Friday, April 06, 2007

human rights now

Good Friday is almost over, but before Easter comes in just two days, there's something I want you to do.

Think back on the news pictures we saw of Abu Ghraib and the scandalous mistreatment of the Iraqi prisoners there. Think of the men who were imprisoned there, humiliated, leather hoods pulled tight over their heads, led on leashes like dogs. It's been a few years since the scandal broke, and we did our best as a nation to express outrage, sacrifice a few low-level soldiers on the altar of accountability, and then move on, but I want you to think back and recall those news pictures as well as you can.

Okay. You see the Iraqi in the picture? He's Jesus. Offended? Don't be. I'm just getting started.

Think of the hundreds of detainees our government has gathered as part of the war on terror. Four hundred of them have been kept under lock and key at Guantánamo Bay for five years, denied legal counsel or due process of law, under our government's supposed right to hold them indefinitely.

Allegations of torture abound. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed acknowledges his role in planning in 9-11 and in the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl; he also claims to have been compelled to make the admissions. Canadian-Syrian citizen Maher Arar was tortured for two years with cables and electric cords, and ultimately was found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

Perhaps Arar's situation is unique, and every other prisoner of the "war on terror" is as guilty as sin. If so, I don't deny that they deserve to be punished, but not until their guilt has been established in a fair trial of the sort our society supposedly prides itself on.

When Jesus was arrested by the agents of the Sanhedrin — in the name of national security, no less — he was beaten, mocked, humiliated, insulted and demeaned, until he finally was executed, without ever once having got a fair trial.

When we take a suspect and deny them a trial or even legal counsel — when we do things like put Joseph Padilla, the alleged "dirty bomber" in a nine-foot cell and leave him there for four years without sunlight, bombarded by harsh light and pounding sounds and no human contact but his interrogators — we assume the role of the Sanhedrin.

And every prisoner becomes as Christ. To abuse the least of them is to abuse him as well.

Copyright © 2007 by David Learn. Used with permission.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, I agree with the crystaline clarity of your vision. To harm the smallest is to harm all. Humanity's reliance on punishment, just or otherwise, as a means to rectify evil is an unfortunate sign of our misunderstanding of one of the fundamental truths of life, namely, two wrongs don't make a right (though three lefts can:).

I think Ashtavakra said it best
in the Ashtavakra Gita
(as translated by Thomas Byrom):

"I am boundless space.
The world is a clay pot.

This is the truth.

There is nothing to accept,
Nothing to reject,
Nothing to dissolve.

I am the ocean.
All the worlds are like waves.

This is the truth.

Nothing to hold on to,
Nothing to let go of,
Nothing to dissolve.

I am the mother-of-pearl.
the world is a vein of silver,
An illusion!

This is the truth.

Nothing to grasp,
Nothing to spurn,
Nothing to disolve.

I am in all beings.
All beings are in me.

This is the whole truth.

Nothing to embrace,
Nothing to relinquish,
Nothing to dissolve."


marauder said...

Your quote would have had much more power if, instead of attributing it to the Ashtavakra Gita, you had credited it to Brucker.