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San Francisco Cherry Blossom Parade

May 2nd, 2005

The Real World
Monday. For some reason (I'm slower as I get older), listening to the news from Iraq, all of the bombings - fifteen in one day over this last weekend - it occurred to me that yes, a great many people are being killed, but each of those bombings required a bomber willing to commit suicide. I had an image of a never ending row of would be bombers stacked like any other munition, eyes open, ready to go. And they do go. They go in cars or trucks or walk to wherever it is they're directed and they pull the trigger. Fifteen in one day. Shit. There doesn't seem to be any shortage of volunteers.

I watched The Battle of Algiers Sunday, a French film evidently both famous and influential in how the world came to perceive not only the battle for Algeria in the early sixties, but how “liberation” movements in general really worked. Made me think of Iraq: the bombings (the women bombers in Algiers left their "packages” at their destinations and then skedaddled before the explosions killed the requisite number of men, women and children) and how we ourselves are now interrogating prisoners. Torture is directly addressed in The Battle of Algiers, something we don't seem to be willing to directly address today. The French commander said if you want to keep Algeria (or anywhere else) under your control, you sign on to torture, because that's the only way you can win.

Is that true? The movie is ambivalent, a statement of what is, rather than what should be. Is torture necessary in a fight against terrorists and “liberation” movements? I sure as hell hope not, but hope is no guarantee. (I was kind of hoping for unimaginable wealth and a nine inch dick, but neither one of them seem to have come to pass, although the surgeons say they can trim to fit.) I believe torture tips the balance against you in a political fight, but I'm not an expert. A good part of my resistance is my own personal revulsion, my own personal fear of the prospect of living in a society where torture is meted out like parking tickets, just another tool depending on the crime.

Did the boys (and girls) at the top, military and government, condone - well, not actually condone, but encourage - torture? Sure. Everybody understands that's what happened, what continues to happen. I mean, come on, we're sending prisoners to Kazakhstan. They drop prisoners into vats of boiling water in Kazakhstan, our own State Department says they do. Anybody not understand what's happening to the prisoners we're sending to Kazakhstan? Really?

That's why the question. Somebody has evidently decided torture is the way to go. The old “when times get tough, the tough take their gloves off” and all the slack jawed idiots nod their heads in unison. Does torture work? Does anybody know? I suspect there are those who do. Let's talk about it. I suspect if the question were honestly stated and an answer pursued we'd learn it was just another “truth” that wasn't true.

And if it was? True?

Then let's find out. Half the people they put in Guantanamo are evidently there in error and they can't let them go because after all this ducking of questions it wouldn't look very good. So they don't. Is that true? I hope not, but then I say I know how hope squares with the real world and then pull the covers up.

The photograph was taken Sunday at the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade with a Nikon F5 mounted with a 135mm f 2.0 Nikkor lens on Ektachrome E100G and processed by New Lab.