03 October, 2006

Somewhere Between Jack-In-The-Box and Iron Maiden

I am deathly terrified of clowns. It makes no difference if the clown is leeringly horrific a la Pennywise or seemingly innocuous a la Ronald McDonald. To me clowns represent stark terror and I absolutely cannot stand them. This would, of course, mean that going to the circus--something most people seem to enjoy--would literally be torture for me.

And there's part of the problem when we debate the now-infamous torture bill. One fellow's torture is another fellow's circus. Some people look at the various types of torture in question and claim it's "not so bad." Glen Dean is not alone when he claims that it sounds no worse than his fraternity pledge week. Of course you never know. Waterboarding could be some guy's weekend thrill.

I've remained silent on torture because I'm in the unfortunate position of realising that it is a reality so far removed from my work-at-home-with-two-puppies-at-my-feet world that I cannot even fathom what those lives are like. And I also feel this tacit understanding that I owe my comfortable life (at least in part) to people who are trained to torture, have tortured and in some cases have been tortured. They are Orwell's rough men standing ready who guard the peace of my sleep. I cannot make light of that with easily-made pronouncements shot like rubber bands from behind the safe wall they put in place.

The thing is, I think that torture is wrong in the same way that killing is wrong. Yesterday, a conversation about the death of Glen's dog turned into a lambasting of Glen as a person, purely because of his writings on the torture bill. One well-meaning but misunderstanding person said Glen and all torturers should be shunned. Of course ignoring the ultimate irony that shunning is itself an internationally recognised form of torture. There was deep truth in her statement, however. On the inside of nearly every human being is a line. And in the human mind when that line is crossed a form of torture is justified. Few admit it to themselves but it's easy to see when you juxtapose the BoySex Congressman story with the torture one. I've seen more than a few people claim that child molesters should be castrated--many of whom have vocally decried the "torture bill". Molesting children is a torture-line for many folks.

In that same conversation someone asked me how we should handle torture and those who torture. I still have no firm answer because as I said earlier I cannot speak firmly to a world so removed from mine. The mores of my world say that torture is wrong. But the mores of the world where torture is a life-saving reality call my comfort into question.

In my world I only know one response to torture that makes sense. There's a story about a man being put through the paces of the worst possible torture devised by man. Partially skinned alive, with acid thrown in his open wounds and forced to pace with weights strapped to his body for hours in the hot sun he didn't break. Until he said "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." Compassion in the face of reality. That's the only response that makes sense.

Photo Credit: Chirpy.co.uk


At 11:57 AM, October 03, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

I think there's an important difference between those castrating child molestors and torturing detainees (though I support neither). Castrating a child molestor would be a form of punishment. Torture, so we're told, is a means of extracting information (usually false information since the torturee will usually just say whatever they think the torturer wants to hear to make the torture stop).

I squirt my cats with a water bottle when they climb up on the counter and thinks it's completely appropriate to do so, however I'd be appalled if I heard about someone who chased theirs all over the house constantly squirting them regardless of where they went.

On a seperate point, I've always wondered why those who claim their fraternity hazing was worse than torture would choose to put themselves in that situation. Joining a fraternity is a choice one makes (I joined a fraternity, no hazing involved at all). Why in the world would someone CHOOSE to put themselves through what they claim is torture and why would they choose to associate themselves with those who would do such activities to another person. Perhaps scarier still, once a part of the organization would these people do the same things to new-comers??

At 12:50 PM, October 03, 2006, Anonymous shauna said...

I'm very glad that I could ignore that scary picture to get to the last paragraph. Well said, Kat.

At 1:48 PM, October 03, 2006, Blogger Rachel said...

Movie you should never see - Vulgar. It combines clowns *and* torture, and was rather painful to watch.

At 4:21 PM, October 03, 2006, Blogger Malia said...

I agree with you about our worlds being different places. We live in suburbia with patroling police officers and home security systems and a bunch of other stuff that makes us feel secure. There's a whole other world out there that many of us are not privy to. David's cousin is in the Army and is in Iraq. He recently asked the question on his blog, which is more important, loyalty or integrity? In in his world, it's loyalty. Always knowing that your guys have your back, no matter what. But in our world (well, at least for me) it would be integrity, always knowing that the truth is being told and that someone can be trusted to do the right thing.

At 5:38 PM, October 03, 2006, Anonymous Glen Dean said...

Katherine, that was an excellently well written post.

I think Dolphin makes an important distinction though. These interrogation methods are meant to get information. They are not meant to be done for the simple purpose of hurting someone. Where Dolphin, you and others are wrong though is this. In my view, these interrogation techniques are not torture. I do not believe in torture, at least not what I define as torture, which is bodily harm and done by a sadistic person.

As for joining a fraternity, Dolphin once again makes a wrong assumption. As I said earlier, we never thought of hazing as torture. It was a hard week that lasted for a few days. You went through it with your pledge brothers and the experience created a bond. Of course you were never harmed physically. A brother would never hurt somebody. I know it happens sometimes, but it is extremely rare.

I can't express this point enough. The recent bill that was passed was not a torture bill. It was an interrogation bill. I do not support torture. I loathe it just as much as anybody. Slapping someone in the face or the belly, making them stand in a cold room, or running water over their face is not torture. It is a mind game. It is not torture.


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