This is not a funny post. It’s likely to cause me some hate mail (or hate-facebooking, I suppose). Ah well.
I am completely NOT shocked, nor even mildly surprised, about the CIA torture report. What DOES dishearten me are the variations of “This is why I don’t give a fuck that we tortured terrorists“ memes on social media. No, I’m not posting any examples, because I won’t give credence to the idea. It disheartens me that many of the people whose opinions I value to at least some degree are willing to jump on the “it’s ok to do anything to get results” bandwagon.
When you reduce a person to a label or pull an “ends to means” justification to excuse horrific brutality, have you not just proved you’re no better than the enemy you’re fighting? I would challenge any supporter of torture as an appropriate means to an end to read detailed descriptions of what happened in medieval torture chambers, and examine whether the rack or hot pokers are humane. Then read accounts of what happened to POWs during the Civil War or WWII or Vietnam (or, really, any other war). Torture hasn’t changed much in the past few thousand years except in sophistication: in fact, as humans we’ve gotten BETTER at it.
Humans have gotten BETTER at breaking another human’s psyche and spirit through physical and psychological pain without actually killing them. This is not an accomplishment we should be proud of as a species.
Here’s the thing. I am not, at my core, a gentle person. In the words of a t-shirt I will soon own, “I am comfortable with violence.” I don’t advocate peace at the expense of freedom, and, perhaps more importantly, I don’t advocate standing by when someone else is attacked. As such, I’m both pro-military and pro-law enforcement in general. I get that it seems counter-intuitive to some of my really liberal values, but those who protect us are important to me. I admire those who serve because they do jobs that, by their very nature, chip away at the soul. They sacrifice immensely on our behalf. There are certain situations, both personal and as a member of humanity, in which violent response is the only available answer. I understand many will disagree with my position: I’m ok with that. The point of writing this isn’t to advocate for my ethics: it’s to give you a framework for what I’m about to say.
The moment you endorse the torture of another human being, even if you’re not doing the torture yourself, is the moment you choose to kill a piece of your own humanity. Maybe it’s just a little piece. Maybe you have humanity to spare. Maybe you truly feel justified that your response is fair retribution. Let me be painfully clear:
If you think it heinous and depraved for the ENEMY to shock American prisoners’ genitals with electrodes, to repeatedly drown and revive them, to pull fingernails out, to refuse food and water and sleep, to force them to stand for days on end in joint-breaking positions, but you think it’s acceptable for US to do so under the fallacy of getting “information,” you have failed your argument.
I don’t agree with the Abrahamic religions’ idea that everyone, even the most evil, have some bit of good to nurture. There is a level of depravity and cruelty in the world that, to my mind, deserves no quarter. No second chances to cause additional damage. I don’t have a problem with the death that comes with war. It’s part of war. I don’t have a problem with the death penalty for certain levels of criminals. I don’t have an issue with carrying guns or defending ourselves from violence done upon us. But if death is the response, it needs to be a clean, humane death.
There are people who are the equivalent of rabid dogs attacking individuals and society. The response to a rabid dog is NOT to become rabid yourself. I think inflicting death upon another soul, taking someone or something’s life, is already a serious and soul-damaging act. Inflicting pain because the judgement is made that the pain is “deserved” is both unjust and creates a dark, unclean space in the spirit.
I work, hard to cultivate compassion and empathy for others. Yes, this is a direct countermeasure to my ability to consider violence as an option. The better I am at seeing both sides of a situation, the more likely I am to be able to DE-escalate. Empathy leads to finding a point of common ground, which can lead to a point of understanding between two otherwise contentious parties. Empathy leads to compassion for others’ situations, and maybe, just maybe, empathy and compassion can provide a single moment for a person to step back and look without judgement. Imagine that: a break in the cycle of “you hurt me, so I’m going to do worse to you and yours.”
Every attempt toward compassion is worthwhile. Every moment of empathy achieved is a step toward making your life more positive. And when it fails, as it most definitely will fail on many occasions, there is a choice. Choose to keep trying, or to give in to the negative, vengeful, destructive side. It’s HARD to look at a situation from the other party’s point of view. But in my opinion the work is worth the effort, the failures, and the frustration, both personally and in hopes that I can make a little corner of my own universe a little less dark.
I’m not giving up my empathy and compassion to anyone, especially not to propaganda and a false sense of vengeance perpetrated by misinforming social media garbage.