Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Choices We Face

The interrogator faces his choice when the order to torture comes down from on high. The people face their choice when reports of what he did are made public, as is happening. If the people choose denial, the pathology of torture tends to reproduce itself in the society at large. The result is a kind of cognitive dislocation, which can be more or less severe. Fundamental human capacities begin to atrophy or are impaired. Certainly, abuse of human beings and abuse of words go hand in hand. The words that name the deed fog over, or are driven from the language. Refusal to face the fact of torture has cost us the very word "torture," now widely referred to, as if in obedience to some general edict, as "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "harsh methods." Torture's writ thus runs in the editorial rooms of newspapers.  ~Jonathan Schell, Torture and Truth

Every teacher knows that what you do in front of the classroom is far more important than what you say; you can post any number of rules for classroom behavior, but if you comport yourself in a dignified and polite manner your behavior will be mirrored in your students' behavior. 

I believe that it is the same for a government. It is not enough for an administration to say that they believe in the rule of law and that they never would use torture against prisoners; if they act lawlessly and torture those who are in their power, they will soon see a lawless and uncivilized citizenry mirroring that behavior. In fact, I just read an article about a local crime in a New Hampshire newspaper called, "Invasion Victims Describe Torture Threats." Should we be surprised at these thugs' willingness to tie up, whip, and defecate on their victims, given the daily revelations we are hearing about the Bush Administration years? 

One of the best articles that I have read arguing for war crime trials is this one: Torture and Truth; Can the United States Really Get Things Right By Turning Away From the Past? by Jonathan Schell, writing for CBS News. I would highly recommend that you take a moment to read it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Clair,
I'll be on my way to Lubbock in a few for a dr. appt. It is very interesting that you chose this topic & words.. I have a recent example that I'll share with you via email.... this evening. I think this is called synchrocity (sp?).

Sylvia K said...

Great post, Clair, and of course, I couldn't agree more and I will check out the book. I find if very discouraging at how the word torture and all that it implies is being draped with vague, unreal terms.