At some point, the unwillingness to let in that light becomes as grave an evil as the inability to be moved by what it reveals. At some point, we can only say of those who continue to dwell in darkness that they do so of their own willing . At some point, ignorance passes into deliberate self-deception, naïveté into apologetics, good intentions into a willing blindness to the harsh reality of sin.
For a great number of torture apologists, that is a point that has long since been passed.
Schwenkler could hardly be more right. We cannot tiptoe around the fact that our government engaged in profoundly evil acts in the name of American citizens. No matter how vehemently we disagree with the actions of the torturers, the fact remains that they were done in the name of the American people. It is true, of course, that “we” the citizens of the United States are not morally culpable for what our elected representatives and their subordinates did. But we are politically responsible. If we fail to pursue justice and punish the malefactors, we start to share in the blame for the actions they performed.
It is tempting to think that the only thing we need to do is prosecute the wrongdoers (or talk about doing so) and then walk away. But if we want truth in addition to criminal justice, we need to ask ourselves why the same society produced the evil of elite authorization of torture as well as the grassroots ghoulishness of Abu Ghraib. Surely it had to do with many things, including those person’s anxiety to save American lives and blindness to evil. But in addition to all that was our shared cultural belief that the body is different from the person, that we as humans don’t realize what neuroscience partially suggests, namely that humans are their bodies.
The body is not property that can be disposed of however one wants. This Lockean view, that we are citizens who “have” bodies (instead of being citizens who are bodies) leads to a state that, just as it can seize property when it wants to build a highway, can torture a body when it wants to win a war. Maybe this means that we all deserve blame for torture to the extent that we buy into a shared cultural idea that undergirds many of the not-so-bad things we do, but is ultimately capable of buttressing brutality.