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Plaid Adder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-06-09 10:30 AM
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Still Talking About Torture
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You all haven't seen much of me since the election. Nobody online has. Since PJ's birth, my internet life is one thing that has had to be cut back. Along with that, I have been spending a lot less time talking about politics to people, except to participate in other people's conversations about how glad they are that Obama won and how great he is. I don't have the whole crush thing going on with him that a lot of my friends seem to have, but it makes them happy, so I let them gush. For me, I mainly feel a kind of exhausted relief. The emergence of new evidence that the Bush team was trying to turn the country into a dictatorship does not surprise me or evoke much new in the way of emotions. I knew that was what was happening, just as I knew before the Iraq war started that there were no WOMDs in Iraq. It's nice that everyone else has the evidence now. But I basically have been more or less taking the opportunity to relax a little bit. Constant vigilance and all that, I know, I am grateful to everyone who's still keeping the fires burning, but mine have sort of died down for a while.

Then, at some point yesterday, apropos of something else, I found myself talking about torture.

Look, I said. It's easy enough to argue about the injustice of something when you can point to the innocent people who have been subjected to this kind of treatment even though they don't deserve it. But what keeps places like Guantanamo operating is the belief that somewhere out there, there *is* someone who deserves to be tortured, who *needs* to be tortured, and so we need to be able to do that to *those* people. It's a shame that innocent people get drawn into this sometimes; but all the same it's necessary. Whereas, I said, the argument against torture and for human rights is based on a really simple core principle: If you are a human being, you are entitled to a basic level of humane treatment, period. Whether you are innocent or not. You cannot end the torture of innocent people until you are committed to the idea that it is never acceptable to torture anyone.

I've made this argument a billion times. I discovered, this time, that while I was making it, I could feel myself starting to get agitated. And I was glad the conversation ended pretty soon after that point, because I was almost shaking.

Wow, I thought. I guess it's still bothering me.

It seems so obvious to me. A human body with a human soul in it is entitled to certain rights and the right NOT to be tortured is one of them. No matter what you may have done, you do not forfeit your humanity, and no human agency on earth has the right to strip you of it. If you lose sight of those principles then you start telling yourself all kinds of lies about what being human really means, and that's what leads to things like Guantanamo. And there's no point to closing down Guantanamo if we're not also going to shut down the bullshit that propped it up. If we don't recommit to the principle that torture is always and everywhere wrong, then we're just going to be beating the shit out of people in a different set of locked cells in some other hellish limbo that none of us know about yet.

I think I had it again, yesterday, during that conversation: the feeling that this place is not a place I belong to, that if I get even an inch below my surface I will discover that the world I normally think I'm living in does not in fact exist any more, and that all the things that I thought we all believed about life and freedom and the good are merely private delusions of mine.

I hope that's not actually true any more. I hope that was just a moment of haunting and that in time, it will finally sink in that Bush's world has passed away and that we're moving into a new one now where there are some truths that people still hold to be self-evident and the inviolability of human rights is one of them. But dang. If I thought I was over it, well, clearly I'm not.

So, I think it is maybe a sign that I need to get back in the game. It's Lent, after all; it's as good a time as any to be trying to figure out what I can do to make torture un-American again.

C ya,

The Plaid Adder
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