The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tortured by Mistake

It was absolutely statistically inevitable that people would be unjustly tortured (just as its inevitable that people be unjustly arrested, jailed, and executed…no justice system is perfect).  Today’s headlines included the story of Syrian-born Canadian software engineer Maher Arar, “rendered” and sent to jail in a secret CIA in Syria.  There, for more than a year, he was interrogated, beaten, and whipped with electrical cables.

And now, it appears that he is entirely innocent.  I have no interest in playing footsy with the definitions of torture.  I am very worried about the mentality of the officials who want to know just how much flesh they can peel, how much fear they can induce, how close to death they can take someone and still be “legal.”

Interrogation experts have stated repeatedly that there are other means of gathering information.  Many suggest that torture is inefficient.  I know that I try very hard to live by the rule of treating others as I would have them treat me.  This includes the concept of a clean death, especially in a combat arena where all participants have agreed to play.  It does not include torture.

My people were tortured in the process of working them literally to death (don’t believe me? Look up the statistics on life expectancy for slaves: approximately 23 years at a time when whites lived to about 38.  Within 50 years after slavery ended, that life expectancy had risen to about 37 years.  Do the math).

I’m sorry.  Anything that is wrong done to me or mine is wrong done to anyone.  There is no other point of view that, to me, aligns with Spirit.  For some of those who defend this behavior to simultaneously proclaim themselves Christians makes me want to vomit.  It really does.

Jesus wept.
A letter from a student in India, regarding a recent post where I suggested that you should set a writing goal such as “one million words” and move steadily toward it, sending in your stories and essays for evaluation…

Dear Steve,

This letter has evoked a response in me. After reading
this one, I went through calculations of my entire
writing career of 15 years covering both vernacular
and English.

To my amazement, the percentage of rejection stands at
around 20% ! What should I do now? What can be the
ideal attitude of a writer at this state of things? I
wish to have a few lines from you.

Warm regards,

Well, I’d say if your rejection stats are no more than 20% you are an exceptional writer indeed!  You should be aiming at the highest quality publications you can find, in whatever way you measure that, either money or status.  By sending your material to the toughest editors in the field, you are getting high-level feedback from the best in the business.  Congratulations!

My son Jason has been waking up at ungodly early hours of the morning (starting at about 4:30) and then refusing to nap at preschool.  He’s actually causing a problem, and waking the other kids.  Does anyone out there have a suggestion?

Very disappointed with the Pope over his recent comments about Islam, that the Prophet Mohammed brought nothing new and positive to the world.  Even more disappointed with his “apologies and explanations.”  Everything said in response to the (rather predictable and human) outcry suggests that he’s sorry people were offended, but that he meant exactly what he said.  Wow.  Not exactly the kind of contribution to the global discourse I would hope for, unless one is trying to start a holy war. 

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