Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Excerpt from “What Torture’s Taught Me” by Rev. Bill Schulz

Taken From “What Torture’s Taught me” by Rev. Bill Schulz
Former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Former Executive Director of Amnesty International

So who are the torturers? Are they madmen? Deviants? Hardened criminals? Sexual predators? Almost never. In fact, most police and military units weed out the psychological misfits from their midsts because they know such people have trouble taking orders. No, the horrible truth is that the vast majority of torturers are average Joes (occasionally, but rarely, average Janes).

And it is remarkably easy to turn Joe into what most of us would regard as a monster. You put him in a restricted environment like a police or military training camp under the command of a vaunted authority figure. You subject him to intense stress. (The Greek military police in the time of the Greek generals, for example, were renown for their brutality and they got that way because each of them was subjected during training to severe beatings, forced to go weeks without food, and not permitted to defecate for up to fifteen days at a time.) And then, having created an angry, bitter, but obedient servant, you provide the sanction, the means, the opportunity and the rationale for that servant to take his outrage out on a vulnerable but much despised population. “These are the people who are threatening our country.” “These are the people who are killing your comrades.”

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