Latest reports on US abuse of prisoners in Iraq leave me (almost) at a loss for words.

Reports concerning the investigation into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US servicemen continue to emerge– this one today from one of the soldiers being court-martialed almost leaves me speechless.

I finally was able to go see “The Passion of the Christ” recently, and as I watched it, I was reminded of comments others had made about how the brutality of the Roman soldiers seemed to be overdone.

Reading about the brutality of some of our servicemen in Iraq who “interrogated” (tortured sounds like a better word) Iraqi “detainees” brought many of those images and scenes from “The Passion” to my mind. When you read a report like that, can anyone have any doubt that in the depths of the human psyche lives a dark, disturbing force which thankfully is not able to rear its head publicly– at least in the way these news reports dramatize– in the popular press that often? Or maybe it does, and I (like many others) have become desensitized to it, and the impact which news like this should have upon us. I suppose if you speak with a police officer or prison guard they might have a different view… some people in our society work with “the dark side” of the human psyche every day and are more familiar with it. Being in education, fortunately I don’t have to deal with it that often in the same way a police officer might have to… but of course, periodically, I do see glimpses.

I remember in college reading a lot of political philosophy and thinking that Rosseau’s romantic conception of human nature sounded plausible and accurate. Sure, I thought, human beings are basically good, we just want to get along with each other. All that talk of selfish interest from the Thomas Hobbes fan club is a bunch of bunk.

Hmmmm. I have had a lot of opportunities to rethink those naive ideas since college, and news articles like the one linked above provide even more fuel for that fire. I now have no doubt that as human beings, we are fallen creatures, living in a fallen world. Fortunately we usually have checks and accountability on the “dark side” of our natures / flesh which would, if left unchecked, encourage us to do things best not spoken of. Having just finished a class on human development, and spending some time reading about Freud and his conception of the “id” and our unconscious, I have had some additional time in past months to reflect on some of these ideas.

Accountability is vital. For soldiers interrogating prisoners in the MIddle East, and for average people living in suburban America or anywhere else. How tragic to catch a glimpse into the nasty and brutish side of the human psyche. 🙁

Of course this brutality is not one-sided, and the beheading Nick Berg is just one recent, well publicized example. How many people are combing the Internet to watch this video? What does this say about the influence of this “dark side” of the human psyche in their lives? The 9-11 attack on the United States was brutal. Continuing terrorism across the globe, by many different factions, is brutal.

Does anyone else ever wish you could escape the global village?! Thank goodness the few times I have watched the news in the past week, the images of Nick’s beheading have been very limited. There are some things we should absolutely not expose our eyes to. This is not a new concept:

“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.”
Luke 11:33-35 (NIV)

We seem to be surrounded by a quite a bit of darkness these days. Perhaps not more than in the past, but maybe so. Whatever the comparative reality, the prescription for each of us is the same. I want my eyes and body to be full of light, not darkness.

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