Friday, January 27, 2017

Janaury 27: Blood Gutter, Torture, Martin Niemoller

Weary scornfully bet Billy one time that he didn't even know what a blood gutter was.  Billy guessed that it was the drain in the bottom of the Iron Maiden, but that was wrong.  A blood gutter, Billy learned, was the shallow groove in the side of the blade of a sword or bayonet.

Weary told Billy about neat tortures he'd read about or seen in the movies or heard on the radio--about other neat tortures he himself had invented.  One of the inventions was sticking a dentist's drill into a guy's ear.  He asked Billy what he thought the worst from of execution was.  Billy had no opinion.  The correct answer turned out to be this:  "You stake a guy out on an anthill in the desert--see?  He's facing upward, and you put honey all over his balls and pecker, and you cut off his eyelids so he has to stare at the sun till he dies."  So it goes.

Yes, Billy Pilgrim's friend, Roland Weary, is morbidly obsessed with torture and death.  Roland seems to revel in Billy's naivete.  He senses Billy's weakness--his lack of worldly experience--and exploits it.  At this point in the Slaughterhouse, Weary needs somebody to bully, and Billy is the easy target.

Torture has been in the news a great deal these last few days, thanks to President Trump's recent comments about waterboarding as an effective method of interrogation, despite all evidence to the contrary.  Soldiers don't want to do it.  Military commanders are against it.  The Geneva Convention outlaws it.  Yet, torture is again up for debate.

I am not going to go on an anti-Trump rant.  I am simply going to speak up for compassion and decency.  Yes, ISIL militants have beheaded innocent civilians, broadcasting grisly videos over the Internet.  Yes, these militants seem without human decency or morals.  I am not defending them.

However, I also do not believe in fighting evil acts with evil acts.  That is antithetical to my core values.  As the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right.  Fighting torture with torture only begets more torture.  We become just as culpable in the cycle of violence.

I'm not looking to make enemies or friends.  I'm just reminded of what Pastor Martin Niemoller said about Nazi Germany:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Thus, I have to say that torture is wrong, no matter how justified it may seem.  It demeans and dehumanizes every person involved--victims and those doing the victimizing.

Saint Marty is grateful to live in a country where he can still speak out for common decency (for now).

Martin Niemoller

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