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Michelle Obama said recently that she is proud of America for the first time in her adult life. By contrast, I’m ashamed of this country for the first time in my adult life. My embarrassment began about six years ago and I guess it won’t end until January 2009.

I didn’t think I had any outrage left for this current administration but then George Bush vetoed a bill that contained provisions against water-boarding and other forms of torture.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time that Americans have debated the pros and cons of simulated drowning. In an article called “The Water Cure” by Paul Kramer, we learn that American operatives used water-boarding against Filipino “insurgents” in 1900.

It seems we were taught the water cure by the former Spanish rulers of the Philippines. They used it ruthlessly against the native population. The procedure was simplicity itself. A prisoner lay on his back. A round stick was placed in their mouth to keep it open and a pail of water was poured down their mouth and nose. At least one American soldier called it “a terrible torture.”

When news of these cruelties reached then president Teddy Roosevelt, he reacted much like our current president. He said that nobody was seriously damaged by the water cure. He also said that our armies do more than bring peace.

“They bring freedom,” Teddy said.

I was discussing current American-style freedom with my son, who’s studying for his Constitution test. Normally, I’d be extolling our long list of personal liberties but I had to tell him of all the rights the current administration has taken away.

If you’re arrested, you do not have to be charged with a crime. You do not have a right to an attorney. You do not have a right to face your accuser, or see the evidence against you. You do not have the right to a speedy trial, or any trial. And don’t count on the sacred writ of habeas corpus to free you from jail.

While you are in custody, you can be submitted to water-boarding, which raised a stink in 1902, or you can be hooded, which was banned by the British in the 1830’s. Welcome to the free world.

So, that’s why I’m ashamed to be an American. We hold and torture people without trial. We start preemptive wars based on lies and our president tries to keep the American people in a constant state of fear.

Michelle Obama is proud of America, because she believes her husband can turn things around. I hope someone can do it before I have to give another civics lesson to a seventh-grader.