To Hate is Human, To Forgive - Not So Much

"I'm not supposed to say this but what keeps me going is hate. Every morning I wake up and feel a moment of hate for those who tortured me and enjoyed it. That hate fuels me."

His brutal honesty was both a breath of reality and a wake up call.

He is one of the 110 black men tortured into coerced confessions in the 1980’s and early 1990's by Jon Burge in Chicago. Under the shield of authority, Burge and his men burned, electrocuted and suffocated men in order to gain confessions to crimes they did not commit. These were not innocent men, for the most part - the man speaking was an enforcer for one of the prominent street gangs in town. It is likely that he beat, tortured and perhaps murdered others in this role. But he was innocent of the crimes he was tortured into confession for. In lieu of actually doing the job they were employed to do, Burge and his detectives opted to cheat the law, to tarnish the entire justice system, for an easier road to conviction.

I've read others claim that these men deserved to be tortured and put away - that Burge was a hero, putting away the bad guys regardless of the laws he broke, regardless of the trust in authority he destroyed - like Sorkin's Colonel Jessup, a man who sits on a wall and faces down evil as if that position justified his every racist, sadistic whim. Like Jack Bauer with a pointy pillowcase on his head.

An eye for an eye, they say. Rough justice, they say. By any means necessary, they say. What they don't say, because they either don't see or simply don't care, is what this "eye for an eye" process creates. It isn't justice. It isn't truth. The bloodlust that foments this sort of vigilante attitude really only grows one thing.

Hate. A fuel for a daily rage that cycles between torturer and tortured, criminal and victim, aggressor and aggrieved.

His hate for the men who tortured him and got away with it, who smiled as they called him Nigger and beat him and humiliated him and applied electrodes to his balls and earlobes and burned his skin with cigarettes, seems completely human. Normal. Who, in their right mind, would NOT feel hate for men who did this him?

And somewhere in Chicago is someone HE beat or tortured or whose loved one was killed over a gang dispute and that someone feels hate for HIM. Someone who wakes up and sees his face as he or she feels that spark plug of black hate start the blood pumping in the veins.

And, given that humans are at least consistent in their brilliance in hurting one another, that someone is likely hated by someone else. Maybe for something as petty as an online unfriending.

How would I react to being tortured?

It's easy to assume I am above such bestial urges. It's self aggrandizing to presume that I, having a more civilized upbringing or a more privileged existence, would never resort to acts of hatred and revenge. But what if someone tortured my mother? What if someone harmed my closest friends? What if someone burned cigarettes on my skin and put a plastic bag over my head repeatedly?

That's when the concept of forgiveness is both impossible and absolutely necessary, I think. And if not forgiveness at least a belief in our system of justice. Yet, when those entrusted to carry out that system of justice become animals, monstrous creatures of racial intolerance and horrifying vengeance upon anyone they decide to profile and incarcerate, we are ALL in deep shit. Not just those who skirt the wrong side of the law but every last one of us. If I am allowed to carry out my revenge fantasies on someone else, then anyone can.

I'm not in a position to lecture anyone who has been through torture or wrongful prosecution to adjust his perspective. I've had some obstacles in life, I've had my fair share of hardship, but I've never been in a position in my life when society's guardians have decided, based entirely on the color of my skin, the loudness of my voice, the fundamental visuals of ethnicity, that I somehow deserve to be arrested and brutalized. I was lucky enough to be born white and have a strong, loving and attentive mother and an indoctrinated belief that education was an end in itself. I feel anger at injustices in the world but have never experienced the soul crunching, crumbling of self image that being subjected to the helpless, hopeless Kafaesque loss of freedom and the cold, sadistic grins of men who enjoy both tacit authority and authentic pleasure in my pain.

Ultimately, the reason we cannot accept the use of torture - on anyone for any reason - is because it's so fucking easy. Our baser natures are always wanting to come out and allowing the truly nasty parts of ourselves to run unleashed upon each other is a guarantee we are no more rational or evolved than diseased, feral animals.

"I'm not supposed to say this but what keeps me going is hate. Every morning I wake up and feel a moment of hate for those who tortured me and enjoyed it. That hate fuels me."

What makes him admirable is not that he does not feel this hate. What makes him honorable is not that he has put a violent criminal past behind after having paid far too great a price in being unfairly tortured and imprisoned for 24 years of his life. What makes him worthy of our respect and our tribute is that he has so little to lose and yet denies himself the easy satisfaction of immediate and violent revenge.

Like most of us, he wants no empty apologies. He wants justice. And justice trumps revenge on every playing field known to man.