Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Poetry and Torture
For this Love is enraged with me,
Yet kills not ; if I must example be
To future rebels, if th' unborn
Must learn by my being cut up and torn,
Kill, and dissect me, Love ; for this
Torture against thine own end is ;
Rack'd carcasses make ill anatomies.
--from "Love's Exchange" by John Donne
I've held out commenting on the whirlwind of talk about torture -- that ugly thing that happened, is happening, has happened. After all, this is a blog about special needs parenting and poetry and funny stuff and chaos. Not politics, not torture. Then I read someone's post about the issue on a blog that I usually admire. It wasn't her post that astonished me (she's obviously conservative and speaks poorly of Obama) but the comments following. I felt so incensed by them that I commented back, shot off my big mouth and had a go at it. And I didn't feel better.
The truth is that I can't believe we're even arguing about whether or not torture is right. Whether there are circumstances that demand it. Or that somehow it's not torture if we're padding cell walls and giving people neck braces for when we toss them against those walls. I mean, YIKES! I'm the QUEEN of the ABSURD, and I feel like this is beyond even my ken. I feel like I live in an alternate moral universe from those who come up with a million reasons why it's "right." I'm not sure that I want to place myself in an alternate moral universe and I know that we're all capable of inflicting great evil on one another. In other words, I don't generally believe that I'm better than another.
But here are my thoughts in a sentence: Torture appears to be the awakening of one of the most primitive and least evolved impulses of human beings, and not admitting that is to enter into one of the lowest levels of Hell, in the way that Dante might describe them.
Here's another quote by the great John Donne from one of his sermons (and who wouldn't want someone like Donne preaching at them?):
Transgressors that put God’s organ out of tune, that discompose and tear the body of man with violence, are those inhuman persecutors who with racks and tortures and prisons and fires and exquisite inquisitions throw down the bodies of the true God’s servants to the idolatrous worship of their imaginary gods, that torture men into Hell and carry them through the inquisition into damnation.
And for lack of better words, go read THIS by the estimable Garrison Keillor. And, of course, you lurkers out there, tell me what you think.