Saturday, January 29, 2005

No Tears In Heaven performed by Buck Owens, Roy Clark & Grandpa Jones. God, I hope so.

I am too sad today to babble about my life. It's rainy, the cats are sort of halfheartedly chasing each other, and I have no plans for the rest of the day. And I missed TV Time because I fell asleep after the news.

But mostly I'm sad because I can't, personally, go and stop this.

Not to be a sexist, but you'd think most women would have a keener sense of why sexual debasement is wrong, with or without the religious component. Then you remember that Ann Coulter is considered an intellectual in this country. Ilse Koch, Gitmo calling...

Bob Marley agrees, apparently, as Magus just chipped in with Trenchtown Rock. You can't fool Jah, indeed.

I used Amnesty's page to send the following e-mail to Majority Leader Frist, who is (to my eternal shame) also the senior senator from my state. The sad thing is, I have no doubt in my mind that it was a meaningless gesture designed to salve my conscience. I don't think he'll do what I asked him to do. Sometimes trying just isn't enough.

The text follows, but you can skip down if you only want to know what I'm reading.

Dear Senator Frist --

There are many things in the world at the moment that concern me, but the cuirrent administrations' policies on human rights and the things they are doing in the name of Homeland Security are probably the most frightening.

Having read the AP's account (provided by former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar) of the sexual and antireligious abuse being perpetrated on the prisoners at Gitmo, and simultaneously hearing the new Attorney General disparage the Geneva Convention as "quaint", makes me frightened and afraid. Such actions as these rob the United States of its credibility in matters pertaining to human rights, and in the case of the prisoner at Gitmo who was smeared with fake menstrual blood and not allowed to wash (which by the tenets of his religion leaves him unable to make acceptable prayer), robs us of any support we may have once enjoyed from non-fundamentalist Muslims both at home and abroad.

I was raised in a good Republican family and spent my childhood being told how great the United States is because we stand up for freedom here and elsewhere. That's why my grandfather fought in WWII. I don't think he marched across North Africa so that less than a century later the country he loved so much could decide that the rules of decency and fair play -- not to mention the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Geneva Convention -- no longer apply to it. Even the Nazis tried at the Hague weren't submitted to torture (and especially not religious torture) before they were tried for their crimes; it left a clear delineation between "us" and "them". While I still believe America is a great nation, things like these tend to lessen my feeling of pride and instead make me wonder where the world will be by the time I'm ready to bring children into it.

In a country founded by men who wrote things like, "...[a]ll men are created equal, being endowed by their Creator by certain inalienable rights, that is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...", where do torture, discrimination and Stalinist techniques fit in?

I am asking you as your constituent, Senator, to take a stance against the continuing trend towards superlegal attitudes at the highest levels of our government. I am calling on you to denounce the techniques used at Gitmo as illegal, immoral, and un-American, and to hold those who perpetrated them responsible. I will respect you for that more than I did Nashville's first visual arts center [the Frist Visual Arts Center is one of the best museums in the country and he and his family gave them a huge endowment] , because while art is important, morality is paramount, and as a person who self-identifies as Christian, it's your Christian duty to stop this. There's no room for torture or religious persecution in the words of Christ, and his followers were usually the ones on the other side of that equation. Please, Senator, be the one who stands up and says "This is not right." History will make you a hero for it.


There's that.

What I'm Reading

Right this minute, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, because it's a comfort book, but the plan for this evening is to, at long last, read Cat's Eye, which got lost immediately after purchase because of the move and only just reappeared. And if I run out of book, I think I'm going to re-read one of A.S. Byatt's "Frederica novels". I need to read them in order, because I started with Babel Tower -- still the best IMHO -- and read them completely out of order after that, and I think I've missed a lot by so doing. I think that means I start with The Virgin In The Garden.

There you have it.

You know by now that I'm a comment whore, so do what you came to do.


At 9:48 PM, Blogger Memphis Word Nerd said...

The situation in Gitmo is beyond disturbing. And, for the record, I'm glad that you sent that letter to Frist. I've sent him a few myself. It may not do much but if he gets enough...well, we will probably never know. The fact that you're raising awareness via your blog helps, too. People need to know. You rock, chica!!!

The books (as always) sound good. The only one I can't quite buy in to is Bridget Jones. Then again, I'm working on a comfort book, too: Blue Moon by Laurell K Hamilton. Smutalicious!

At 5:26 AM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

Thanks, MWN. I needed that. Kisses for being the first to write our Majority Leader (and gahhh, do I hate him. I went to school with his children, but didn't know them, but I remember hearing that they were in fifth grade and stumping for him. Again, totally unfounded, remembered rumor from 8th grade.)

