In reading all the many, many, many post and comments on Pinochet over at Poliblog these last few days, I'm reminded of a quote from Abraham Lincoln during the Lincoln-Douglas debate (quoted in The Open Space of Democracy). Lincoln says:
What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our crowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny. All of these may be turned against us without making us weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustom to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.Those who would praise Pinochet are obviously forgetting these words of wisdom. Now Lincoln was certainly no saint, but his words still ring true. (Turning the military against the liberty and independence of Chile's people is exactly what Pinochet did.) When we forget to prize liberty, we forget who we are and what we stand for as a nation.