Did you see President Obama’s remarks about torture, as the Senate prepares to release the long-in-coming report on the matter? He said, “Yeah, our guys tortured some folks,” but we shouldn’t make too big a deal out of it. Journalists jumped on the word torture: like Voldemort, no one is supposed to use the dread word, though in this case people seemed to welcome the president’s candor. I’d say we should listen to the next two words: some folks. That seems a little casual to me.
I wonder how we would have reacted if George Wallace had said, back in the 1970s, “Yeah, our guys lynched some folks.” We shouldn’t make too big a deal out of it, Wallace might have added: it doesn’t happen anymore, at least not often. We have to look ahead. What would we think about Governor Wallace, or any leader, if he had said something like that about torturing blacks to death, burning them to death, and hanging them from trees?
President Obama likes to use the word folks. He likes to be folksy. Dropping his g’s, as in the Republicans got “to stop hatin’ all the time,” becomes part of the presidential persona. To bring that casual tone to the subject of torture surprises me. “Yeah, we tortured some folks.” It sounds like a junior high schooler trying to be cool. “Yeah, we depantsed some guys after the game.” I guess the “folks” we waterboarded and hanged from walls at black sites should feel the same about their treatment as those guys who get mistreated in junior high school: it’s in the past – forget about it.
You know, when the president talks this way about torture, Voldemort resides comfortably in our deep politics, not to mention our conscience.