Your Son at Gitmo   Leave a comment

We have Mohammed positioned so he can’t sit down. His foot is shackled to a steel ring in the floor, and his hands tied to the ceiling above. The medic, concerned about dehydration, ordered IV fluids for him, and we’re blasting the Rolling Stones and rap music at him that is so loud I think I’ll have hearing damage myself. He’s only a kid – about the age of my oldest son, so I sincerely doubt that he has a wife or children at home. Even so, his parents must be frantic wondering about him. “Where is he?”, “Who has him?”, “What are they saying he did?”, “Will we ever see him again?” and “Is he still alive?” He’s been here at Gitmo for two months. This really intense treatment has been his life now for the last 19 days – electric shock, sleep and food deprivation, isolation, verbal games to break him down, other crap to completely disorient him, and even a couple days of waterboarding. I can’t say we’ve learned anything useful from him yet. As usual. (Wouldn’t you say anything to make it stop if you were him? I know I would.) I wonder sometimes if he even knows anything – if he even did anything to deserve being here. I feel sorry for him. I wish he would just die and put all of us out of our misery.

I’m not sleeping or eating much better than he is, and it’s taking a toll. I can’t stop thinking of the “golden rule” I learned thirty years ago in Sunday School – and the hippocratic oath I took to “do no harm.” In a place like this, those things just don’t apply. And of course, it’s necessary and for the greater good. Even so, I feel my hands, that I once saw as the gift of God to bring healing, have been co-opted by the devil. The Dylan lyrics, “…they took a clean cut kid, and they made a killer out of him, that’s what they did.” could have been written about me. I’ll always remember Gitmo, and it’s impact on my future I’m sure will be profound. It’s redefined me. I now know that I’m a person capable of monstrous deeds, of inhumanity and unimagined cruelty to strangers. I’m a patriot who has lost faith in his country – maybe even in God. I could never tell my wife, my parents, my brother or sisters – I could never tell my children, what I have done to other humans like myself in this place.  I know that soldiers often return scarred from battle, but rather that than this. May God help Mohammed, and may God help me.
Postscript: This is a blog on Occupy Wall Street, so it’s fair to ask how this entry fits into that theme. I would suggest that when our country decides to behave as they have in Guantanamo, and offers the rationale that it’s permitted because basic human rights are trumped by our national security – that we lose something as a nation. And when the rest of us are expected to sit by and let this happen, that something is lost then too. I’m not sure what you’d call it, but it’s a loss that means that we undergo a mental paradigm shift as a nation – that having become comfortable with inhuman treatment of enemies, we crack open the door in our national thinking to inhuman treatment of our fellow citizens. It’s a slippery slope, and it takes some time – just like it did in Nazi Germany. They didn’t start with the elimination of the Jews, but chose easier targets – the disabled, the mentally ill, Poles and Slavs, gypsies and many homosexuals. Once the citizenry had become accustomed to that, they were prepared for Hitler’s “final solution.”

And so here, after all these years of Guantanamo (and not to imply it’s the only factor in such a shift), we now sit by in this country when our own citizens are (1) beaten and attacked during peaceful Occupy Wall Street protests (2) the victims of eugenics in Virginia, California and North Carolina, and (3) where a US citizen can be exterminated by our government without a trial.

The other worrisome point of similarity is that the media can’t really get access to Guantanamo records, and that the media is more and more kept from covering police crackdowns on Occupy. What this means obviously, is that police on our streets, and military personnel in Gitmo, can and do act with impunity. They are regulated neither by the laws of our nation, or by the laws of God – and we are mostly kept in the dark about it.

Finally, once you devalue human life – once you become accustomed to the taking of it as a price that might have to be paid for the greater good – the stage is set for corporate abuses like the ones we see today.  (The preventable BP Oil spill that cost lives; and the Massey Mine Disaster, also preventable, are two examples that readily come to mind, where people died because of greed – and the idea that we need these businesses to do what they do. Who is crying out for these victims, insisting that someone go to jail for these lives that were treated as the cost of doing business? I doubt theses victims families will be so understanding.

It’s all profoundly wrong, incredibly disturbing and very frightening. May God help us as well.


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