I believe that torture is wrong. This is my core value.
This I believe.
I have never been tortured. But I did have a physically violent father who made me feel, many times during my childhood, that existence itself was ugly and that I did not want to be alive.
What I experienced was only a very faint echo of what those who are tortured go through. But it made me understand what is is evil about torture, why it is a primary offense against the world and against the holiness of life. What torture does is to poison someone’s experience so that experience itself, our presence in the physical world, becomes unbearable. Rape does something similar — some human-rights experts believe that rape is a form of torture — because it takes something that is by rights pleasurable and even sacred, human sexual experience, and turns it into a physical and emotional experience so foul that it cannot be borne without the splitting of the self.
I believe that torture and rape are the primary sins that human beings can commit because they destroy our ability to love the world. They are worse than any other crimes, even murder, because they cause extremely intense suffering for many, many years after they are perpetrated, sometimes as long as their victims live.
And the suffering can go on even longer, because torture and rape often provoke horrible acts of revenge and so perpetuate themselves.
When my father hit me in the head as a child, he did not utterly demolish my capacity for joy, but he made it very difficult for me to experience it — like an athlete trying to run a race with a 150-pound backpack made out of concrete attached.
I do feel joy, but to do that I have to keep myself limber and super-healthy, do the equivalent of working out six hours a day and employing elite strength trainers, professional stretchers, sports medicine specialists, chiropractors, massage therapists and the best nutritionists in the world.
For people who have been tortured, joy, beauty, sexuality — all the things that make life holy — come far, far harder than for me. Even after the torture stops, its victims continue to live in hell forever. This is a crime that no higher cause can justify, not even if it were true that torture could save lives.
This I believe.
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