This morning, driving to work, I had an epiphany: we should put Dick Cheney in a room with the administrators who okayed an adolescent girl being stripped searched and see what happens.
I sometimes have to take a hiatus from morning radio. Sometimes morning news causes me to shout things across my apartment at no one. Like, “Yeah, you better fucking tell me what critical intelligence you got after torturing those people!” And that scares my cats.
Just a week after Easter, it blows my mind that some of the same people who say we live in a “Christian nation” would say that in cases of torture, the ends justify the means. In case you hadn’t noticed, Christianity was founded by a man who preached nonviolence and then got tortured to death. (Jesus wasn’t against confrontation, or destruction of social structures, but he did not, ever, use violence.)
The ends do not always justify the means. And the ends are always what show the kind of person you are, the kind of country you are. They show what you are willing to sacrifice for peace of mind, or physical security. And there are some things that aren’t worth sacrificing.
We don’t have peace of mind– our military is more at risk for violent treatment when they are captured. We don’t have physical security, either. I don’t want to live in a police state, no matter how safe it is. Physical security isn’t worth giving up your values. (See either, What would Jesus do? sacrifice physical security for values; or, What would Buddha say? you’re going to die regardless.)
I imagine Mr. Cheney saying something like, “Well, sometimes you have to do things that are reprehensible in order to protect innocent lives.” And then the administrator says, “That’s right! We were only trying to keep pills away from teenagers when we stripped that shy adolescent girl naked at school and inspected her!” And then the administrator is startled by that remark, and suddenly insecure. Startled and insecure is a great beginning for growth. (Aside: adolescent girls use hidden ibuprofin because they are shy, and they have nasty cramps every month.)
I’m not an Obama worshipper. I just like Obama because he seems so reasonable. I love the word “reasonable” in our legal system. It is exactly the right word. Obama says, “Open up Cuba! But only this much,” and I think, that’s reasonable. Let’s take our time. He says, “Let’s release the torture memos, but not prosecute anyone.” I think, that’s reasonable.
Much as I might want to watch the breakers of international law, the spitters on the Geneva Convention, squirm as they explain why they HAD to threaten the security of our own military because our country might be attacked again (as if this were a brand-new risk and not a consistent danger), I have a James Brown quote that I will rely on instead.
I can’t verify this at all, but once I wrote it down, so it probably is James Brown. It is as follows: “Do I get discouraged? No, I do not. I just keep working, because I believe in God’s justice.” I always think a guy involved in civil rights in the 60s has more reason to get discouraged than I do. Whether or not you believe in God, people who condone torture have to answer to their own consciences. If they have them, they’re feeling what they need to feel. And if they don’t, there’s nothing we can do about it.
My larger concern is that this torture thing gets enough press and public outrage that it won’t happen again. I feel satisfied with the outrage level, apparently 2/3 of Americans want more investigation. That’s plenty of reasonable people, weighing the ends and the means.