Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Me, too. I'm still in the midst of not hearing from any of the schools I applied to, and being reassured by professors where I teach that it's still too early to expect invitations for interviews. 'Sigh la vie.'

In other news, the world continues to go to hell in a handbasket, as E! Entertainment Television announced that, Fox having dropped the show, it would be picking up The Simple Life for a fourth season. You know that God is dead when Fox drops a show of such noxious repulsiveness and the world snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by forcing it back on basic cable, where it will continue to provide the various diaboli who sit on the editorial boards of Us and People at least one more year of inflicting these people upon us. Oh, well, at least Martha Stewart got cancelled.

Yet when I am moved to cheer over such matters, I consider the fact that our government is now, essentially, pro-torture--that we have embraced a full-blown "the ends justify the means" approach to our treatment of suspects and detainees. I'm not a loon. I recognize that on *so* many issues--women's rights, civil liberties in general, freedom of religion--we're *so* much better than the enemies we face--no, we're not perfect on any of these issues, to be sure--but we just beat these people by a mile. But shouldn't torture be one of those areas as well, especially inasmuch as it's notorious for producing faulty intelligence and thus serves only as a means of institutionalized terrorism? I'm reminded of Shaw's Saint Joan, where Mlle. D'Arc tells her captors that it's no use trying to torture her into recantation, because she'll just promptly tell them whatever they want to hear, and then recant her recantataion as soon as the torture stops. Well said.

I realize that the blood-lust awakened after September 11th has not really been purged. (Really, we should have just gone ahead and done what we did to release our blood-lust on Japan: one strategically placed nuke over, say, Mecca, really would have made us all feel so much better, and the process of healing could have begun. Well, or it could have just started the war between the West and Islam that, let's face it, is a historical inevitability--and started it when we were still the likely victors.) And so the lust to inflict pain on those who caused us so much--to make scapegoats out of those who resemble in belief or just appearance the men who viciously murdered so many of us--I get it. I really do. And I get the desperation to make sure that it never happens again.

But such excuse and explanation doesn't matter. None of it. Because no matter how good our reasons, no matter how much better than we are than they, torture makes us the bad guys. Period. There is no grey area here. Cheney is not "tough"--he's evil. Rumsfeld is not "pragmatic"--he's evil. And Bush is not "out of the loop"--he's evil. Torture is evil, and an evil knowingly practiced makes the practitioners evil themselves. We've gotta stop this. We really, really do--even more than we've gotta stop letting people watch young Ms. Ritchie and Ms. Hilton make grotesque asses of themselves on television. And that...is saying a lot.


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