A Twelve Stepper On Torture

A reader writes:

There is saying around certain well-known 12 step programs that we 'act our way into better thinking' rather than 'think our way into better actions'.

I have been reading many of the links, comments and, of course, your blog entries regarding torture for some time and it hit me this morning that this, for me, is the crux of the disagreement. Some of the smartest pro-torture bloggers and commenters out there find one perceived legal lor moral loophole after another, as if by applying their considerable brainpower to the matter they can somehow escape the essential truth that torturing people is just bad behavior. I can relate to the way their minds work.

If I dare to compare the conduct of a democratic nation to that of an individual like myself, a recovering addict, I see the temptation to rationalize behavior on the basis of the survival instinct as a deepening swamp of fear - the fear leads to sadistic thinking, justifications and the loathing of the 'other'. Then I lose all circumspection attained by a clear-eyed view of my own past wrongdoings. Any dignity I have achieved by making amends for past misdeeds or harm to others is wiped out by my justifications for these new survival strategies.

Just as I have lost my way on the path to personal dignity as a recovering addict on a few occasions, I long for the time when the conduct of our elected officials, employees and agents is codified to the degree that there's no more than one person who can equivocate the matter of whether to torture or not. We take presidential elections seriously for a reason, and that man or woman's judgment to step away from 'right action' at such a juncture should surely be one of the criteria by which we elect them.