Thursday, April 23, 2009

Serious Business

In May 2003 I was studying abroad in England. England may be a first-world country but in 2003 most students couldn't get the internet in their rooms, and if they could, they had to pay for it themselves. I lived in Goodricke A Block, where we were lucky to have an algae-ridden electric teakettle bolted to the wall of our criminally undersized kitchen; I did not have the internet. To get the internet, I had to go over to the math building to use their computer lab. One lovely spring morning I went to check my e-mail and found copies of this scattered all over the tables.

Some politician was capitalizing on high levels of anti-American sentiment to get people to vote for him so that he could get the UK troops sent home, or something to that effect. Kind of a cheap tactic, and an argument with no nuance whatsoever, but nevertheless, when I saw it, it was impossible to feel patriotic outrage. I thought, "Yup, we deserve that." And then I went back to my room and wrote a fairly scathing poem. O what a radical.

I didn't fully understand at the time what that photo actually meant. Not the photoshopped one, but the actual photo of the prisoner on the box who's been told he'll be electrocuted if he falls off. Things seemed so hopeless in 2004 (and in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008) that it was sort of just one more horrible thing no one would ever have to answer for. I assumed three things: (1) This had always been happening. (2) After mild liberal outrage, these practices would be accepted. (3) Once they were accepted, there was no going back.

Happily, I was wrong on all counts. Unhappily, Bush and everyone working for him turned out to be worse people than I thought, and I was already convinced that they were inconceivably horrible. It's like I had been measuring them on the Celcius scale and someone just introduced me to the concept of Kelvin. What I thought was freezing is actually lukewarm in this new context. People should not be able to survive at the temperatures that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld operate at.

I am going to stop writing now and refer you to this clip of Rachel Maddow from two days ago. I hate it when blogs link to other stuff but I feel this is justified because until I had all these "torture memos" explained to me, I didn't understand, and if I hadn't happened to catch this episode I wouldn't have put all this together on my own.

The first six and a half minutes of this clip provide the clearest explanation I've heard of what all this information means.

Then watch this, which explains why torture doesn't even work, which you would think would be reason enough not to do it. (Assuming you are a practicing member of the human race.)

All the other clips are good, too, although I use "good" here to mean "deeply upsetting, provoking feelings of revulsion, and creating an unpleasant turning of the stomach." If you have just eaten, wait half an hour.

Next time I'll try to post something uproarious involving kittens and rainbows.


Ivan said...

I need a unicorn chaser.

megan said...

1- The first night of my visit to Goodricke A Block was the coldest of my life. Possibly so cold as to be crazy-inducing, because I could have sworn those ducks and geese were about to wander in to your room. Tell me that room was at least on the first floor. I can't remember but I feel like it wasn't.

2- Rachel Maddow has a PhD in political science. And she is relatively normal! I find this comforting.

3- In a weird way, even more uncomfortable than that clip is watching Jon Stewart et. al. try to make jokes about torture.

4- Sorry, too tired not to number things.

Simon said...

1 - Yeah, I was on the second floor. But there was a floor-to-ceiling window, and I'm sure the duckies were loud at times, although I actually have no memory of that being a problem at all. The people were louder.

2 - I have not watched much of her, but I should start. She seems excellent.

3 - Yes. It doesn't work.

4 - We here at Simon & Ivan don't holding numbering against our commenters.