Tonight I saw another phenomenal movie, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. Like Soldiers of Conscience, this movie was about Iraq, this time looking at what happened, step-by-step, to create the situation conducive to American torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The movie shows so clearly that what happened was premeditated and planned from the highest levels. It equally shows how America no longer has any moral standing in the rest of the world. Whereas once we were considered to have the highest ethical standards, treating enemies better than required under international law, now we are seen as torturers and terrorists, looking for legal maneuvering out of justice and kindness, as we parse what the definition of is is so we can waterboard one more enemy combatant. This movie provoked great sorrow from the gut as I contemplated what remained of this once noble experiment that was America.
This evening was part of the Meaningful Movies series at a local church, something I've seen on Meetup.com often, but had not attended in the past, thinking erroneously that the movies had been canceled due to lack of participation. After the movie there was the opportunity for discussion and sharing- something I really needed, for the images were as horrific as the thoughts inspired by them.
Because the movie showed how, step-by-step, individuals who had no greater inclination to torture than is typically found in the military could come to a place of engaging in sadism and sexual torture, because it built this up slowly, I could relate. I could see in myself how I could walk that same road. For there are times when I've been angry with others, and wanted evil to befall them. And this is the first step that those at Abu Ghraib took, on their road to perdition. And then, watching this movie, when Rumsfield and George Bush came up, I wanted something bad to befall them. I wanted justice to be done, and they to be responsible for all the lies they've told and all the vampirous delight they've taken in all the deaths they are responsible for. There was a rage in me. And suddenly I saw how I had come to the place of dehumanizing Bush and Rumsfield- just as those at Abu Ghraib had done to their victims, just as Bush had done when he authorized the use of torture for American prisoners of war.
I was also disturbed by the hisses and cat calls from the audience, whenever Bush's face appeared on the screen. Oh, it wasn't the whole audience, just some loud members. And it isn't as if Bush didn't deserve it, or deserved more respect because he's our president. It was more that visceral rage, that lack of compassion for him, that I found shamefully echoed in my own heart. For ironically it was lack of compassion that was the entire focus of this movie. But what good is it if we pick and choose who we are compassionate towards? How does this make us any better than the US military or those at Abu Ghraib?
And so that is what I shared in the discussion after the movie. How the slippery slope towards torture allowed me to see the echoes in my own heart, particularly in my feelings towards Bush and Rumsfield, and needing to recognize my desire to dehumanize others- for we only dehumanize those we feel deserve it. And from the crowd I heard a few in agreement, as well as a number of those vocally disagreeing with me, advocating that Bush and Rumsfield really deserved this and worse. And I was struck that, it is so hard to see that we are all made in the image of God, and that there is therefore that of God in everyone. Even Osama bin Laden. Even George Bush.