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"We're going to end it here."

This is a video diary.

The early '90s adaptation of Death and the Maiden portrays a torture survivor in an unexpected situation; her former torturer/rapist ends up at her home, ignorant of her past. Years have passed the victim by. Years were stolen forever. No justice nor vengeance. So she takes a failed justice system into her own hands. (Spoiler.) As dawn breaks after a fruitless night of mock trial, the survivor threatens to execute the corrupt Doctor Miranda.

Unless he confess?

...he relents.

MIRANDA: I was good at first. It took weeks. I was strong...No one fought as hard as I did.

No one died I swear. I saved many. And I made it easier on them. That's how it started. They needed doctors. My brother was in the secret police. He told me. They needed someone to make sure nobody died.

I washed you. You soiled yourself. You told me, "I'm dirty" and I washed you clean. The others egged me on. "Come on, doctor, you're not going to refuse free meat, are you?"--I couldn't think straight.

And inside, I could feel I was starting to like it. They lay the people out, flesh on the table. You didn't know. It was bright in those rooms. People laying totally helpless. And I didn't have to be nice, I didn't have to seduce them. I realized I didn't even have to take care of them.

I had all the power.

I could break anyone.

I could make them do or say whatever I wanted.

I was lost.

I got curious. Morbid curiousity...

I was naked in the bright light, and you couldn't see me. You couldn't tell me what to do. I owned you. I owned all of them. I fell in love with it... and you couldn't tell me not to. You had to thank me. I loved it.

I was sorry it ended. I was very sorry it ended.

At Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the "black sites", rape may or may not have been widespread as the torture directed by the robber baron co-presidency of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, but rapists did exact their cruelty. And this scene evokes too many thoughts, ironic and sad, that perturb me.

We too needed doctors at our prisons and camps, because waterboarding "is drowning"--to quote Christopher Hitchens--and can do more than traumatize. Long-term sleep deprivation forces insanity on a person, with all its ugly possibilities. "Stress positions" can prompt dangerous reactions to a middle-aged heart. This is proven by medical science. Doctor Miranda observed the desaparecidos to make sure that the electric shock did not kill the prisoners. Similar to the the American professionals who believed their oath covered the supervision of real-life torture.

As I reflect on this scene, it seems most important to me that when the rule of law ends, the door opens to the dark capacity of human nature.

Cheney's people ordered servicemen and women to leave human consideration at the door, to treat bodies as vessels for information. Urgently needed information. Our desaparecidos waited guilty without trial at Abu Ghraib. Bagram. Now their guilt--whether once real or not--is with them as shame forever. In the movie, the protagonist's husband mentions the fear of the knock at the door in the night. A consequence of years of fascism. A few years back, I read of one western ex-detainee who could no longer sleep regularly, terrified in the dark... In the dark they couldn't see. Even in the bright light, blindfolds left them helpless. Some died at Bagram.  Dehumanizing language transformed the way we treated those Iraqis, Canadians, Yankees, Afghans and Uighers. "Meat on the table". We all know what people do to animals...  

"Hunt them down." Perhaps Bush's choice of the word "hunt" truly applied the blanket Muslim "terrorists" who seemed to pop up amidst secular Arab regimes and hill-people alike. As an adolescent, he had a pasttime of blowing up bullfrogs with forcibly-inserted firecrackers.

He had all the power.

Originally posted to Nulwee on Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 11:57 PM PDT.

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