Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More thoughts on Lynndie England

Okay, now I'm all over this Lynndie England case. Now I know the guard's name -- the one who was her boss, and the one who is purported to be the father of her child. Graner (the father, boss, boyfriend, pusher) testified today and said that he told her to do what she did and that Lynndie was just following his orders. This goes contrary to what England testified to, that she knew what she was doing and that she knew it was to the amusement of the other officers and therefore she’s guilty.

I also learned that since she’s pleading guilty she is open to be sentenced to ten or eleven years of incarceration as opposed to sixteen years if she pleaded not-guilty. In my hopeful naiveté, I am sticking with my assumption that she’s pleading guilty not to get a lower sentence, but because she’s doing what’s right.

This is so twisted, disturbing, and...weirdly...romantic. I mean, Graner, it seems, was trying to do the right thing. Weirdly, not knowing anything about the details of the case except what I read yesterday and today, they are both acting with amazing I mean, I think she should have pled guilty. I would have. And I think Graner should have said she wasn't guilty, because I don't think she was. Which is what he did.

And then...the baby! OHMYGAWD. They are both, startlingly, taking responsibility for their own actions. I wonder what Graner could get out of testifying the way he did? It seems like he wouldn’t get anything out of it.

It's such a disturbing case. They seemed to have no responsibility and integrity when it came to doling out the torture, but when it comes to this -- is it that it's personal rather than between prisoners? Or have they gained some personal integrity along the way? Has the experience changed them?

All morning, on my hike, I was writing a letter to their son, who was born in October, and who will be cared for my Lynndie's mother when (and if) she goes to jail. I wanted to tell him that everyone has to come to terms with their birth situation -- who their parents are and what their parents did to them. But he, this baby, has a lot more to come to terms with than most people! I mean…oh boy. Both his parents participated in horrible sadism and torture. Both of this parents seemed to take joy in it at some point. Both of his parents are the symbols of what is wrong with the military and this military endeavor and why the world hates us so. His parents are the symbolic King and Queen of the downfall of American idealism. Talk about being born with an original sin on your soul! This kid has a big one. To me, this baby’s life story, now that’s the drama. That’s the subject that Aristophanes or Euripides would have written about.

But what I hope is that this child learns eventually that we all have that Original Sin. This is what I think the Church was trying to convey when it came up with the concept of “Original Sin.” We are all capable of behaving in ways that are cruel and horrifying. All it takes is the right social structure and coercion to bring it out. Not that I don't think there are some individuals out there who are capable of withstanding all the pressure, the enormity of the institutions, all the overt coercion, and still behave with dignity. But those individuals are few and far between. I imagine we all think we are one of those few -- I actually think that I am. But are we, really? What would it take for us to behave like Graner and England? I think the evidence shows that it wouldn't take much. So we all, humbly, have this Original Sin on our souls. We are all vulnerable to abominable behavior. And that's why we must always strive to work against this possibility, by making our institutions veer from it, by making sure the social structure doesn't encourage it, doesn’t promote it, doesn’t institutionalize it.

It's like the Catholic Church. (I know, for me everything is about the Catholic Church, but it's my source of greatest reference!) Those priests who abused those kids, yes -- they are to blame. But they are not a few bad apples. They are part of a huge structure and institution that creates the problem and then hides that problem.

By asking priests to deny their own sexual needs, to expect them to hate themselves if they feel sexual feelings for those of the same sex, (or anyone for that matter), by compounding the problem by attracting men who are underdeveloped sexually and therefore have something to be gained by becoming a priest (I'm not saying that all men who become priests are this way, I'm saying the institution of the church allows for and even inadvertently encourages this type of priest) it creates an environment that makes this sort of abuse happen. And it will definately continue to happen, so long as priests are expected to be celibate.

And then, further, by asking the Church to prosecute and punish their own, it's like asking Rumsfeld to deal with people like Lynndie England and Graner. The only thing they could do is to harshly punish them, make them an example, and then dissociate themselves with them. Rumsfeld would never have to see his own culpability that way. Or Cheney, or whoever. I won't even dignify Bush as being part of it, to me he is such a puppet, he's not worth even mentioning.

What I'm saying that this is an institutional disease, and the England and Graner are merely the pimples that appear on the surface. Just like the Church's problems with pedophilia. The sexual abuse is part of a much bigger problem in the church, and punishing those few priests isn't going to do much without the whole Church changing. I wish Pope Benedict would just go take a few classes on human sexuality. As James Joyce said, "There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear: Lynndie's son! What is he now, ten months old or something? I wonder how Lynndie feels about what she did now that she's a mother. I mean, I think I had great compassion for all people before I became a mother. But being a mother, you see how much each person, how each child has to be loved and cared for in such heroic detail just to get them alive into adulthood. Each of those people in that pile of people she was standing in front of had parents who cared about them, they were nursed and taken to the doctor, and they were comforted when they had bad dreams and each of those people laughed and loved others. And there they were, just piled on top of each other. And now she is a mother. I wonder, oh how I wonder how she feels about it now. I wonder how much she can let herself feel. I wonder how much she is capable of feeling.

In any case, she can't feel good about going to prison and not getting to raise her own child. If I were the judge, here's what I would do. I would do what this judge apparently did. I would not accept her guilty plea. I would not sentence her to jail. I would sentence her to take care of her child and get a degree in human psychology with an emphasis in torture, while she’s monitored closely by a psychiatrist.

And then I would hope she would become educated enough and passionate enough to speak out about what can happen to people if the wrong institutions are set up the wrong way and the wrong ideas get into people's head at just the wrong time. She could turn those awful pictures of her that we all have in our minds into an example of a person who could transform herself, by education and compassion and hard work, into a person who understands how she became who she became. She could actually do some good, work towards making and shaping institutions so that this doesn’t happen again. Oh Lynndie!

I wonder if she and Graner even get to speak. I wonder if he acknowledges that the child is his, I wonder IF the child is his. I wonder if HE knows IF the child is his. I wonder about Lynndie's mother, oh, I wish I could go interview her mother. I bet they have a lot to say.

Shame is such a terrible thing to live with. The worst. Karen Armstrong says that shame is the most potent motivating emotion. Poverty doesn't hold a candle to shame. I wonder what Lynndie's feeling, I hope she doesn't turn her self-hate inward. There's so much she could teach people. Except, I guess first she's got to understand it all herself.

Then I was thinking, her mother is probably my own age! She's 22. I'm 45. It could be. Wow, wow.

All right. That’s enough obsessing about Lynndie England.


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