How Did Torture Become a “Gray Area”?


For several hours, I have been puzzling over Ulf Kirchendorfer’s most recent post, “Why Torture Is So American!” Irony and satire are sometimes as difficult to understand and to respond to as they are engaging and provocative.

Ulf’s post is certainly very provocative in highlighting the ways in which “torture” may be said to have deep roots in American culture and the ways in which we have been conditioned to overlook the conditions under which many people live and work, which may be said to be tantamount to extended torture. But I ultimately think that Ulf may be conflating brutality and a lack of empathy with torture, when those are more precisely preconditions for being able to torture without conscience.

During World War II, my father served in the Marines and was in the first landings on Iwo Jima. There were 20,000 Japanese on that island honeycombed with tunnels and…

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About martinkich

I am a Professor of English at Wright State University's Lake Campus, where I have been a faculty member for more than 25 years. I have now served multiple terms as the President of the WSU chapter of AAUP, which now includes all full-time instructional faculty, and as the Vice-President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP. I have also served several terms as an at-large member of the Executive Committee of AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress. In addition to serving as co-editor of the Academe blog, I am also a member of the editorial board of Academe and have been a guest editor for an issue of the magazine on collective bargaining strategies. As co-chair of the Ohio Conference's Communication Committee, I began to do much more overtly political writing during the campaign to repeal Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which would have eliminated the right of faculty to be unionized. I have sustained that activism, and at the risk of stating the obvious, I have very much enjoyed contributing to the Academe Blog and to our chapter blog. I also maintain several other blogs to which I have re-posted, by topic, my posts to the Academe blog, as well as some other items.

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