Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ironic Curtain Encircles DC

Please tell me that I'm not the only one choking on the hypocrisy of all the Congresspeople who are stampeding to crucify Google, Yahoo, et al. for destroying Chinese civil liberties by doing business in China, while these same Congresspeople are themselves destroying civil liberties here in the United States without cause, shame, or apology.

Perhaps members of Congress are unaware of the movement of the United States' policy in regards to China from hostility to engagement. Or, perhaps they are unaware that a majority of Americans are in favor of at least limited engagement with China in diplomacy and trade. Most likely, Congresspeople are unaware that the internet and web do not have national borders, and that, even if Google, Yahoo, and others did not engage the Chinese government, they would be doing business in China as people there used their sites.

Just as the U.S. government engages in relations with the Chinese government, even after that government massacred its citizen as they rallied in favor of democracy, in the hopes of influencing the Chinese toward democracy, so do Google, Yahoo, and others prefer to engage the Chinese government.

I'm not sure if this "constructive engagement," to use a Reaganesque phrase, does greater good than a policy of divestment, sanctions, and other direct action. When I was younger and knew everything with great certainty, I would have demanded divestment, as I did when the subject of the debate was apartheid. Now, however, I see that most issues have more than two sides, that the world is a collection of complex systems that interact imperfectly, and that change usually comes slowly rather than erupting abruptly. I also see that we all sometimes lose sight of our goals as we pursue and get lost in the means to those ends.

So, my question is this: if our goal is civil liberties for all, and if charity begins at home, what is Congress doing to guarantee my civil liberties?

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