Saturday, May 02, 2009

My anti-tourture diatribe

I don't know why I lashed out at him so violently. It wasn't something I would have normally done, but maybe it was because I respected him I expected better from him, but still my reaction surprised me. I was with an old friend watching TV when a little piece came on the news about the death penalty. My friend is actually a corrections officer at a youth facility. Certainly the debate about putting people to death is nothing new, but there was some news on the use of lethal injection. There was a court ruling that said that when administered improperly it was similar to torture. The three stage process is such that the first step is supposed to put the suspect to sleep, the second is supposed to stop the lungs, the third is supposed to stop the heart. In practice however it doesn't always work that way. Most of the time it didn't put the person out and the death was like that of drowning slowly because their lungs were paralysed. My friend said something to the effect that this guy probably deserved to suffer. I went off on him. It was out of character for me because I normally let other people's opinions wash over me. Had it been someone else, someone I didn't know, someone who was conservative I would have just written it off. But he was rather liberal and held such disdain for human life because the man in question was evil.

We believe that if a man does something bad enough he loses his right to be treated with respect, and maybe he does. I said something about this being a violation of his rights, that as Americans we are pretty clear that we don't allow people to suffer at our hands. This isn't very persuasive for someone who committed some of the atrocities for which people are tortured or sentenced to death. This man may be evil but we are not. And besides this is not about his rights this is about our rights. We let this man drown to death by our hands and it makes us all vulnerable to treatment that bad or worse. If he was an innocent it wouldn't be acceptable, and yet we cannot assume we are always right. It is a better assumption that we are wrong, that we will be wrong given enough time. In our minds we have to erase the false distinction we draw between us and them, but such a distinction is false. Can you imagine them water boarding your mother? When you can then try to justify it's use. Do you feel that sick feeling in your stomach? That's what made me lash out at my friend, because I have largely done away with that false distinction in my own mind.

I've gotten into so many discussions about torture with conservatives who basically believe somehow that being a terrorist on not American (sometimes I wonder if such a distinction exists in their mind) allows us to do anything and everything to that person because the constitution doesn't apply. The sort of barbarism that average people will find acceptable only seems to go up as the distance grows between them. Sometimes I wonder if evil people are treated so badly because we don't see them as one of us. Or there is some specious flimsy reasoning that torture saves lives. In the fight against terrorism we can use torture tactics to save lives. How does the argument of the ends justify the means still get traction in people? It's so backward, so outdated that you would believe that no intelligent or moral person could muster the resolve to even try such a backward argument. But they do and they feel good about themselves while doing it. They they hate us liberals for attacking our country for blaming America first. I was going to ask a conservative friend over lunch what the legitimate argument conservatives had for defending torture in our name was, but I didn't bother. There isn't anything I could have learned and quite frankly it made my stomach turn a little.
Post a Comment