Torture & Democracy (1/2)

A well thought out article.

Everybody Means Something

Gaude and Garrigos Writer Laurent Gaude (l) and Amnesty’s Genevieve Garrigos launched the “stop torture” campaign in Paris

‘. . . it is to put a very high value on your surmises to roast a man alive for them.’

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592):  On the Lame (trans. M.A. Screech – Penguin Classics)

The spectre of torture as effective and desirable is back in the news again. I feel it worthwhile again to republish a pair of blog posts from two years ago, the first today, the second tomorrow. The book I refer to in the posts – Darius Rejali’s Torture and Democracy – conclusively demonstrates, at least to my mind, that no form of torture will ever be effective no matter how acceptable we manage to persuade ourselves it is. 

Amnesty International Survey Findings

On the 13th May the BBC News website posted a disturbing report of Amnesty International findings. They stated:


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A Late Love Story

Wrong time, wrong man,
Spite, trial by fire,
Death by booze,
Small little hands held
Me back from suicide.
Small head, large needs,
Hungry, thirsty,
They consumed me
From his indifference.

If I couldn’t be his wife,
I would be perfect.
I would be mother
Of his children.
Wrong time, right man,
Not who I would choose,
With his loud words.
With his lack of tact.
Meaning nothing to me.
I have boxed my heart.
But sometimes, …

Bad diagnosis, lost heart,
Right time, right man,
I spiraled down
Wings flaming,
Phoenix consumed.
He holds a fire extinguisher.
He stays.
Has my story just begun
my sweet romance…

Ann WJ White @All rights reserved, January 2017

This IS my Country; January 2017 Liberty Musings

WHITE00-R2-048-22AI haven’t written anything of late, but that’s hardly surprising. I’ve been caught in this swirl of holidays, politics, and the ever present viruses. Politics have been distressing for me. I fancy myself to be a bit of a Constitutional scholar without the fancy trimmings of academia. It’s all my mother and father’s fault. They exposed me early on to the world of books, and I took to them like a bookworm would. They surrounded us, lured us and in a house where we had very little that my mother hadn’t made from scratch, the books were our companions and friends. We were always in trouble at school, because we would read and miss out on teacher’s lectures. The teachers would tell my mother and father that we were constantly having to be put back on topic and they hated doing it. Learning was easy for us.

The first political actions I remember are the assassinations from the sixties. We were watching the President on black and white TV in the old Seward Elementary, a gorgeous old block building, grey, big with steam radiators and classrooms that came with cloak rooms. Kennedy was murdered and we just sat there, horrified. How could anyone hate another so much that they would kill them? Martin Luther King, Jr. death, and the rebellion against those denying the rights of  black and native American citizens were described to us in general terms. But I listened, and listening formed my character.

I was exposed to the news at home in 1965. We weren’t allowed to watch it, my father always ate in the other room with the T.V. We were confined to the dinner table. But I could hear it, always in the background, and the pictures in my head were worse that what was shown on T.V. There was war, riots, the shooting of the innocent and protests. My mother says she never worried about my older brother’s future. It wasn’t up to her. I’m sure it lurked in my father’s mind though. He was always hardest on my brother, trying to toughen him up, but my brother was an intellectual, a dreamer, a book lover and didn’t take to toughening well. It caused a terrible rift in the family. Vietman was happening in the news every day.

The Photo Biography of Abraham Lincoln at the age of 8 was my reference to war. The pictures were dark with death. Congress yelling over slavery, it made a huge impression. It was followed by two fiction books that I dreamed at night making them much more than the simple words. Both were about children in war situations trying to survive. Little Peach, and the other book Little Pear, were found at the public library. It was awful to read about bombings and parents dying. It felt real, and it was real during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. My mother encouraged me to read from anything I was curious about. I was curious about the world.

Vietnam was gone before my brother graduated from high school. I was glad. I hoped we had seen the last of war. I was mistaken. There are always bullies in the world who want to be feared and glorified. The preach of the rightness of their power, and everyone else is to be subservient and cowed. Anyone who says otherwise is a dangerous enemy who must be destroyed.

I believe in the U.S. I served with pride in the Minnesota National Guard and the U.S. Army. My father hated that I chose to serve. He told me to never come back and to not bother to call. So I didn’t. A month into my time at the Naval School of Music, he called my C.O. and I was informed that he cared about me very much by said C.O. Then he put me on the phone with dad and everything was okay. I was. hard-headed just as he was hard-headed. The only reason he called first is that he was genuinely concerned about my safety. Funny old Dad, I lost him in 1995, just when I needed him the most. Mom is still hanging around and keeps me and my children in line as much as we let her. She’s a good friend now.

Last year was rough for me. I’ve always been a compassionate liberal. The word compassionate means to care and understand. I grew up in poverty and it gave me insights into situations that more endowed people would miss. I was hungry at school, so when I taught, I kept crackers and peanut butter in the classroom with juice, too. Kids who were hungry and not on the breakfast program could come into the room when they got to school and eat a morning snack. I bought books for the kids. I kept track of who needed what and did what I could. It wasn’t about emotion, although I am an emotional woman, it was about doing the right thing. I adopted an old man who had been tossed out by his family. He always told me I thought with my heart, I told him he was damn lucky I did, or he wouldn’t be living in my home with my family. I gave shelter to a battered wife until she got her feet under her. She had nowhere else to turn. It was the right thing. I watched as religion was twisted and turned to be a hateful thing for some people. If they didn’t have something, no one else should get it. If they had something, why should they share? Watch Fox and MSNBC and you’ll see that attitude lauded by the “Commentators” and the shows they put on. Things like Firefly are shuffled off to a back shelf and told to die because they teach us the wrong things, like rebellion, charity, honor.

