Water, Water Everywhere

October 6, 2007

Moral Quandary for the day:

If you could end the world’s suffering, bring an end to infections and viral outbreaks, cure cancer and AIDS and degenerative brain diseases… and all without having to worry about the inevitable backlash of overpopulation, and the tragedy of having to deal with more assholes who don’t know how to park… but in order to do so, you had to torture and kill a young, innocent girl… would you do it?

I know… lame question.  It’s one of those vaguely philosophical queries that you hear from college fauxlosophy nitwits – rastafied white dudes adorably named “Hash” or “Bud,” who spew out those “What if we’re all an atom in a blade of grass”-isms amid a curling mouthful of pot smoke, who make you long for an errant, pin-sized meteorite to plunge through their skull, eliciting a fuzzy chorus of, “Duuuude,” from the rest of his macramed brood.

But still, I’m going somewhere with this… so run with it.

If you could bring about a positive by doing something inherently negative, would you do it?

For me, the answer is simple.  Yes.  I’d be the first one in line to cut the cute little darling’s throat.  I’d regret it, I’m sure… and would lose quite a bit of sleep over it… but still, the needs of the many.

Why, then, am I so absolutely disgusted by my government’s insistence on torturing its detained terror suspects?

Look, I get it.  Mahmoud has info about a bomb… and Jack Bauer’s got a pen-knife, some soldering wire and a bucket of bleach… I get the connection.  I understand that one bad dude isn’t really worth 1,000,000 innocent people at the end of the day… even if they’re New Yorkers.  But when study after study comes back showing that torture doesn’t work… shouldn’t Jack put the chainsaw down and think things over a bit?

Bloody logic aside… what kind of precedent are we setting with this shit?  How can we legitimize this?  And, aren’t we all complicit in it by not insisting that it be stopped?  Fractions of our paychecks go towards torturing people who are being illegally held.  We’re paying for the CIA to torture people.  That’s like buying diamonds from Sierra Leone, or acknowledging the existence of the state of Georgia… it’s a low-rent crime against humanity.

I appreciate that, according to the moral problem above, I’m willing to break some eggs… and while I find torture to be across the board horrible… there’s some part of me that gets it.  But what does it mean when my government does it without asking me?  I wasn’t consulted.  The Bush Administration never cleared it with the American people.  Any time the media (when they’re having a spine day) demands an explanation, the Administration trots out it’s same old bullshit excuse… “Well, we cant be held accountable for our actions, because to do so would endanger Americans… don’t question it.  President here.  He was appointed by Jesus.”

<flag wave, flag wave, flag wave>

Torture, in a distant, pragmatic equation might be slick enough to slip through once in a while… but when you bring it back down to reality, and hear it discussed on the fucking radio as you’re in your car driving to pick up your Chinese food… it takes on a whole new meaning.  It’s not conceptual anymore… its real.  It’s happening.  And that grizzly fact is spraying napalm all over the little Platonic idea playground in my head.   This shit is real.  Right now… some guy is getting tortured by an American operative.

I am a citizen of a country whose policies include the simulated drowning of suspected terrorists.  They deprive them of sleep, and strip them naked and leave them in freezing temperatures.  They beat them and scream at them and humiliate them.  And they do it to ensure freedom and prosperity.  To defend the American way of life.  I don’t know where I am anymore.

I live in a country where a large part of the population believe that humans came into being via a tricky adder and two teenagers who liked fruit but weren’t big on underwear.  I live in a country whose second-in-command shot another man in the face with a shotgun.

I live in a country that is building the biggest embassy the world has ever seen, complete with shopping mall and movie theater, in the middle of a country we invaded.

I feel like I’m drowning… like the madness is just pouring over me endlessly… and I don’t know when someone’s going to pull me up.  I’m dazed and perplexed… and terrified by the inescapable reality that I am a citizen of a country whose policies of self-defense actually make me feel pity for people who want to see me dead.

What an ugly fucking world we live in.


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