That guy, personally, has always struck me as the kind of doctor I can't stand, the one that gets smart-ass with you because he's the doctor and you're just the peon who has to wait hours in the ER to see him. His family isn't all bad -- they do good stuff for Nashville, but still, Defense of Marriage Act, ugh. 'Nuff said. You think a doctor would have run into a grieving partner or three shafted by the system, but apparently he's got compassion fatigue.

My defense of Helen Fielding: I love Bridget Jones because she's insecure and daffy. I myself am insecure and daffy. The thing I love most about BJ is that she feels stupid most of the time even though she really isn't -- impulsive, emotional and confused, but not really stupid. I am the girl who worries about people seeing me do dumb stuff, klutzy stuff -- the girl who's never cool enough. Most of the people I know who were put off by that book were put off because they saw Bridget as stupid and thus found her boring. I just didn't.

However, to see Bridget Jones' smarter, more fabulous sister, hit up your local library and read Olivia Joules & The Overactive Imagination (the title is so Roald Dahl, I lurrrve it). Funny stuff and the heroine is far more competent. If you can't find it, hit me up and I'll lend you my copy. Helen Fielding is a comic talent, and her women remind me of myself in certain ways.

Halfway through Cat's Eye and finding it disturbingly familiar. The behavior of nonsocialized humans is of continuing concern to me in my philosophical musings -- how we learn behaviors, and whether behaviors which appear so inherent could be changed by a shift in consciouness, or whether they're evolution-positive traits that can't be eliminated, however regrettable that may be in the short term. (Pardon me, I've been reading Foundation and the potential for Galaxia, or at least Gaia, is on my mind. Shutting up now.)

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Ghost of Goldwater said...

The next time you choose to have an attack of righteously fueled sadness, please consider:

There is not one Gitmo detainee that would not happily cut your throat for your sexual preferences and activities.

Not one would protest your stoning for dabbling in various occult practices.

Not one would allow you to read the books you love.

Not one would allow you an abortion, even if your life was at stake.

Not one would allow you a divorce, even if your husband was beating you senseless on a daily basis.

Not one would allow you the freedom of expression you so justly and rightly practice on this blog.

The detainees at Gitmo have all been fighting for regimes, ideologies and policies that aim to destroy absolutely every freedom you cherish, every freedom that protects your personal way of life. I have not a shred of doubt that if any of them attempted, in person, to force you to live how they want you to live, you would resist them with every fibre of your being, and with whatever violent means necessary to protect your liberties.

Fortunately for you, there are people in uniform protecting your freedom every hour of the day, thus enabling you to sit in peace and calm in front of your computer and broadcast whatever message you could possibly desire. That is your birthright in the United States. But please stop to consider, just for a moment, what your life would be like should people like the detainees of Gitmo achieve one iota of their ultimate goals for the world.

Then ask yourself to what lenghts YOU would go to protect your right to be who you are and do what you do - when under mortal threat from an ideology that makes your southern republicans seem very, very liberal in comparison.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

That's a beautiful letter, and I'm curious as to what response (if any) you'll get.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

GoG, I know all that -- but it doesn't change the fact that torture is wrong and cannot be made right, and that if we sink to that level we are no better than they are, whatever little fancies about "rights" we may give lip service to.

Sorry darlin', I'm a pacifist. It's not for everyone. I've got loved ones and family in the military; I chose the nonviolent path for religious reasons myself and understand that it will never be the universal ideal without a hell of a lot more evolving. Does the fact that these people would destroy me if they could, which they can't, make it right to treat them as subhuman? I don't think so. It's not that I think Islamic fundamentalists are any better than the Christian variety (and I've dealt with plenty of them), but I wouldn't sexually debase Jerry Falwell or Jimmy Swaggart if I got the chance, because a.) they're assholes but b.) torture is wrong.

I have to go to work. E-mail me if you'd like and we'll chat on this subject.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Ghost of Goldwater said...

I wholeheartedly disagree with your opinion that torture is always wrong. In fact, I am 100% convinced that in a given situation any remotely moral human being would use it to achieve their goal.

Now, I would agree that torture as such is a bad thing, not to be done or accepted lightly, just as I would argue that depriving someone of their freedom of movement is a bad thing in itself - but would still support it in the case of imprisoning dangerous people.

Killing is also a bad thing in itself, but I would not hesitate to do it under certain circumstances, and it is precisely this willingness in others to act, to DO the dirty work, that allows you to live out your pacifist ideals without having your throat slashed and your bisexual butt stoned as a result of said pacifism. Actions have consequences, but so does the lack of action, and if I have the slightest suspicion that rubbing a g-string in a Taliban terrorist's face might yield information about an attack on innocent people, I would actually consider it morally reprehensible NOT do do it.

