Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 04/19/06

Artist's Statement

This is another one of those ideas thatís been floating around in the works-in-progress file for months nowómethods of torture derived from our everyday life in the U.S. Thanks to Ben Walker for helping me flesh this out in several East Village bars last week. As usual, the leaden premise required only the alchemy of beer and conversation with a hilarious friend to transmute to comedic gold. There really is a breakfast special called the "barnyard blowout" near the farm where I grew up, which is less than appetizing to those of us who grew up on farms, where we had the opportunity to witness authentic barnyard blowouts. I debated whether the TV-watching prisoner should be subjected to the torture of addiction to and withdrawal from My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks, or the late, lamented Firefly. Seemed like Freaks and Geeks was the unlikeliest attachment for him to form, and it was fun to imagine his becoming obsessed with the show from a harshly judgmental fundamentalist Islamic point of view. Except I also thought heíd develop a soft spot for the lovable social misfit Bill. Benís suggestion that one terrorist be subjected to the cruel empathy and concern of crunchy-granola academics was the coup de grace.

I experienced yet another one of those increasingly frequent moments of surreal and terrible lucidity, when I realize how terrifyingly far weíve come from anything I recognize as the America I grew up in, when it occurred to me that weíve started thinking of the hawkish and anti-choice John McCain as a reasonable moderate because heís opposed to torture. A few years ago "anti-torture" wasnít even a political position; it was like being "anti-rape" or "anti-genocide"--it pretty much went without saying, unless you were an out-and-out monster. A national politician being referred to as "anti-torture" is one of those clever background details that a science-fiction novelist would drop to clue us in to the fact that weíre in some brutal fascist dystopia of the future or a nightmarish parallel history where the Nazis won the war. I can no longer pinpoint the moment when supposedly respectable people were no longer ashamed to debate the merits of "torture" in public, when we became an unapologetically evil nation; itís like trying to identify exactly when you ceased to be a decent person and drifted over some unnoticed line into corruption and depravity. The scenario routinely invoked to justify tortureóa nuclear device about to be detonated in Times Square, only an hour until it goes off, and we have one terrorist in custody who knows where it is!--is such a ludicrously unrealistic James Bond fantasy I canít believe anyone takes it seriously. If 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have shown us anything, itís that the first time the Bush administration will hear about a nuclear weapon being detonated in America will be when some reporter tells them about it. Bush will be obliviously joshing around with billionaire donors at a campaign fundraiser while the rest of us are weeping in horror at footage of childrenís skin peeling off in East Orange. Anyway, didnít we manage to beat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan while observing the Geneva conventions? This delusion that torturing people is going to make us tougher in the War on Terror is a fantasy that has more to do with fear and hatred than with real security--like the fearful adolescent fantasy that owning a gun will keep you safe from all those gangstas and serial killers and child molesters you hear about on Fox News and in the New York Post.

A few days ago my colleague and old comrade-at-arms from the war-protest days, Megan, sent me a MoveOn "action alert," urging me to write me representatives and the President and ask them not to nuke Iran. "http://political.moveon.org/dontnukeiran/  was the url." Again, I canít believe the phrase "donít nuke Iran" is even necessary. It seems to me like we really ought not to have to be in the position of begging our government not to nuke anyone, just as in the ordinary course of events I donít have to talk my friends out of raping anyone. But, as Batman once said, "Itís isnít exactly a normal world, is it?"


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