Abortion is wrong, but the death penality is fine. Gay marriage is wrong, but divorce (the true threat to marriage) is fine.
For the last two weeks, I have enjoyed listening to people (primarily on the political right) equivocate on the morality of torture. We have been given scenarios right out of the minds of Hollywood screen writers (see here). We have been told that just by looking at people you could understand the evil in place (see here). What we have not been told is why, after so many long years of trying to police our law enforcement, national security and military personnel, have we finally concluded that torture is alright (thankfully, there are those on the right who are quite upset as well).
It is easy for me to say that I cannot imagine any situation that would move me to order to have someone tortured. But, I am also a firm believer in the moral grounding that this country has built for itself over the years. There were things we simply did not do, precisely because we're Americans, and that was enough to end the debate.
We are now tacitly approving tactics for which we prosecuted the Japanese for exercising against Americans during WWII. What have we become?
I don't think that I am stretching it when I say that if this occured under Carter, Clinton or Obama, some of the most vociferous voices issuing plausible deniability or righteous platitudes for the Bush administration would have guns blazing about the moral authority held by the United States over time. We would be hearing about both impeachment and war crime proceedings. The media, smelling blood in the way that only the right can seem to draw, would join the chorus (while suffering blows from the right about how they, the media, are not doing enough to bring down that Democratic administration).
When national security trumps American morality, that morality becomes nothing more than a weathercock ready to move in the direction of the winds that blow the strongest. What's even more sad is that I cannot predict what will actually happen, even when what should happen is quite clear.