" all who dissent and refuse to march in lockstep.  The most frightening act of all is the quietest: the willingness to look at all of the above, and merely shrug it off with the attitude, "well, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette."

It is no exaggeration to say that the world will be holding its breath on Nov. 2.  There's a reason that their prayer is for a certain outcome. It's a question of which part of our American character will emerge victorious: the thoughtful, caring and respected good doctor … or the deceptive, unthinking and brutish liar.

Sean Hannon

September 29, 2004
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