Back in the States after a long journey to a far country, I grabbed the NY Times and sat down to see what’s up in my native land. “Hmm, Richard Pryor died, King Kong opened, somebody bought Dunkin’ Donuts…say, what’s this buried back on page 21?”
“The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, predicted that Congress and the Bush administration would reach agreement this week over a proposal to ban torture of terror detainees, but lawmakers engaged in the negotiations said major differences remained.”
A proposal to ban torture? Major differences? Did I screw up? I’m back in America, right?
I stepped outside Starbux and gazed up and down the street. Citizens passed. A chick with an Ipod winked at me. Shoppers waited in line for the MaxOffice Bonanza Blowout doors to open. Salvation Army nuns played “Rudolf the Chesnut Roasting on an Open Fire” on tuned bells. Didn’t hear any screams of outrage lifting into the heavens so I went back inside and downed another shot of caramel latte.
I read further. Seemed the government was having a polite discussion about how much torture is okay when they’re interrogating bad guys.
But when I left America NO torture was okay. That’s what the bad guys did. Nazis, “vee haff our vays” guys. The enemy. EVIL PEOPLE! I began to get mad. Americans don’t torture! We fight fair even if the other guy doesn’t! There goes my blood pressure. We are the Americans! We don’t stand for that shit! We are the GOOD GUYS!
Maybe I shouldn’t have drunk that fourth latte. My nerves were a-jangle. I had to calm down. I ran up the street looking for the girl with the designer Ipod. Maybe she’d let me listen to a few calming Death Cab for Cutie tracks.
I spotted her turning the corner into the mall. I shouted so she could hear me over Death Cab: “Hey babe, is there any time when it’s okay to torture people?”
She looked at me through fabulous brown eyes but her boyfriend Jose butted in.
“What if some terrorists planted an atomic bomb in a basement somewhere right here in our city and we caught the guys and it was about to go off and it was like a Harrison Ford movie and we had to find out where it was in five minutes?”
“You’re absolutely right!” the beauty agreed, “What would Harrison Ford do? What would Batman do? They’d figure out how to find the bomb without torturing anybody. But whatever they did it would come under the “hot pursuit” clause. Wouldn’t need no legislation about it. Wouldn’t be a “policy” about it, that’s for sure.”
“Esmeralda, you’re the real stuff!” I shouted. “Making policy about interrogation by torture – that’s unAmerican! It’s the dark ages closing in. That’s fighting evil by becoming evil. No way, Jose!”
We saw a soapbox and the three of us jumped up on it shouting “Rise up brave Americans, free Americans. Fight the evil rising among us before it’s too late! There’s people in suspicious suits who want to put acceptable limits on torture. But, brave Americans, there can never be any torture that’s acceptable. Don’t let them do it!”
But the citizens just kept on walking by. They were also enjoying Death Cab for Cutie on their Ipods, and checking out their portable wi-fi handsets and playing gangstas with their Grand Auto Theft XBoxes on their way to their Happy-Clappy Church. And nobody was screaming to the sky or praying for protection or even looking at us.
It was down to we three. Walrus Pemmican, Jose and Esmeralda. Could we stop America from going over to the dark side? Harold Pinter says it’s already too late. But Esmeralda and Jose and I think we’ve got five minutes.