I’m Not Romantic And I Don’t Trust My Government

Last night my in-laws took my kids and Brian‘s kids down the street to a hotel to get high on all the partially hydrogenated oil, Red #40 and high fructose corn syrup they could bring over on the plane from Texas.  And to swim.

Becky and I went to Redneck Neighbor‘s favorite restaurant, then to Blockbuster.  Becky and I, if we get to see a movie at home, watch it on my laptop in my office so the kids won’t be disturbed.  But last night we watched on a real live television set with the couch pulled away from the wall and plopped just four feet from the screen.  Our television seemed to glow a bit more than usual – happiness I think – thankful to be channeling something besides Dora The Explorer through itself.  I’d like to think.

We watched P.S. I Love You – yet another American made romantic flick starring a good-looking guy with muscles and an accent.  Halfway through, long about the time the second good-looking Irish guy with muscles and an accent joins the plot, Becky blurts out, as if possessed and unable to keep the words in, as if forgetting I’m right there beside her, “I want to move to Ireland.” I bet she does.

But we’ve been to Ireland.  Twice.  And we saw lots of green grass and sheep and lots of guys with accents drinking Guinness, but none were all that muscled and most of them were a bit pale to be honest.  Nice but a bit a pale.  And she has a bit pale at home, right here in Tennessee, so…I guess what I’m saying is the whole movie made me a bit insecure about my lack of muscles and accent and sheep and Irishness and general romanticness.  Of course in chick clicks “romantic” is unprofessional (usually a musician of some sort) and a little unclean (usually tossled hair, stubble, t-shirt and jeans) and a little flaky (usually a musician of some sort).  And, hey, she’s got that already so why move to Ireland?  All I need are a few more candles around the house, abs and other muscles, a tan, and someone to write clever dialogue for me like “Every morning I still wake up and the first thing I want to do is to see your face.” I’ll work on that.

Next, we watched Rendition.  (I know, two movies.  It was a crazy partay of a night.) I didn’t know a thing about this movie, neither did Becky, but it had some big stars in it and the box said it was a “thriller” so we grabbed it.  We didn’t know it would grab us.  It was disturbing, mostly because we knew the events in it were dramatizations of real acts of rendition.  Rendition is a policy that was initiated by the Clinton administration.  Rendition is a political word for “kidnapping.” Individuals who are potential threats to the United States or linked to people who are potential threats to the United States can be kidnapped and taken to not-so-secret secret prisons around the world in places like Morocco and Guantanamo without oversight by the judicial system.  In other words, there is no warrant issued, no proof of connection to our enemies required, no notification of arrest made to the family of the detainee, no trial, no law. 

The rendition policy is said to have been created as a way of combatting terrorism, detaining potential terrorist threats.  But the policy has evolved.  It now is believed by some to entail not only detention but also torture.  The film raises important questions about the effectiveness of the program: Will a tortured starved man say anything to stop the abuse?  Is anything he says trustworthy?  And ethical questions: What is torture? Is the torture of the innocent with the guilty an act of terrorism?  Is the death and torture of the innocent an acceptable price for U.S. security?  Questions about the wisdom of torturing one’s enemies and concealing it: Does the kidnapping and torture of thousands create more enemies than it destroys?  And questions about our form of government: Can our elected officials – the most wealthy and powerful supported by the wealthiest and most powerful – ever be trusted to act in the best interests of anyone but the most wealthy and powerful?  If the son of a wealthy and powerful American who contributes to political campaigns were to be kidnapped in an airport and sent to Morocco to be starved and electrocuted, would rendition be stopped by Congress?

One special feature on the DVD was a documentary called Outlawed.  It’s not very good.  And it tells the story of only two men who’ve been allegedly tortured and imprisoned without trial by the U.S. government in secret prisons.  And there are holes in the story and we’re only hearing their side of it.  But even the little bit of information it provides on our rendition policy is disturbing enough I think to test the trust of the most patriotic citizen among us.  The simple question I went to bed with was this: Is the best way to combat a violent unethical enemy to behave as violently and unethically as he does?  That’s not what I teach my kids about how to treat bullies.  But then, I can hear some of you typing soon, my kids aren’t being blown up on the playground.  Not yet.

Weird date night to say the least.  Weird world.