There is a practical side to this pertaining to the reach of constitutional law and to international law, for example the Geneva conventions. Sadly there has been much confusion regarding this. A common misunderstanding is that the detainees at Gitmo are covered by the Geneva convention.

They are not.

The Geneva convention covers regular wars between regular fighting forces, and the Taliban (and other terrorist groups) constitute no such thing. In fact, there is longstanding precedence for executing non-uniformed and/or irregular combatants on the spot.

Let me stress this: Idealism is a good thing, and I do not question your intentions in the least. In a perfect world there is no violence at all (and may we both live to see that day). But ideals are worthless without considering the practical consequences of their application, and it is in this that pacifists and others only concerned with the "ideal" side of the argument fail so utterly.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Special Sauce said...


It is you who are the eloquent twin. That's one Helluva letter. I hope that Senator Frist actually does see it (although I know realistically it's not going to happen.) I'm also enjoying the discussion this has started.

I'm going to keep watching, and draft my own letters into the ether.

Hope work rocks, ET.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

GoG, I think you're misunderstanding me on one very important point.

People I love are taking their chances on dying in this thing. I respect them for that. I understand that. That doesn't change in the very least the fact that my beliefs (which I like to think are as deeply held as those of the Gitmo prisoners, if less constrictive and violent in nature) don't allow me to ever, ever condone torture.

You obviously feel differently and you act as God just as much as I do, in the confines of your own ethics. But what's being done at Gitmo is being done symbolically in my name, and I don't and can't condone it. The fact remains that my path is a nonviolent one, and things like this aren't ever going to seem right to me, and however legalistic you want to get about who is and isn't covered by the Geneva Convention, a piece of work like the DoI or the GC doesn't get written without a certain amount of idealizing:

"Hey, wouldn't it be great if we admitted that all people should have the right to live, be free and try to seek justice?" "Hell yeah! Let's have a revolution!"
"Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we agreed not to torture each other even when we're pissed off?" "Hell yeah! Let's get together in Switzerland and hash that out!"

We're in Iraq with no declaration of war, as well as Afghanistan. Does the fact that it's those two countries and not, say, France, somehow make it OK for them to torture our guys if they get them? Hell no. Would they? Probably. Does that then excuse it? Not really.

That said, I don't care what kind of information someone may have, sexual degradation is not ever going to be OK. I've been there. Never going to be OK.

You seem to take me as some kind of starry-eyed hippy-dippy who wants to go around sticking flowers down gun barrels. Nothing could be further than the truth. I accept that there is a standard of violent conduct in human beings that may take us another 1000 years or more to move past. It's my personal belief that most violence is counterevolutionary in the case of a technological species, as people perform better under incentive than fear. That's the principle I try to live out. I like to think that I'd feel that way no matter where I looked from, but I know that life is far too chaotic for that to be the case. I have decided how far I am willing to go -- and by my lights I would give up my life rather than take anyone else's if it came down to that, because I believe that's how I best am God, a decision I don't get to make for anyone else.

But it comes down in the end to what freedom really is. Am I free if my freedom is propped up by things that disgust and abhor me? Not really. Can I be a pacifist and OK the use of violence against the violent? Not really. Do I perfectly live out my "idealism"? Not really. I have too much anger. But I try to use it constructively. Fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed.

We're all trapped in the end by what we believe, and what separates me from the true idealist is I don't claim to be Right or not in any grand, absolutist sense. I just know what's right for myself, and in the email he'll probably never read I called the Senate Majority Leader on what he has publicly professed to be his own, personal moral code for exactly that reason. And while the people being tortured down there in Gitmo may be more than willing to slit my throat and torture me for what I think and do and say -- doesn't suddenly make it OK to play by their rules. It reduces us to absurdity and it makes us look like we're the ones on the jihad, which from a purely political standpoint probably isn't the wisest course. Global opinion matters in the geopolitical arena and Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. Not the most clever "Amerika is the K3wl3st" stunt to have it out that we verse our soldiers in Islam well enough that they can use it against detainees. The Romans tortured the Christians for sedition more than religious reasons, but in the end they got stomped. Perhaps it's just that I don't want anyone else to get stomped because a fundamentalist hears what the Great Satan is up to now and decides to go collect the reward his Koran-twisting imam told him he'd get for going out in a blaze of glory. If this story disgusts little multicutural nonthreatening moi -- how is it going to lessen the resolve of those individuals who wish to destroy us?

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Ghost of Goldwater said...

I disagree fundamentally (emphasis on "mental"...heh...) with just about everything you wrote, but since I have even less desire to flog a dead horse than you have to flog a live terrorist, I think I'll just call it a day. If I'm going to write a whole thesis on this subject I might as well do it over at my own blog some day when I actually have the time and inclination. I'll let ya know iffin' I do, though.


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