Desensitized to torture

It is estimated that more than 14,000 torture survivors live in Minnesota.

As many of us walk the streets of our communities, we underestimate how many of our new neighbors carry a history of torture. Many are victims of war; others were caught in conflicts and genocide.

Torture is a political weapon that states and repressive regimes use to create an atmosphere of fear in which people are frightened to express dissent or engage in political or public spheres. According to the United Nations, torture is an intentional and consistent infliction of mental and/or physical pain for the purpose of punishing or coercing into obtaining information. We underestimate how deep the scars left from torture penetrate. Torture involves a physical and psychological effect; it affects not only individuals and families, but also societies as a whole.

As our country develops a torture fixation, many remain silent despite numerous Americans being morally opposed to the idea of torture. People often forget to make a human connection. It is easy to reduce a person to a trait, a terrorist or collaborator, and deny basic human dignity based on that trait. Three-quarters of Americans believe torture and abuse are morally wrong. Despite this, detainment camps in Iraq, Guantanamo and Afghanistan have more than 11,000 people in custody, and torture thrives as a tool of interrogation. How many innocent people are being detained at the dark prisons remains unclear. Until legal entities establish guilt, all these individuals remain innocent.

Organizations like the Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis work to assist victims of torture, as well as train public service officials in facilitating healing communities for torture survivors. The Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights works to promote human rights and prevent the violation of those rights, and it creates research material, legal assistance and other efforts.

Torture is never an acceptable or effective means of interrogation. Societies must adapt broader understanding of torture. Minnesota has the reality of experience within its community. Given this reality, there needs to be a stronger campaign against U.S. torture.