Friday, September 29, 2006

The Alpha and the Omega?

508 B.C.
For two years their noble families continued to compete within the surviving shell of Solon’s constitution: in an anti-tyrannical mood, they seem to have agreed to a law that in future, no Athenian citizen could be tortured. It was symptomatic of a new sense of ‘freedom.’ … In July or August… Cleisthenes… proposed that the constitution should be changed and that, in all things, the sovereign power should rest with the entire adult male citizenry. It was a spectacular moment, the first known proposal of democracy, the lasting example of the Athenians to the world. (Robert Lane Fox, The Classical World, 2005, p. 91)
2006 A.D.
Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation… it would give Mr. Bush the power… to authorize what normal people consider torture… Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy… (New York Times editorial of September 28, 2006).

Update: Washington Post reports that both houses of Congress have now passed the bill.

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