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Location: United States

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Nothing, but Nothing, Excuses Torture

There is no human emotion that is more understood, more likely to evoke sympathetic response, than simple human pain. Show someone a film of physical pain being inflicted and they will flinch. Show them a film of emotional pain being inflicted and they will clench their fists in anger, clamp their jaw, and even shed tears. It may be a stronger reaction if the person in the film is known to the viewer, but it is not necessary. We have all known pain in our own lives and we recognize it.

We also have an instinctual understanding of injustice. We know what is right and wrong. We know the way the world should work is not truly the way it does work, but we also know that helpless feeling of suffering a crushing blow from a hand beyond our ability to strike back at.

We know the hypnotic pull of hatred. We know the narcotic surge of vengeance in our veins. We know what it is like to shed our humanity and let the beast within us all rise to the surface.

We can understand the will to torture. It is a will born of our greatest strength twisted by our greatest failing. Our love for our brothers and sisters of humankind pushes us to embrace the responsibility to protect the weak. Ashamed at our failure, we vow that nothing, but nothing, will allow us to stand between us and our duty. Not even our humanity.

It is at that point that we turn into the monsters our enemy paints us as. In that instant, the shame of failed responsibility mingles with the will to protect and we re-create ourselves in our demon's image. Our talk of human rights and dignity becomes platitudes. Our speeches become pretty words to be enscribed on buildings and memorials. We become sepulchres filled with rotted bones and decaying flesh, scrubbed clean on the outside with rhetoric that ripples from the tongue, but never enters the heart.

It is understandable. But it is not forgivable.

We know that we are weaker alone than we are together. When we choose to seek solitude in order to escape the eyes of those who would hold us accountable, then we have committed ourselves to embracing our demonic possession. Junkies often commit crimes while they are high, but it isn't the drugs that makes them criminal - it is the drug that is a tool the criminal uses to escape responsibility. Drugs keep the fear at bay, they weaken our defenses, they dull our morality.

Torture is not the natural outgrowth of the protective instinct. It is a willful decisionto cause unbearable harm. It is the decision to ignore the limits imposed upon ourselves in times of better judgment.

In a democracy, the leaders are supposed to be responsible to the voters for their decisions. That means, as well, that the voters are then responsible for the actions of their leaders. Our leaders have willfully decided that they will lead us to the pits of hell that lie in the darkest corners of our souls. They will then camp out and make this hell their home - and ours. It matters not what reason is given for doing so. Laws are like morals - either they apply across the board or they are not what they claim to be.

Either torture is justifiable by the shifting pages of human history or it is beyond the pale for civilized people. There is no middle ground.

Nothing, but nothing, excuses torture.

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