Tortured By Torture

06/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Anyone else both pro and con on the ongoing torture prosecution debate? Maybe I'm just tormented by my own Libran capabilities, but I can see both sides, can't you?

The facts seem pretty clear to me.

The United States tortured political prisoners.
The United States doesn't do this sort of thing.
The United States has to do something about the torture that was done in its name.

There are those who think the actual perpetrators ought to be prosecuted.
There are those who think that those ordering the perpetrators ought to be prosecuted.
There are those who think we are doomed to repeat the past if we do not prosecute.

Authorities both within the United States and outside the United States have proven that torture doesn't work.

The Obama Administration is falling every once in a while on one or the other side of the fence.
On the one hand, they want to put the past behind them.
On the other hand, there are squeaky wheels calling for action.

What's a citizen to do?

I think the real problem isn't whether to prosecute or not, or whom to prosecute or not. The real problem is that we, the American people, are suffering from our own collective psyche being tortured by torture.

All people carry what the psychologists call an idealized self-image within. So do collectives. Our collective idealized self-image says that our country doesn't torture people, but we did, and we do and we have, so there's a major cognitive dissonance happening here in America, a collective scarecrow indicating a double message that's causing our psychic static. It says, torture went that-a-way, and it's left us doing double-takes.

Often when I tussle with the social realities of our time, I go to the Oxford English Dictionary, the very best source for etymology in English. The word torture comes from Latin roots that mean twisting as in torque, and herein I see a glimmer of a solution to our prosecution dilemma.

What we are all trying to do is take a twisted history and square it with our idealized self-image as a country. And we're failing at it. Deplorably.

Torture is twisted behavior. The idea that hurting someone should, would, or could produce the truth from them is absurd. But no matter, we did it. Or, more properly, persons representing 'we the people' ordered torture, and others who were ordered so to do carried it out.

No matter what shape we attempt to twist our collective consciousness into, torture is wrong. It denies that all beings are sacred beings. However, we also share a collective belief that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.

Here's the net/net: let 'we the people' call for a historical task force to both investigate and publish exactly what happened, to whom and when, via what mechanisms. Then let's learn from our mistakes and declare a national day of mourning for our bad behavior. Let's forgive ourselves, forgive the victims, forgive the perpetrators, and get out of the torture business once and for all.

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