Who are we?

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I’ve been dumbfounded—absolutely dumbfounded—by the overall American reaction to reports of the overzealous (to understate greatly) CIA interrogation tactics.

Yeah, some folks seems rightly disgusted and disturbed. But otherwise, the response can be broken down into three categories:

A. Ho-hum. What’s Taylor Swift up to?

B. This is just another liberal conspiracy.

C. Hey, after 9.11 we need to do whatever it takes to protect America!

Oddly, I can handle No. 1 and No. 2. There are many people out there who just don’t know and don’t care and don’t pay attention. They’re either naive or indifferent, and they would rather devote their time to the 100-percent trivial than the meaningful. That’s OK. I mean, it’s not ideal. But life is hard and long and heavy, and stuff like Taylor Swift’s latest breakup song provides a release.

Also, the “liberal conspiracy crowd” are just, well, kinda dim. They watch Hannity, lap up his bullshit, repeat it like mind-controlled robots. They don’t bother me either, because—again—they’re looking for direction. It’s misguided, but relatively harmless.

No, it’s the third category that REALLY gets me.

There are people out there (many people out there) who think America torturing people is OK. In fact, more than OK. It’s the way to go. “You attack the World Trade Center and slice off our heads, we come after you—hard!” So when they hear of waterboarding and rectal feeding and the like, they nod and cheer and offer up a “Fuck, yeah.”

But here’s the thing they don’t seem to realize: It’s a gradual process, but before long, you are what you abhor. Waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation … those are torture tactics we’d expect from ISIS and Al Queda. I can hear people coming home and saying, “Here’s what happened. They repeatedly threatened to drown me, they shoved food up my ass, they … they …” and we’d be disgusted. And furious. Rightly so. We’d call for attacks and retribution. Rightly so.

But here we are. Doing what we disgust. Practicing what we bemoan. And it’s a v-e-r-y slippery slope. I hate to use this comparison (I truly do), but Hitler didn’t come to power by saying, “We’re going to kill all the Jews and invade Poland!” No, it was gradual. It began with rhetoric. Then slightly more heated rhetoric. Then the marginalizing of Jews. Then the labeling of Jews. Then moderate military action. Then … well, you know what happened.

We were OK with torturing those involved with 9.11, because they committed a deplorable act. Then we were OK with torturing those involved with those involved with 9.11. Then we were OK with  torturing those suspected of knowing something. Then we were OK with torturing those we thought might kinda coulda been involved.

This does not end well—and people need to wake up. Before long, we’re torturing people here in the name of protecting ourselves. We devolve from a democracy to a police state. Because we’re afraid, we become more and more defensive of violent tactics. We do what we need to do, which means we do anything.

Who are we?

What are we becoming?

2 thoughts on “Who are we?”

  1. I think your invocation of the slippery slope is important, here. “This guy is Al-Quida’s second in command, he knows all their plans and he knows where Bin Laden is. Make him talk” vs. the at least 26 detainees who were wrongly held. And not every enemy combatant is a war criminal.

    Where is the line? Who is it ok to torture and who is it not ok to torture, and who decides?

    “That’s what they would do” or “They killed 3000 innocent people on 9/11” aren’t justifications. We’re supposed to be better than ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

  2. And then, the very definition of what is torture, anyway, becomes the subject of wordplay. I say, if we prosecuted Japanese and German soldiers for war crimes after WWII because they tortured, and what they did then is what we did more recently, then we tortured and committed war crimes. It doesn’t become “not torture” just because our intentions (allegedly) were pure.

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