The electronic mail system brought an intriguing and depressing series of questions recently from Mark Rudd, a 40-year Albuquerque resident, retired CNM math teacher, former member of the Weather Underground, a leader of the 1968 student strike at Columbia University, a former leader of Students for a Democratic Society and now a self-described member of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
Has the American population become de-politicized? Rudd asked. Do ordinary citizens think about the common good anymore? Does anyone believe the political process is worth one’s time and energy? Are people so self-involved that they don’t have room in their lives for the public square?
Rudd was reacting to my assertion in the Dec. 11 UpFront that the American people’s response to years of disclosures about the CIA’s torture program has been silence. What followed was an exchange of multiple emails and a two-hour conversation over coffee concerning the state of public engagement in America.
This was before polling organizations published surveys showing a majority of Americans approve of torturing our enemies, or at least feel that torture can be justified. American silence could simply be a sign of American support for torture.
But there is more.