Thursday, December 20, 2007

American Society And Torture.

I recall as a boy reading about the treatment received by American POW's in Vietnam. I had a book on the war, and one of the pictures in that book was a drawing of an American man on his knees, his arms draped over a pole which ran across his upper back. He was leaned forward, and the position looked very uncomfortable. At the time, I knew full well that this was an illustration of torture. But in modern day society that very same picture would be termed a "stress technique", and there are many who would hotly defend the use of such methods against detainees in the war on terror.

You may be asking yourself, "self... why has friky started getting all philosophical about the attitude of society as a whole on what is or isn't torture". The answer may be found in this story on MSNBC titled 'Staff fired over prank-call shock treatments'.

Here is the gist of the story. The Judge Rotenberg Education Center is some sort of institution that caters to "troubled" youths. One of their charges was released, and called the center pretending to be a supervisor who was ordering two teens be punished for supposed offenses committed earlier in the day. The punishment which the "supervisor" imposed upon these teens (one 16, the other 19) was shock treatment with one boy being given 29 shocks and the other boy 77. We have this blurb from the MSNBC article about this technique.
The center is believed to be the only school in the United States that uses two-second skin-shock punishments to change destructive behavior. The center says the treatments are used in a minority of cases and only with parental, medical, psychiatric and court approval.
In other words the shocks are being used by this institution to break difficult patients. As far as I'm concerned they are torturing patients into submission, evidently with the hearty thumbs up by the parents and the courts.

No where in this article is the word torture mentioned. The following blurb comes the closest:
The center has survived two attempts by the state to close it over allegations that its unorthodox methods amount to abuse.
Hello?! Abuse?!! Try TORTURE! Those unorthodox methods do not "amount to" torture, they define that ghastly word. Yet somehow the state has not been able to close the facility which means that some authority out there is just fine with having troubled teens being broken by torture.

Who knows how long this has been going on. I know full well that the evil and brutality of various institutions through out the history of America has been a very badly kept secret. But I am really outraged that such treatment would somehow be acceptable in modern day America. This isn't something that happened behind closed doors with a secret to be kept by those involved. This was official policy which went off the tracks because some patient who had been released took advantage of the system in order to mete out punishment to two undeserving boys. To me the outrage here is not that the system was flummoxed by an out patient. The outrage is that we allow a system which, as a remedy for 'destructive behavior' saw those teens be repeatedly shocked until they were broken.

It makes me wonder about our nations moral bearing. This is fundamental to our basic understanding of what is good and evil, regardless of what religion or sect you belong to. We have television shows glorifying the most heinous forms of torture as a way to save our cities, Americans using the very techniques once used against us which we decried as torture, and a school which uses electric shock to correct "destructive behavior" with the blessings of a judge and the parents. Far from endeavoring to guide our nation by the light of human rights and equality, our nation seems to be determined to tread path of societies which embrace torture and humiliation of those who are considered problems or less worthy than the rest of us. I just thank my lucky stars that when I was acting out in my teenage years that I didn't live in Massachusetts.

The recent prank incident is being covered by sources like USA Today, Fox News, and the Associated Press, which means that now is the time to contact the governor:

Deval Patrick at 617-725-4005 out of state or 888-870-7770 in state.
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