Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thought - Torture

If I've learned one thing as I've grown up it's that there is very little certainty.  I used to be a very black & white person, someone who believed that there were definite answers.  But I've seen how much gray area exists in most subjects, most arguments.  I would say that most topics are conditional, they depend on circumstances, there are things we can't be sure of, there are uncertainties that can never be defined.  And so when faced with a social or moral problem I have a hard time saying "always" or "never".  I may play the devil's advocate sometimes, but it's only because not many issues have perfectly clear cut answers.

That doesn't mean I have floppy morals standards, I can still make statements on my beliefs, they're just often followed by an exception to the rule or an understanding that my view might not cover all bases.  Abortion for example; I would say I'm strictly against it, but I can't make myself get upset about the morning after pill, not because I want to give up my stance on the issue but because I understand that fuzzy areas exist at the edges of my convictions.  Another example would be guns: I'm for strong laws and bans on guns, but I understand why people want them in their homes and can't fault someone for trying to keep them there.

And now we come to the topic of torture.  I have a black & white stance on this, but I can't help seeing a little gray area.  I would say that no one deserves torture, that every human deserves the equal right to be treated like a person, and that no one in authority should have the right to torture some one's body because they have broken a law.  However, what if my kids were taken?  What if someone took my family and I got a hold of one of the perpetrators, would I torture them to make them tell me where my family was?  I think so.  So I can't stand up and so "no torture ever" because I can see myself using it, albeit in a very unlikely fictional scenario.

With the Boston bombings and the subsequent capture of the bomber, this topic has resurfaced.  Some say he should be tortured, that he shouldn't be given his Miranda rights, that he should be a labeled as an "enemy combatant".  But I would say to those people that we cannot forget that he is a human.  He is a young man who did a horrible thing, but he is still a person who deserves to be treated equally.  Does that mean we set him free?  No, he's still allegedly broken the laws that he agreed to live by and should be punished if found guilty, but that doesn't mean that by breaking them he became less deserving of human dignity.  Now, with that said, I don't have the energy to get upset if we torture him.  I see why some people would want to, especially those affected by the bombings and those who fear that it could happen again.  And I guess that's where the gray area comes in; I don't believe in torture, but I'm not running to protect a supposed terrorist.

We all have our moral standards, our concrete beliefs, but I think we all have our gray areas too.  That doesn't mean we're wishy-washy, it means that we are able to understand that our morals come from a very limited viewpoint; our own short lives.  There are things out there that we do not fully understand, and may never be able to grasp until we live through them ourselves.  And so fuzzy edges exist, and maybe that's not a bad thing.  Maybe that keeps us from totalitarian beliefs and ideals that will ultimately lead us wrong.  Maybe gray areas are our own version of checks and balances; a way to make sure we don't forcefully believe in one thing so strongly that we lose sight of the bigger picture.  Sounds good anyway, whether or not it's actually put into practice.


  1. Couldn't agree more. Uncertainty is a sign of intelligence and empathy.

    1. I think the old philosophers had it right; logical conclusions coming from doubt and debate.