One of my consulting clients is a group called Global Kids. I’m helping with its Newz Crew project, which involves high school-age kids in online dialogues about global issues. Each time a group starts, the kids are given an article to discuss, and one of my tasks is to formulate questions about the article. This week it concerned the torture at Abu Ghraib, so I’ve just spent some time imagining the unlined open faces of teenagers gazing at the appalling photos of torture and abuse we’ve seen so many times now, and wondering what wholesome and educational questions I could possibly ask them to ponder.
Out here on the western edge of the U.S., people have developed a curious tic. We shake our heads and roll our eyes, unable to wrap our minds around the reportedly common view that forcing prisoners to strip and perform sex acts– to pick just one of innumerable disgusting examples–shouldn’t concern us overmuch. Senator Imhofe said it most baldly when he declared himself “outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying.There are some 700 guards in Abu Ghraib. There are some 25 other prisons, about 15,000 guards all together, and seven of them did things they shouldn’t have done and they’re being punished for that.”
Increasingly it seems to me we have two nations within our borders, two value systems that may be impossible to reconcile. I hope the larger group comprises those who understand this sort of excrescence erupts from a great festering reservoir of greedy zeal and blind indifference; I would hate to be outnumbered by those who dismiss it like Imhofe. I think the high school students’ responses will give me a useful reality check.