HARBESON: Which is Which?
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I need to be more careful when I peruse the news. I used to be able to skim the stories, confident that I had the essence after a few paragraphs which meant I could reliably guess the rest.
But after an experience last week, I realized I might not be as good at guessing as I thought.
During a recent session of news skimming, I noticed separate stories about Cuba and the United States. They seemed quite predictable and I thought I had them figured out, but I was completely wrong.
The first set of news reports told the story of a country whose leader had previously authorized the killing of one of his fellow countrymen. The reports announced the successful completion of this government execution.
I wasn’t very surprised to hear this news; I had heard many stories over the years about Cuba’s Castro having fellow countrymen executed after he determined they were enemies of the state.
I guessed wrong though. It wasn’t about Cuba. It wasn’t about Castro. The story was about the United States and President Obama. The story described the successful government authorized assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was on a government hit list because he was accused of being a terrorist.
I mistakenly guessed that this story was about the Cuban government’s flagrant denial of human rights. Instead it was about the United States’ denial of due process to one of its own citizens accused of a crime.
It was about a unilateral decision determining that an individual’s actions justified execution without trial — a decision that endangers all citizens who may be faced with criminal accusations made by their own government.
I thought that only happened in Cuba. How could such a story be about America, the land of the free? I would have never predicted that Americans would quietly accept the assassination of a fellow citizen simply because the government declared him to be a terrorist.
How could such a story be happening in a country that is led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Maybe I’ve been inaccurately skimming over Peace Prize news too. I need to check and see if the prize produces magical powers, giving the winner some kind of special ability to gain peace by authorizing violent death without due process.
The other set of news reports were about the economic benefits of the free-market. The stories discussed a country that was in economic distress. They made the point that reducing government interference and allowing individuals the freedom to trade with each other would lead to economic growth.
I guessed wrong here too. The stories weren’t about increasing individual freedom in America. They were about increasing individual freedom in Cuba.
Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, has been in the process of instituting economic reforms into Cuba, as a way of stimulating the economy. This particular story was about how the Cuban people are now free to buy and sell any cars available. Previously, the average Cuban resident could only legally buy and sell cars made prior to 1959.
The stories also reported that the government planned to enact a sales tax as a way to increase government revenue and I knew that was the real reason behind the reform. The government acted as if taxation was a natural, necessary and valid part of the free-market, so you can see why I mistakenly guessed at first that this story was about the United States.
I’ve learned my lesson. From now on, I’m going to read the news very carefully; particularly when the concepts of government and peace or free-market and taxes are mentioned in the same story.