Pro-torture, A-torture and Anti-torture Americans

By the end of April 2009 sixty-two percents of Americans stated through the polls that there is no need for a federal investigation about how the torturing of the suspected terrorists became an acceptable or even a solemnly defended practice. In the beginning of June, 50 percents said that torture during the BJr years was justified. Two thirds of Americans (consisting of two groups – pro-torture and a-torture) don’t think that torturing is a big deal. Torture- shtorture, they said, torture-torcher, torture-orchard.

Pro-torture Americans are quite enthusiastic (and some of them are even romantic) about torture. It won’t be abuse of imagination to state that almost all of them have a conservative mentality and tend to be republicans by political affiliation. These people are like the Soviet communists – they unconsciously or semi-consciously dream about unconditional domination over other people and the world. Pro-torturists are joined by a-torture group that consists of two sub-categories – those who probably will torture themselves if they could get the opportunity, and those who will rather stand around and observe the spectacle (some of them with secret pleasure).

Many countries torture and/or have tortured at certain moments of their history. In the Soviet Union, for example, it was an accepted practice right after the October Revolution and became omnipresent during Stalin’s repressions. But even in this neo-classical totalitarian country, the leadership didn’t dare to proclaim its involvement in torture openly – the communist officials lied that in “the country of people” there is no torture (very similar with Bush Junior’s “we-don’t-torture” over-fried refrain). But with the help of Dick Cheney’s chained didactics, Bushmerican leaders quickly advanced to the next epoch: Yes-we-torture-and-are-proud-of-this period of American history.

There is a big, in fact, a decisive difference between using torture and being silent about it, and using torture while proclaiming our inalienable right to do this. Until torture is illegal in public consciousness, it occupies the place of sin, vice or crime. Even if people know very well that their country is torturing, they feel shame about it, they are not accepting this fact on the level of their existential self, of their psychological wholeness, they still think about their country as moral, as following certain universal ethical norms. But if sinful-vicious-criminal behavior is accepted as normal, purgatory is instantly transformed into hell: people and their country become immoral and barbaric. It is the acceptance of the immorality of their behavior that makes people immoral, not the existence of transgressions. Even if you transgress but suffer and feel guilty because of your sinfulness you are still on the moral side of the universe. A criminal is not necessarily an immoral person; it is how he takes his crime what separates human from the beastly. Innocently cheerful faces of Bushmerican soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, demonstrate that a moral catastrophe has taken place in our country, that a deficit in moral sensitivity has corroded the American soul. We witness an immense degradation in people’s moral sensibility during Bush Junior’s two terms, and this degradation is expressed by the majority of Americans’ recent opinion that it is not necessary to investigate Badministration’s violations of the Laws.

How could such a degrading transformation take place in a democratic country? The chief political leader has an unprecedented socio-psychological influence over the people, especially young and those uneducated in humanistic sciences. Only through identification with political leaders, people with agrarian, proletarian and the low middle class backgrounds, if their souls are not ennobled by humanistic education, can connect their private emotions with political issues. The content, style and emotional tone of the top-pop political leader’s public speeches – are the ready-made patterns for admiration, emulation and internalization. If leader’s psychological reflexes and manner of self-expression are immature, not intellectually refined, too emotionally impulsive, if he tends to make not thoughtful decisions, and is prone to boast and brag – the majority of people will repeat these features in their hearts and minds. A primitive unanimity will be created, and a totalitarian enthusiasm will be stirred up. That is exactly what happened with the leadership of Bush Junior. His too emotionally overloaded: simplemindedly megalomaniac reaction on 9/11 became the model for the majority. Words became more important than the realities, passion took over logic, and sulk and fist have overridden the mind.

To the role of the Commander-in-Chief and his entourage in promoting degradation of population’s moral sensibility we can add several contextual reasons. The first is cuts in financing of humanistic (liberal) education – education for the understanding of life, not for making a living through your technical profession. Second is – being hooked on entertainment and consumerism in general, when your intelligence is distracted from thinking into getting cheap satisfactions provided by simplistic clichés that are permanently blown in front of you like the Christmas tree crackers. And third is – putting up the stress of life through the destruction of job market by the corporate logic of maximizing profit by putting American workers out of work. When the stress of survival is heightened people tend to become more predatory and are more vulnerable to frustration and to acting it out.

The acceptance of torture is a symptom of fascization of the population. Fascism is a reaction of the psychological fragment – immediate, impulsive, and passionately blind. Bush Junior’s decisions and actions are like this – precocious, extreme, capricious, and noisy. In them action is mixed with bluff and reality with theatricality, exactly like it happens during séances of the torturing, where the real pain of the tortured is fused with imagination of torturers who try to extract confessions confirming the non-existent connection between Iraq and 9/11.

What can the turtle democrats do in this situation? While republicans have become the caber-toothed conquerors of the world, democrats are the startled turtles. There is a well known game the bad kids like to play with turtles. They turn the turtle on its back and then watch with pleasure how the poor humiliated creature helplessly moving its legs trying in vain to turn itself over. This is the game Republican Party plays with democrats.

*This is the third article dedicated to the issue of torture posted at this site. The dates of previous posts are: Sept.11 (“Bush Jr.’s ‘Exterminating Angels’: The Torture Lawyers – Gonzales, Bybee, Yoo”); and Jul. 6 (“Max Beckmann’s ‘The Night’, Abu Graib and Symbolism of Torture”)