In order to have a friend, drug you must indeed be a friend. Be ye kind one to another is a biblical directive and is akin to The Golden Rule. Do unto others, order as you would have them do unto you. With the release of the Senate’s report on torture, find or as some would call it “enhanced interrogation techniques” during the years immediately following the 911 attacks, it is incumbent upon us ALL to take a look at ourselves, our beliefs, and our individual ethics and morality. Where do you stand, and on what do you base that position? What has the United States of America done in the name of the people for whom this most perfect union was created?
There is no one, who calls himself or herself a citizen of this nation, who can be dismissed or excused from this interrogation. Ignoring it will not make it go away, and it cannot be forgotten. It is a stain on the very integrity and foundation of our so-called “American” values and, by association, a stain on all of us. How can we expect to be looked upon as leaders in the global community when our moral compass is so variable and our ethical perspectives situational? “Enhanced interrogation techniques” is a euphemism for TORTURE in the same way as sexual assault can serve as a euphemism for RAPE or racism for WHITE SUPREMACY. There are words we Do NOT want to look at. We don’t want to accept what the DENIAL of the specificity and clear intentionality of what those terms mean and our acceptance, or lack thereof, says about us as a people and as a nation.
If kindness begets kindness, then it would also follow that inhumanity and deliberate cruelty reproduces the same. A culture of fear creates in people and governments responses that are not based on ethical decision making or moral and humane response, but rather unfettered irrational aggression towards that “thing” we fear. We succumb to our most BASE human response, which ironically serves to define the “other” as disconnected from our own humanity. We must de-humanize them and reduce them to a label of enemy combatant, threat, risk, jihadist, criminal and so on. They no longer are connected to the human race at all. We are so fearful that all we want to do is destroy the threat and cut it out or kill it like a cancer. We want to declare and define our response as a surgical and clinical approach with limited collateral damage, all in the name of “keeping America SAFE.” We must rationalize it. Make some type of sense out of it because without that reasoning we would have to relegate our efforts to the level of barbaric, immoral and a crime against humanity, not only against our targeted enemy but against ourselves as well.
The example that you set is the example that others will not only follow, but also how others define you. We do not always have control over the things that happen to us, but we do control our response. Recognition of wrongdoing and humble acknowledgment of mistakes made goes a long way to open up dialogue and discussion. How do we change behaviors in order that such atrocities never happen again? What are we going to DO about our violation of the Geneva Convention on torture?
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: The Hope of Peace…