When Janis Ian asked Cady Heron in Mean Girls whether she had an awesome time at her awesome party while drinking awesome shooters and soaking up everyone's awesomeness, I didn't think I'd ever hear the word "awesome" used so many times in a single breath ever again. But then again, I have a tendency of underestimating Fox News and its capacity for absurdity. Following the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture techniques, Andrea Tantaros insisted that "the United States of America is awesome," which apparently justifies any and all use of questionable interrogation techniques. Because being awesome grants you certain kinds of immunity, you see — for Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, it was exclusive invites to exclusive parties. For the United States, it's full latitude to forget our humanity and ignore just and legal proceedings.
On Tuesday's episode of Outnumbered, Tantaros and her co-hosts released the wrath of hell upon the Democrats for having the nerve to expose the findings of a five and a half year long investigation of CIA interrogation tactics. These findings included evidence of two mock executions, in which "nudity, dietary manipulation, exposure to cold temperatures, cold showers," and "hard takedowns" were used, sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours at a time, waterboarding, and "'rectal rehydration' or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity." Worse yet (if that's even possible), it is unclear whether these tactics were even in the slightest bit useful in providing any additional information, and it seems that CIA agents themselves were often skeptical of the necessity of such inhumane, violent treatment.
The report "shows that the CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, following the release. And while the "500 page summary cannot remove that stain," Feinstein added, "It can and does say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it's wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes. Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society."
Fox News, however, disagreed wholeheartedly. Blasting the report as partisan bickering, the hosts of Outnumbered decided that politics was the only motivation behind bringing these findings to light. Because honesty in government these days is so overrated.
According to Tantaros, whose fury was particularly unbridled, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats "don't like this country, they want us to look bad. And all this does is have our enemies laughing at us, that we are having this debate again." This rhetoric of certain political parties disliking the United States is about as tired as it is unproductive. And yet, Fox News seems to employ this particular anti-left argument with surprising frequency, reducing every partisan disagreement to the absurd notion that half of the lawmakers in the United States have the worst intentions at heart for the country they were elected to serve. Not only is this insulting to the men and women of Congress, but it also shows Fox News' stunning lack of faith in the American voters — seriously guys, do you really think we're so naive as to elect representatives who actively dislike the nation?
In addition to condemning the release of the information, Tantaros also decided to defend its conclusions. Said the host, "The Bush administration did what the American public wanted, and that was do whatever it takes to keep us safe," which apparently included subjecting human beings to "insult slaps, abdominal slaps, attention grasps, facial holds, walling, stress positions and water dousing with 44 degree Fahrenheit water for 18 minutes," as well as shackling prisoners "in the standing position for 54 hours as part of sleep deprivation," causing them to experience "swelling in [the] lower legs requiring blood thinner and spiral ace bandages." Is that really what the American public wanted? Or is that depravity antithetical to the very morals and ideals that make the United States, as Tantaros says, "awesome?"
The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome. We’ve closed the book on it, and we’ve stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we’re not awesome.
The biggest problem with Tantaros' argument (and there are many), is this juvenile assumption that the recognition of flaws is tantamount to hatred and disloyalty. As per Tantaros' claims, Americans, both the public and our politicians, should turn a blind eye to our mistakes in order to prove our patriotism. Criticism, Tantaros seems to believe, is un-American.
But this simply isn't true.
Perhaps the most important aspect of loyalty and, indeed, love for our nation can be found in our willingness to be introspective, and to uncover the darkness in order to move forward. The course of American history has been fraught with terrible instances of injustice, and unfortunately, this pattern continues into our modern times. But in the same way that we do not pretend that slavery did not happen, we cannot pretend that our response to the 9/11 attacks was not, by any means, perfect. Doing so sets a dangerous precedent, one that prevents us from engaging with our past for the sake of a brighter future. It is our responsibility to remain vigilant and aware of our shortcomings for the sake of creating a better, more just, more equitable nation.
So sure, Andrea Tantaros, the United States can be awesome. But that would require taking a hard look at ourselves from every angle, and having an honest conversation about what needs to get better.
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