Monday, June 12, 2006

More Blogging About Torture

You’ve all seen the bit in the NYTimes, where Admiral Harris says, about the three guys who committed suicide, and I quote: "They are smart, they are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Harris goes in the same article to say that all three of the men who committed suicide had “participated in hunger strikes at the detention center.”

The article also notes that there have been “41 suicide attempts by 25 detainees since the facility opened.”

Me? When I read this? I grew physically ill.

That my country is doing this to human beings – making them so desperate that they’ll resort to suicide and hunger strikes – and you remember, I’m sure, reading about the restraint chairs that are being used to end these hunger strikes? And the tube feedings? And the rest of it? – that my country, this place that used to be America, is doing this, makes me sick.

Not all of us, though.

Apparently some of us are cool with it.

Some of us say, well, they’re terrorists. They’re the enemy. Or, well, you know, they might be terrorists, and so we can do what we want to them, since they might be terrorists. And we’re at war with people who might be terrorists. Ain’t you get the memo?

And for people who might be terrorists to commit suicide because we’re torturing them is an act of war, folks. How dare they, the pigs? How dare they protest our perfectly reasonable actions against them, because we are right, and they are wrong. They have no business holding a hunger strike, committing suicide, objecting in any fashion to our holding them prisoner – forever – without charging them with anything, questioning them endlessly, torturing them, whatever we want to do to them.

This brings me to my point.

I mean, well, one of my points. Because the whole Torture is Wrong, Dudes, that’s my main point.

But here’s the other point. Here we are, in the country, in America, looking at the same set of data, and seeing two different worlds. How did that happen?

How can some of us – about 33% of us at the moment, if the polls can be trusted – believe that what this woman says is sane?

(This is from a BBC article)

Speaking to the BBC's Newshour programme, Ms Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, said the three men did not value their lives nor the lives of those around them.

Detainees had access to lawyers, received mail and had the ability to write to families, so had other means of making protests, she said, and it was hard to see why the men had not protested about their situation.

My emphasis: but don't you love that?

This is an issue that strikes deep at my heart at the moment, partly because I’m being harassed by a member of my family – I won’t go into details; it has to do with long-standing family matters, none of them very easy to discuss.

It’s this same issue: the ability for two people to look at an event and see the same thing not just differently, but categorically differently: so differently that neither of us can believe the other is from the same planet. So differently each of us is thinking of the other, “You must be bugfuck nuts.”

What happens when this happens? When we interpret the world in a way so radically different from the way in which others are interpreting it? Or the way we are told we should be interpreting it?

Well, if we’re in a very tiny minority – or if we’re very powerless, as we are as children – we’re basically fucked.

We get called crazy. We get told we’re imagining it. We get told our world is the “bizarro-world,” or that we’re just lying.

We get told to shut up. To stop making things up.

Some of us believe this, of course. Especially if we’re in a small enough minority, or we’re powerless enough, or we’re scared enough.

Some of us don’t. Some of us insist on our interpretation: the one we really see.

And we don’t shut up. And we won’t shut up. And we won’t believe it when we’re told that we’re traitors, or liars, or bugfuck nuts, or cunts, or whatever labels gets pasted to us this week.

Because you know what? Torture is wrong. Boys do use lots of colors of crayons. It’s not okay that I got bussed an hour to a separate high school from my brothers. I do have the right to say what I believe. This is America and that does mean something.

Can I get an Amen, sister?


Mouse said...

Amen sister.

zelda1 said...

Second amen sister. Having come from a family where torture was routine, or torture by older siblings was routine and torture from my mom's boyfriend, and torture by any adult who didn't like what I was wearing, reading, saying, or how I was moving, and from the great uncle who was a prisoner of war during that big war, you know, the one where the Japanese took our men as POWS and we took their men and those American citizens who happened to be Japanese Americans. Oh hell, it's just so fucked up. But yeah, torture is wrong, no matter who is doing it. No reason is right.

The Other Liberal Professor said...

I guess that makes me the Hallelujah chorus!

I, too, am completely fascinated by the way that two people can be a part of the same situation and come away from it with totally different accounts. How does that work?

Similar family situation here, as you know. I fought for years in my early adulthood to make my voice heard, make them acknowledge the TRUTH of my account of the past. Never happened. I guess at some point, I just decided to disagree and leave it in the past. I just couldn't keep beating my head against that brick wall and expecting to come away with something other than a concussion. It hurt too much. I don't need their validation. I know my own Truth. They have to live with theirs.

They fought for a while to pull me back into that fucked-up cycle. I think my role in the whole thing was to provide them with an object to ridicule: "There's that sad little OLP, all worked up about nothing. How stupid she is! How pathetic!" When I quit engaging, I could almost hear the cries of, "Hey, wait! Where's the object of our collective hostility? How can we feel good about ourselves if we don't have someone to mock? Get back here and bitch about us some more, little OLP!"

I was lucky to have enough support here to stay out of it.

Interestingly, since I left them alone and moved on, creating my own happy grown-up life without them, they have been more inclined to acknowledge my version of events on their own, even occasionally express a little regret that things weren't so pleasant. It is as if they need me to tell them that it's ok, now: "No, don't feel bad about beating the shit out of me all the time, Daddy. See, I turned out fine!" I usually don't. I just sort of smile and nod when they make their references to the past, and leave them hanging. It's more fun.

It isn't perfect, but hell, what is? All I can do is try to make my own little family as healthy and functional as I can and keep the contact with the nutballs to a minimum.

Sorry about the current battles with your brother. I know that hurts. Just remember, it isn't you. It's him.