To Go or not to Go
Every year around this time I receive an invitation to a reception for the "International Fellows" who are spending a year at the Army War College here in town. They tend to be mid-level officers who have promising careers ahead of them. This year they come from forty-nine different countries. Asun and I have gone sometimes in the past, mainly to meet the Spanish speaking officers. There's always someone from Spain, and usually from a few other Spanish speaking countries. But I'm wondering, should I go? After all, some of these individuals represent institutions with very dubious human rights records. And this not to mention our own role in trampling on human rights in recent years. I haven't thought it through, but I probably will go. I tend to be practical about these things: by not going my "protest" is strictly an issue of conscience. There is no consequence beyond that which it may have for my own mental health. If I do go at least there may be the opportunity to express concern. For example, if there's a Mexican officer this year, I could ask him how it can be that not a single uniformed person in Mexico has been found guilty by a military tribunal of committing any of the alleged cases of abuse against civilians (including rape, torture, and murder) committed by the Mexican military in recent years. (See the recent Human Rights Watch report: http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/mexico0409web_0.pdf) This is not to underestimate the importance of conscience! Recently my bedtime reading has been the Socratic dialogues, including "Meno", which includes fascinating reflections of the nature of virtue, and "Phaedo", which could be read today as a primer on "doing the right thing", whatever the cost. To Socrates, the cost was death, but to the greater glory of his insistence on maintaining his defense of certain principles. So, if I go schmooze with some military types am I compromising my principles? Back to Mexico: how ironic that the Mexican government, which appears not have control of its own military, should have awarded with such high distinction Roberto Martínez, the great human rights advocate. Martínez died this year. That's him, in the photo, before the wall of shame.