LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Torture is torture by any other name
Taylor Shiells' Op-Ed "Extreme rhetoric clouds shock debate" (Oct. 23 issue) is a series of misconceptions about our group.It appears Shiells' primary complaint is with our use of the word "torture" on the banner we hung from our table in lower Usdan. Torture is not, as Shiells states, solely an interrogation method; the American Heritage Dictionary defines torture as "infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion" and "excruciating physical or mental pain." Anyone who has read accounts of the pain inflicted upon students at the Judge Rotenberg Center would agree that torture is certainly an apt word to describe the two-second shock inflicted for offenses like nagging, swearing or falling asleep in class. Matthew Engel, an attorney at the Disability Law Center in Western Massachusetts, writes, "I had the lowest voltage of the [Graduated Electronic Decelerator] administered to my arm, and it was the most intense pain I have ever experienced." If that isn't torture, then what is?
The satirical cartoon comparing the JRC to Abu Ghraib is designed to represent the hypocrisy of America, a country that supposedly values human rights and yet allows unnecessary pain to be inflicted on those who do not deserve it. The cartoon is not designed to portray the JRC as being exactly like Abu Ghraib, but rather to illustrate a similarity of principle in the outrage over both situations-we are supposedly a nation in which every person has inherent dignity, but both the Center and the prison are affronts to that dignity.
Shiells praises STAND: a Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, but this group actually employs the same methods as ours. Using Shiells' logic, the STAND coalition is disrespecting the student body by using the extreme word genocide before each individual student comes to his own conclusion about the situation in Darfur. Of course, this notion is ridiculous; there is genocide in Darfur, and STAND is doing an excellent job of raising awareness of the genocide on campus. Our use of the word "torture" is no different. There is torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center, and it is our mission to raise awareness of this torture and eventually put a stop to it.
-Liza Behrendt '11
The writer is a member of Brandeis Students Against the Judge Rotenberg Center.