Haven't updated in a while; for that reason I'm sure my readership has dwindled to the point where I'm basically telling this to myself. That's fine; I'm writing it mostly to get it out of my head where it's driving me a little crazy.
Tons of discussion once again of "the torture debate," which I put in quotes because from my perspective I haven't seen a lot of debate, just various people rehashing various ludicrous justifications, going around and around and periodically congratulating each other on how wonderful it is that in a free society we can have open discussion and blah blah blah.
Here's how I see it. The United States of America, a government that to an almost unique degree in human history depends upon the consent of the governed, tortured people as a matter of government policy. We put people in small, dark boxes with insects crawling on them. We strapped them to boards and poured water in their faces until they broke down crying and pleading in abject fear of death by drowning. We told people we had their children in custody and threatened to mutilate their childrens' genitals.
I could go on, but really, there's no point. This happened, in part at least, because the people who authorized these policies believed that if and when these practices came to light, a significant slice of the American electorate would have trouble coming to a clear conclusion about whether such conduct is wrong, and that as a result they would get away with it.
We have seen throughout the last several years that in fact these policymakers were correct in their belief. Given enough arm-waving and bloviation about ticking time bombs and other such nonsense, many Americans do in fact appear to be able to integrate the knowledge that the United States tortured people with their image of the United States as a just and lawful nation.
This problem has no immediate solution. People who lack the moral faculties to conclude that torturing people is wrong cannot develop these faculties by continuing to run their mouths about it, or by staining the pages of academic journals with beard-stroking foolishness. What is needed is a serious exercise in self-reflection and contemplation, which can happen only in the hearts of the people who need it.
The best the rest of us can do is to stop enabling this pathetic fiction that these people are engaged in something other than evil. I am not saddled with a Manichean view of humanity and thus I can say this without fear that I am saying that these people are evil. In each person's life constructive and destructive forces are at work always. The work of conscious, terrestrial humankind is to strive to enable the good within us and to control the evil.
Occasionally it is good for people to be shocked into looking in the mirror and seeing what they are really like. It may make them angry; they may dislike the mirror or the person who held it up, rudely, to their face in a vulnerable moment.
On TV, the great perils we face are gigantic, inhuman menaces like terrorism, global warming, pandemic disease. In real life what threatens humanity is that we will be too feckless, too deluded to look in the mirror and face who we are, and what may happen to us as a result.
Time is short. Start today.