Saturday, December 26, 2009

Alice Walker, Barack Obama and Torture

I must say I love cheap mines. These are what I call gems that I found at very cheap prices. One such find is Alice Walker's Meridian which I bought at a discounted price of P100, and was paid for by the gift certificates I won from National Bookstore. So i got it basically for free. But recently, I found an earlier print of the same book being sold for P9 at Trinoma! Now that a cheap mine.

I fel in love with Meridian and have even blogged about it. . I have tried to get hold of her other books by rummaging through second hand bookstores but I have yet to find one that is at least below P50.

I have not done my research on Alice Walker herself, except that she strikes me as an activist because few writers write about activism, which she did in Meridian. Just the other day, I stumbled across her blog (not personally maintained though, not that I'm complaining) and saw that she has sent a letter to US President Barack Obama himself discussing a very sensitive topic, torture. It was one of ten letters sent by Amnesty International to Pres. Obama.

The use of torture is against all laws which provide for the security of one's being. It has been denounced countless times and condemned at the Geneva Conventions which provided gound rules for conducting war. Sadly, torture is also considered by the state, albeit covertly, to be one of the most effective means to obtain information they deem important to the interest of "national security".

The US has come under fire for using torture, both physical and psychological, when the Abu Ghraib prison camp was exposed to the world. It was claimed that the US, via the CIA also has numerous other secret detention areas scattered across the globe.

The Philippines too is notorious for its utter disregard for human rights and committing torture against its enemies. Who can forget Raymond Manalo, a farmer, who was abducted by the military and lived to tell the gory tale of virtual slavery in the hands of his captors. He also claimed to have seen the two missing UP students, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, in one of their holding areas. Raymond Manalo has also tagged Bantay Partylist Rep. Jovito Palparan as the boss his captors were referring to. General Jovito Palparan is widely believed to be the man behind innumerable extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of people critical of the Arroyo Regime. He was even commended by Arroyo herself for "a job well done" in her 2008 State of the Nation Address.

The nationwide outrage against these extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, most of whom were members of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Anakbayan, gained international sympathy and prompted the United Nations to send Special Rapporteur Philip Alston to investigate it and make a report. Likewise, the Arroyo government assigned the Melo Commission, built especially for this inquiry, to make a parallel investigation on the matter. Mr. Alston, in his final report, upheld the popular belief that a culture of impunity has established itself in the country and no less than the government is blame for this. Meanwhile, the Melo Commission acknowledged the cases but did not offer any real solutions.

Anyway, this is one letter that I would like to share with everyone and hope inspires someone (or everyone!) to initiate a similar move and write a similar letter to the president. I remember one clip I saw which covered a rally outside Ever Gotesco Mall, Mrs. Edith Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos who was forcibly taken away from the same mall while he was dining, was being interviewed. Her message to GMA was one of a mother to another mother, wishing her not to experience the same grief she is experiencing because it is hard for a mother to lose her child.

Dear President Obama,

If word reached me that you were being tortured, I would instantly feel tortured myself, because I would be. Torture is something an entire society feels, whether we are within earshot of the screaming or not. People don't like to believe this, but there is no way human beings can remain unaffected by what is done to other human beings, or even to animals who are not human. If I heard this about you, I would do everything in my power to come to your aid, not simply because I know you to be rare and necessary to our planetary survival, but because you are simply a person, with feelings, aspirations, sorrows and dreams. And you have children. If I were a child and knew my parent was being tortured, day after day, what would I myself become?

It has already been recognized that "confessions" obtained by torture are useless. It is easy to see why. If someone is water boarding you and you think you will never see your little ones again, you would say anything. So would I. It is only in movies, I think, where the "hero" tells the torturer nothing as various body parts are cut, burned, frozen, electro-shocked or pulled out.

If one keeps company with cruel people, one loses, bit by bit, one's own compassion. This is one of the reasons living in Washington, in the White House, as leader of the United States, is so treacherous. And why I said to you when we met briefly prior to my introducing you to my community in San Francisco, that failure to win the presidency had not insignificant value: you could have a fine life living as a writer, doing and saying what you want, and traveling the world incognito and free. Leadership has its down side, and one of them is who one has to associate with in order to "get things done." When we look at the destruction, around the globe, caused by prior leaders of our country, and the terrible choices of how to behave, and we look at the White House today and see some of those folks still coming and going; what can I say? It gives us pause.

Ringing in my ears is something I thought I heard you say: America does not torture. And if this is true, now, under your watch, this letter is unnecessary. I also thought I heard you say Indefinite Detention Without Charge was gone with the wind of George Bush's administration. Was I wrong? Writers, and especially poets, don't always keep their ears to the political ground, and so we are likely to miss the daily dramas that keep others informed. I hope you are holding steady on these points, because if you are, you are right. The cruelty and injustice of holding anyone indefinitely without charge will not lead to carefree days and guilt-free nights for you or for any citizen of the U.S., and we want those days and nights in order to convince the youth of the world that there are basic human laws protecting their right to grow up without fear of endless detention.

I think about people in prison, being tortured, being bombed, being frightened and starved and humiliated, every single day. Voting for you was one way I felt I could reach out to them, fiction and poetry writing, even protests and arrests, having their limitations. You are the world's hope for a better, a fairer, day. You have what few leaders of this country ever had: genuine affection and love from the people who elected you. We are good people, too, for the most part. And even if we weren't, we can be improved by a leadership of compassion, a leadership whose basic human instincts of fairness and decency we can trust to look at the whole story, the entire state of affairs, and not close off any portion of it. A leadership unafraid to hold accountable those responsible for torture and abuse. This is our only hope, actually, to begin to soothe a little of the sorrow in the world. It isn’t a desire for vengeance, because we know vengeance, a karma, is created by Itself; it is instead a need to make right, to make whole again, by demonstrating to an injured and insulted world that we, as Americans, care about the harm other Americans, in our name, have done. We must show above all that we wish to understand our own madness in order not to continue growing and exporting it.

We know your plate is full. And I am always happy to hear of you and Michelle going off somewhere out of town for dinner. (No pun!) Any complaint about the cost is ridiculous: what your time away from your desk does for the world is priceless. You are a Leo/Ox and only someone with your combination of strengths could handle the presidency, which you do with grace. (What can I say? I love astrology!) Even so, it’s too much for one person, or two; I myself favor a council for leading the country, but that is far in the future. Maybe not too far! So, delegate. We need the world to know we don’t accept the behavior as usual of American presidents and others who do horrible things to people, and then retire, wealthy, into memoir writing and golf; as if the disasters inflicted on a vulnerable world never happened. I applaud and deeply appreciate all the good work you are, in fact, doing. It is huge. And beautiful, which I personally resonate with in world leadership. It has a beat. It has a heart.

In closing, I send this poem about torture that I wrote a few weeks ago and posted on my blog,

Read more about this by clicking the Read More Link below. Like this post? Click the button and let the whole world know! You can also subscribe to my feeds and follow my blog so you'll never miss a thing. Smiles!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your 2cents worth please? :DD


Related Posts with Thumbnails