Subtitle: facing the tragedy of the human condition.
Warning: This essay is depressing.
All of us have evil inside of us.
The worst of all humanity lives in every human. Greed, unhealthy lust, violence, the willingness to hurt others to get what we want and to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.
All of human history is a parade of evil, and a parade of the fight against that evil. Prophets and Messiahs and wise men have written volumes on it. An entire segment of society, lawyers and judges, cops and prisons, preachers and….politicians, have evolved to cope with it. In fact virtually all of society, all of civilization, is a way for humankind to find ways to address and contain the evil within us.
In the most cynical, but perhaps the fairest reading, politics is always the process of choosing the lesser of two evils. Not just electorally, but when it comes to making decisions on governing as well. One mans evil is another mans Noble Cause.
After 10,000 years of civilization, you see, we still as a species cannot agree on what is Right and what is Wrong.
Killing people is wrong….except when it isn’t.
Stealing is wrong…..except when it isn’t.
Cruelty to others is wrong…except when it isn’t.
Just as we have evolved societies and civilizations to deal with the evil in all of us, there has been a parallel track in evolution of rationalization, justification and denial. We all agree that killing, stealing and cruelty, such as torture, is wrong. Every religion says so, and every set of laws says so. And yet we continue to kill, steal, and be cruel to each other, and continue to find new and exciting ways to rationalize, justify and deny that it is wrong…..when we ourselves do it.
One of the names for that evolutionary track of rationalization, justification and denial….is politics.
There are still people who deny that America, despite being “the greatest country/society on earth” and a beacon of justice in their eyes, tortured people, in fact tortured people to death. Those who don’t deny it, but are still unwilling to face the fact that America tortured people to death, rationalize and justify it.
This capacity is nearly unlimited, even in the best of us. So unlimited in fact that even as we as a nation struggle to somehow deny or justify the truly horrendous acts, acts that plumbed the darkest places of the imagining of evil inside of us to create the most effective evil possible, to invent or recreate the worst and most fearsome tortures of human history….even while we struggle with just how to deal with that…and so far fail…
The best of us are still able to, with the blood of the tortured dead still on our collective hands, and still wishing to deny or rationalize that blood, say things like this to the world…
In their hearts they still had faith that evil would not triumph in the end, that while history is unknowable it arches towards progress, and that the world would one day remember them. And it is now up to us, the living, in our work, wherever we are, to resist injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take, and ensure that those who were lost here did not go in vain. It is up to us to redeem that faith. It is up to us to bear witness; to ensure that the world continues to note what happened here; to remember all those who survived and all those who perished, and to remember them not just as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed just like us.
And just as we identify with the victims, it’s also important for us I think to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, as well, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves.
…about one group of the victims of injustice in the past, the victims of the evil that men do, while simultaneously doing our collective best to deny and rationalize the injustices done….by us, by America, to another group of victims, the victims of our injustice.
It is, perhaps, the easiest thing that humans do, to condemn the injustice that others do, while denying our own injustices. It is like breathing to us to do so. It comes naturally. So I will not condemn the man who said those words, lest I too fall into the trap of the easiest thing men do, engage in hypocrisy.
The man who said those words has not tortured anyone, after all. He is merely tasked with dealing with the fact that America did indeed torture, that America did indeed create yet more victims of injustice. In a human history rife with far greater injustices, if one can measure these things, than America committed…in all of our names.
And the world being what it is, and mankind being who we are, he simply cannot deal with it as a plain and simple question of cut and dried injustice and horror and crime. As I am sure he would prefer to do. It is simply unrealistic for him to deal with it as a matter of justice, when politics is involved.
The humans who perpetrated this latest act of human brutality and injustice are still around, and many of them are still in power, or at least still wield it. They do not see THIS torture as evil. They will fight with all they have to defend it, and there comrades who ordered it and the humans who carried it out. EVERY evil that men do has its defenders. And this one is no exception
So even though by ANY rational, logical, religious or moral standard of the modern age of humanity, torture and torturing people to death is evil…is immoral and unjust…
This evil cannot be dealt with as an act of evil, as an act of injustice. It must be dealt with as …politics.
Perhaps we haven’t truly evolved at all.