I haven’t posted in recent weeks. I’ve been pretty much shocked speechless by the media “conversation” taking place around the country.
The issue of police brutality has continued to stand front and center, and what has shocked me is not the fact of police brutality, but the casualness with which talking heads make some of the thinnest excuses I’ve yet heard for anything. Students make up better excuses for not turning in their homework.
Consider the interview with Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. Eric Garner was openly strangled to death by cops on the streets of New York City in broad daylight because, as Giuliani puts it, he was too big. He was big, and he was black, and that made him scary, so of course he had to die. Rand Paul wants to blame his death on taxes. I’m sure Mitch McConnell would say Obamacare is to blame.
But Eric Garner is hardly the only case, and where the real pain comes home to me is with Tamir Rice: a twelve-year old kid playing with a toy gun. Shot dead two seconds — two seconds — after a white cop popped out of his patrol car. No attempt to approach the kid. No attempt to investigate. No attempt to keep the peace.
I’ve lost a child; I know what that feels like. I have not lost a child to murder. I have not lost a child to a murderer who confessed and then walked away without a trial. I have not lost a child to an unprosecuted murderer who is excused by white people who try to say it was the parents‘ fault for “letting” the kid play with a toy gun.
I cannot begin to imagine how much that must hurt.
There is something coldly evil about men like Giuliani who can pass off such a casual and empty excuse for killing people, whether big men or children, with a jovial smile. There’s something even more gruesome about the talking heads who then babble around this cold evil as though there were some wisdom in it.
Then the Senate Torture Report came out, and Bush and Cheney crawled back out of whatever dark place they have been lurking for six years to loudly proclaim they were proud of torturing people. That they’d do it again, by gum.
I suspect a lot of people think “torture” is something that Jack Bauer does to resolve some contrived television plot before the commercial break at the top of the hour. A little over-the-top “bad cop” behavior, a rotten tooth pulled from the mouth of the body politic, and then everything is all better.
That isn’t torture. That’s theater.
Torture is the slow and patient process of destroying a person’s mind so that they no longer know friend from foe, good from evil, truth from falsehood. It isn’t about water boarding a prisoner. It’s about water boarding a prisoner every other day for a year, interspersed with psychological pressure designed to destroy hope and break the will. It’s about random acts of unthinkable and unpredictable violence, repeated assaults that come out of nowhere to cause pain, permanent damage, and disfigurement. It is about perpetrating the deepest humiliations possible, again and again. It’s about repeated violation of the mind and body. It is about instilling despair.
Torture is the most purely evil thing that any human being can do to any living creature.
Torture does not elicit “information.” It never has, and it never will. Its purpose — apart from pure cruelty — is to break the mind, until the prisoner is ready to say anything, anything at all, to make the torture stop. Any information the prisoner divulges is the product of a broken mind, and can’t be trusted. The US government knows this. The CIA knows this. The bloody Spanish Inquisition knew this. It’s not a secret.
So why do governments torture? The answer is simple enough. They do it to manufacture evidence of things that never happened, for political purposes. During the seventeenth century, they tortured people until they confessed to witchcraft and black sabbaths and pacts with the Devil, so that their property could be stolen from them “under the law.”
That’s what torture is for.
That’s what the CIA torture under Bush and Cheney was about, both in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, as well as the dozens of CIA secret prisons around the world. It was about manufacturing evidence of things that never happened, for political purposes. And nothing about it — not patriotism, not religious faith, not a mother’s love, not anything — made it or makes it any less than the most evil thing a human being can do.
They’d do it again, say Bush and Cheney. They’re proud of it. The talking heads sit around and babble about the wisdom in this.
I think there’s a lot of silence out there just like mine. Shocked speechless. Appalled beyond the ability to say anything at all.
Not shocked that Cheney is an evil sociopath, or that Bush is an evil moron, or that Rudy Giuliani is a soulless prick, or that there are some really bad cops out there, working under bad supervision in corrupt police departments in a system that blocks any attempt to fire a bad cop. That’s all been around for a long time.
I’m shocked that they’ve stopped even trying to cover it up.
There is no talk of bad apples. No empty promises of “reform.” No feigned shock, or outrage. They’d do it again. They’re proud of it. They make mockingly weak excuses, laughing because they know it’s a joke. The talking heads ponder the wisdom of this, and call it the new normal.
A recent opinion piece in the New Yorker refers to the US as a “torture regime,” casually lumping it together with brutal dictatorships in Africa and Asia, and police states in Europe, and expresses little hope of change because torture has become a “partisan issue.” Republicans are all for it, and only those liberal pussies are afraid to do what a man’s gotta do.
Even if that happens to be the most purely evil thing a human being can do. In order to manufacture evidence of things that never happened. For political purposes.
This is a partisan issue?
What can I possibly say?
I’m sorry for posting such a downer just before Christmas.
But I can’t write a hippy-happy bit of fluff about Christmas traditions, or some complex argument about the role of the Latin Massacre in modern Middle-East tensions, or even stories about wines I hated.
I just can’t do it. Nor can I remain speechless any longer.
I feel too much pain for the black people who are suffering this Christmas because a loved member of the family is dead at the hand of a cop for no good reason. I feel too much pain for the innocent families, American and otherwise, shattered over decades by the US War on Drugs, then the US War on Terror, who now have to endure the words of a bug like Dick Cheney as he boasts about authorizing the most evil act a human being can commit.
I’ve taken all the time I could in silence, but to remain speechless — or worse, to try to deflect to something lighthearted right now — would make me feel complicit in this evil.
These issues aren’t that complicated.
Cops should not kill people without good reason. “I was scared” is not a good reason. It’s that simple.
Cops who scream, “Bring it, you fucking animals” at an enraged crowd are not good cops, and should be fired. It’s that simple.
Police chiefs who “cover” for bad cops, are themselves bad police chiefs, and should be fired. It’s that simple.
Government officials who authorize and/or commit torture in secret prisons are war criminals, and should face an international war crimes tribunal. It’s that simple.
All of the sophistry that tries to say that it isn’t murder if a cop pulls the trigger, or that it isn’t a cover-up if it’s “policy,” or that Bush and Cheney do not belong in a cell in The Hague, awaiting trial, is just that: sophistry. The old Razzle-Dazzle. The con of a willing mark, namely, the US American public.
The sophistry is very complicated. The issues are simple.
My words are, of course, but a breath in the wind, and I don’t expect them to change anything, including the partisan opinions people hold.
But I feel better for having called evil by its name.