“Punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.”
Abu Ghraib? No. Guantanamo? Nope. The Mississippi prison farm in “Cool Hand Luke”? Sorry:
Tens of thousands of Irish children were sexually, physically and emotionally abused by nuns, priests and others over 60 years in a network of church-run residential schools meant to care for the poor, the vulnerable and the unwanted, according to a report released in Dublin on Wednesday.
The report, linked above, is stomach-turning — this wasn’t the 16th century, but the 20th. This wasn’t one or two bad apples, it was a broad and deep conspiracy of sex abusers and sadists. It didn’t go on for a few months or years, but decades. One of the religious orders named within, the Christian Brothers, had the wherewithal — and the balls, for lack of a better word — to successfully sue the commission before the report came out, to keep names out of it. This was in 2004. Five years ago.
When I read accounts like this, I find it useful to imagine myself in the abuser’s shoes, participating in, oh, let’s say the beating while “hanging from hooks on the wall.” I try to imagine all the places, in the process of carrying out such a punishment, at which one would have the opportunity to have one of those Scorsese camera-pulls-back moments, when one could see oneself clearly: Now I will lift this kid and hang him from this hook…OK, where did I leave my lash?…OK, swing the arms a few times, loosen up the shoulders… And I can’t do it. Any child in such a position must have been hysterical, or fighting, or in shock. Torture is hard work for everyone; sometimes it really is heavy lifting. You have to go home at night, look in the mirror and think, just another day at the office. I really can’t fathom it.
So the discussion for today, if I may kick it off: What happens when this happens? What sort of group hysteria takes over that keeps participants from blowing the whistle? Are new members of a group chosen on the basis of their willingness to beat and rape children, or for their willingness to remain silent? What’s the deviant psychology that takes over and creates the conspiracy of silence? Is it just the Milgram experiment, over and over?
Or does the answer lie in this simple sentence, deep in the NYT story? The Vatican had no response.
Your call. I’m sorry to duck out on such a bummer note, but I have so much to do today it isn’t funny. Turns out running two websites is more than 2X the work.