I was not going to listen to today's program on torture because I was fearful it would get into the graphic description. However, I did keep my radio on and what I heard was more chilling than the feared descriptions of inflicted atrocities. Prof. Rejali's historical look at where certain dehumanizing practices originated shows that the blame for torture is not able to be placed on 'those people' or 'over there.' All civilizations share culpability. And his reference to the Stanford experiment, which I heard about a number of years ago should make us squirm as we wonder what we would do in a similar situation.
A very important part of my classrooms over my 36 years of teaching was helping kids who were bullied-sometimes by teachers!- and those who bullied. I worked hard to build a safe environment built on empathy-giving a voice to those who were bullied and a listening ear to the bullies.I would suggest that empathy played a huge role in those students who did not listen to the directions to increase the 'electricity' in the Stanford experiment and in those people within the govenment agencies who quit their jobs or were the whistle blowers. Those people probably also had at least one person in their lives who supported their empathetic belief system.
A final thought about why church goers spiked higher in favor of torture. I think it could have something to do with the mainline churches paternalistic view of god. I grew up in a conservative Lutheran Synod and later joined an Episcopalian church. When I attended my uncle's funeral back in a Lutheran church, I was struck by the strong paternalistic, militaristic language in the confession and in the hymns that I clearly saw then but had been blithely parroting and singing well into my 20's. Perhaps religions that truly preached an integrative maternal/paternal view of god would result in fewer people inflicting pain on members of God's family.
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