By Silja J.A. Talvi
"The Christian in me says it's wrong," Army Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. said of torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "But the corrections officer in me says I love to make a grown man piss himself."
Photos taken of him demeaning captives at Abu Ghraib exposed Graner as the sadist that his surroundings allowed him to be. But are the differences between brutal correctional officers like Graner and other Americans as stark as we would like to think?
[essay then discusses how movie-goers love the new Sin City because of its gory scenes of torture and sadism. Audiences find it enjoyable and without consequences.]
"Real healing and emotional catharsis would actually require genuine discomfort, discourse and reparation. It would necessitate an admission of our collective culpability for the emotional and physical damage inflicted by our government, whether on the streets of Baghdad, or in the interrogation rooms of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay." [quoting a psychologist]
Without such reflection, we're headed for our own true-to-life Sin City, a veritable carnival of bloodsport, torture and misery for all. . . .
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This is, in other words, a pop psychology version of what Susan Sontag pointed out last year in a more critical idiom. See my blog from February on her "Regarding the Torture of Others" and the American version of acceptable brutality in pop culture.