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Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Official: We're a nation of torturers

Glenn Gleenwald has a discouraging post on Salon I just saw, according to recent polling data, 54% of American's believe that torture is justifiable in some situations. That makes me feel so discouraged, so awful. It's hard to believe in anything I was taught about my country, about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and about what "American values" are anymore. My gf would laugh at me for that--she's not an American. But it's one thing to look at the facts--at the awful things that my government has perpetrated*, and another thing to look look at polling data and realize--America really is a democratic nation. It's just that we're a nation that's almost half fascist.

That is an exageration. Maybe. Certainly not all people who believe torture is valid would support facism--but a central tenet of facism is ultranationalism. The idea that your nation is above the laws of all humankind. The prohibition on torture is universally undisputed. Only totalitarian regimes--and the United States--feel that there is a valid use for torture. If A then B. Another tenet of fascism is the use of a racial scapegoat. Muslims or Mexicans take your pick. If A then B. That we're an autocratic regime. Certainly the Bush administration acted without legal authority on many, many issues. Was it strictly authoritarian? No. But two and a half of three core tenets, makes a pretty good case.

I think that most people don't really think much about these things. I think that most people see torture used in movies, and don't really consider the consequences. The TV show "24" is a great example of this--the good guy only tortures to save American Lives. And oh, how it eats him up inside. So things aren't as bad as they could be. But, then again, the sheer thoughtlessness of such a position is staggering, and remains very frightening to me.

I mean, there's a fifty-fifty chance that the next person you meet might support torture. And if someone accused you of being a Terrorist. Than that person, probably wouldn't mind if you were tortured. I guess that's fine if you live on a farm, and you only meet new people every so often. But I see new people every day. That's close to 300 distinct people per day who might well be willing to torture me. And you.

*Most people either don't know, or choose not to know the facts. So they're largely irrelevant to my point.

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