Liberal means to be giving in spirit, to allow oneself to take action to make the world a better place for the poor and middle class. To give what is needed in society for the betterment of us all. What’s wrong with that concept? I do believe that we have to be careful with our finances. But being careful with finances doesn’t mean hoarding away from everyone. I believe in hard work. Until I got sick, I worked hard. I wish I still could. I believe in volunteering, but noticed that it was the same few parents who volunteered over and over. Why did we care, but these others didn’t seem to? I was mocked during the election for thinking that a man with issues about sex, violence, his character, who changed his words when confronted with the truth to say he was only kidding. A man who believed that he learned foreign policy was taught by TV and movies has no business in foreign affairs. A man who believed that cheating and lying to people was okay as long as he got rich will never understand what it is to not have enough food or a decent home. He’ll never understand why contractors what their pay in full so they can have the things in life that all of us should have.

There is a wording in the very first paragraph of the Constitution that makes things very clear about what our rights are, it goes; We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Justice, a perfect Union, defense, and the Blessings of Liberty what wonderful concepts. Take a dictionary and read up on the definition of Blessings and Liberty. For fun, take a tour of all of the different sections of the document. It gives guidance on just about everything, from being responsible for the “ Progress of Science and the Useful Arts” to forming the government to having a military to not having a “religious” requirement to serve in government. You’ve all heard of the Amendments to the Constitution. In the 1980’s they tried to pass an Amendment that specifically called for the equal rights of women. It passed most states but not in the South. They felt that the “Little Ladies” should be protected from their emotional natures. I contest that until said patriarchs develop and emotional sense, they should be banned from office.

Women are humans. We’re smart, clever,hard-working, and responsible. We take on our duties, our children’s wellbeing, our spouses needs and we do it in “high heels and backwards” as Ginger Rogers used to say. We’re strong. We’re capable of strategic planning. We’re literate. We deserve the rights that are accorded to man (homo sapien sapiens) and man should not be used to only define the male of the species.

I was gladdened by the March on Washington. I was gladdened to see that despite differences, so of which were mighty, people of all ages and sexes came together to say that enough rhetoric is enough. I was not surprised when the new president and his staff pooh-poohed the march and focused instead on the vanity of the President.

I was angered with his speech in front of the CIA memorial wall because it wasn’t about the things that the CIA did, it was about Trump’s magazine covers with Time, how the CIA isn’t great but they will make it so, it was about the inauguration, which was not attended as had been in year’s past, and how it had more people and the journalists were out to them. It wasn’t about the men and women who lived overseas with their families working to protect us from attack from any form, or how the CIA notes the needs internationally of each country, and it certainly wasn’t about how to make the CIA better. It was humiliating for those staff, officers, and agents to listen to a man with a vocabulary that wasn’t up to the task. It shamed them for being intelligent and autonomous individuals who can think for themselves.

God help me if being disabled in the world to come is going to follow the actions of the President. Yes, I stress about that. I’ll survive, but what about all of the others? Not everyone is mule headed. I thank my parents for that too. They were the ones who understood and encouraged me to become globally aware.

As you can see, I’ve had a lot on my mind, it just wouldn’t lay down on a piece of paper and organize itself. I doubt I’ll see many actions that I’ll be overjoyed about for the next four years. We’ll all have to keep our heads about us and stand up for ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our country. It’s exhausting to think about. If John Lewis can keep coming to work in Congress and keep working on that message of what is right, then the least we can do is pick up our phones and call, or write, or demonstrate until the government gets things right. I believe in the majority of Americans who voted to make life a better place, not the ones who voted selfishly to dominate our religious morals, our sexual identity, our race, our sex, our self-determination, I believe that we can create protective places for ourselves. I believe that we will overcome this lack of empathy and education. We’ll have to do it one day at a time, as we have to do so many other things.

Ann W.J. White January 22, 2017

Writing Prompt: Voluble

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Oh, there were sassy ladies,
Rolling and hip swaying
In voluble conversations each
One stepping and braiding
the words of each other.
Independent and political, boldly
careening while dancing lightly around
The naysayers who stood in shocked conversation.
Stern proper women wearing white
and stiff collars approved by their husbands.
They frowned down on them,
These rotund and happy women
Who were tapping and rapping,
Skipping and hopping in intricate circles.
Drum banging, round singing, fluting tunes,
Playing. Shouting joyous news over baskets
Of biscuits, of blossoms, of brightly
Colored laundry, of fresh bread and
School books, holding hands like children,
Vividly recalling their sweet loving
Mothers who had danced as they toiled
With hip swaying chatter filled
With love everlasting as they twisted
The language of families belonging
Around Maypoles and harvest, children,
And Husbands slowly leaving in abeyance
Those pursed lipped disapprovers
As the long walk home followed fence and field.