Saturday, October 07, 2006

Darkness descending

The torture issue has been a revelation to me. I have been stunned to hear (otherwise apparently) reasonable and ethical people tell me that torture is “sometimes necessary.” And I will never be able to look at them the same way again, will never be able to value their opinions about anything at all.

Torture is one of those moral boundaries that cannot be crossed without consequence, even in the abstract. The invisible line between us is made visible, when I am told that torture can EVER be justified. I am made to grieve that so many fall victim to such a profound ethical fallacy, and I begin to question whether there is any hope left for a humanity that can have as members so many for whom torture is ever a reasonable option. Do I even want to live among these people?

It does not even matter to the torture-defenders that from a purely pragmatic perspective, torture does not accomplish what they say is its intended purpose. They simply refuse to hear the truth of its non-efficacy, and instead put forth all manner of possible scenarios in which the “only” solution is to torture a person into revealing some secret. What part of “torture does not work” do they not understand? Is it merely that they feel utterly helpless and must do SOMETHING, even something that in all likelihood, will not provide a solution?

Or is it some other - darker - impulse, something closer to punishment, or revenge, or simply a way to work out anger and frustration? How is it that anyone could possess the certainty that they have the right to inflict suffering on another—how do they reconcile their brutal acts, and why aren’t they incapacitated by the resulting cognitive dissonance?

Natalie Maines took a lot of heat for saying that she was ashamed that GW Bush is a Texan, but the longer I live, the more I am ashamed to be a human being. Surely the desire to hurt others, for its own sake, is indicative of a deep pathology among others of my kind. When the pretender to the Oval Office makes light of inserting explosives into the cloacae of frogs and blowing them up as a child, when other children conjure up other horrific treatments of animals and other children, and then as adults, our kin work long and hard to create tortures of ever-more-unimaginable pain, I am left to wonder whether we humans even deserve a place on this planet.

There is so much to be disheartened about these days, but the torture “question” has struck me at the core of my being. Once, I was able to view torture as being done by distant “other” less enlightened people, but now it is standard procedure to be done by my own countrymen, and is defended by those I would expect to know better, shattering my comfortable illusions. I feel like I’m having a massive identity crisis, and perhaps I’m just channeling the identify crisis of our species. It is a damnably uncomfortable thing to experience, while meanwhile, life around me goes on as usual.

The only option seems to be to try not to care, but that, too, feels like death. Woe is me.


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