Christmas Story: Death of a Torture Victim by R.J. Eskow

Dandelion Salad

by R.J. Eskow
Atlantic Free Press
Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The citizens of the homeland didn’t hear about it when he died, and many of them wouldn’t have cared. They should be grateful we’re occupying their country, some said. We’re building new roads and bringing them our civilization. And didn’t we let them elect their own representatives?

The Senators spoke fine words, but when push came to shove they yielded authority to their leader to do whatever he wanted. And so it came to pass that one more body was broken and one more life was taken.

You didn’t need to “profile” him to know he was suspicious — more suspicious than most of the prisoners that were seized and taken to that infamous prison.

His religion, his ethnicity, and his Middle Eastern name made him suspect from the start. Worse, he was an ardent follower of his desert religion, with its holy book full of blood crimes and beheadings. And he was an outspoken street speaker, part of a radical fringe that wanted the interlopers out of his country.

Then there was the matter of the one who turned him in to the authorities. A lot of the folks being carted off to prison had been caught the same way, with an unconformed denunciation from a neighbor, a family member, or a business rival. Many of them had never been named at all. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And this guy looked suspicious, with his crazy desert clothing and his long fanatic’s beard. He didn’t just challenge the foreign occupiers, either. He denounced leaders in his own religion when he felt they had become too comfortable with those who wielded power.

Make no mistake: there were those among his people who would do bloody things, who would kill as many occupiers as they could. He wasn’t one of them. But the torturers weren’t very discriminating. They all look pretty much alike underneath a hood, anyway.

They seized him one night and took him to a secret prison, where they beat and tortured him. They posed him in humiliating positions. The only reason they didn’t videotape and photograph the ritualized pain was that there weren’t any cameras around.

But they made sure that lots of the locals saw him being tortured. They thought it would have a discouraging effect on the more militant ones.

He was innocent. He had no intention of hurting anyone. He was more concerned with the well-being of his fellow detainees than he was with himself. That’s the kind of guy he was.

There were others who were violent, who wanted to slaughter the invaders. But torturing him didn’t help the occupiers find the ones planning to kill. It never has. It only added converts to the rebellion.

The torturers didn’t know that, though. They hadn’t learned from those who had come before them. That’s the thing about torturers: they never learn.

Finally they killed him. It was a pre-emptive and public assassination. They assumed that he would be scorned, ridiculed, and then forgotten. But he wasn’t. His words may have been forgotten among the powerful, but some of the powerless whisper them still.

“Whatever you do to the least of these,” he said, “you do to Me.”


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