On July 8, The Guardian published a video to YouTube of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) undergoing what should be an unusual procedure. The video, originally released by human rights organization Reprieve, shows the force feeding technique used on hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay.
Before continuing, I encourage you to watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6ACE-BBPRs. I briefly explain what happens, but you need to see. You need to feel your stomach turn over on itself to really understand a fraction of what’s happening at Gitmo.
I don’t give two shits who you are or what you’ve done; no one alive on this planet deserves this torture. In the video, Bey is shackled and strapped down before a tube is inserted into his nose. In this moment, they have put shackles on his status as a human being. As the tube goes in, Bey lets out the most soul-rattling cry of despair and pain. In this moment, they shackle their own humanity.
This is only round one. Bey begs them to stop–literally begs them with all that he is–and as gloved hands hold him down and restrain him, a voice off-camera agrees that the filmmakers’ have made their point. Bey is released and releases his sobs.
As I watched, my hands were clasped one over the other, and both pressed firmly to my mouth. I teared up and wanted to vomit, looking on from the comfortable sectional sofa in my roomy flat in Cape Town. I sit here, warm and safe, while an inmate with every right in the world to protest what is done to him every day continues to suffer for not going gentle into that good night.
Somehow America has ended up on the wrong side of history. As children we’re given this delusion of grandeur that our nation is one of liberty, justice, and freedom. Really, though, we’ve come up in a nation that gasses its own people for experimental purposes and battles perceived threats to political imperialism with tubes and torture. It’s so easy to look back in retrospect and say we didn’t know any better back then, look how far we’ve come, how grateful we should be that things are different now.
Nothing has changed. Our government has preached inequality and Western superiority since its creation; the only difference is that now the American people can see these injustices in real time. You know what that means? It means that by our own inherent humanity, we are called to action. This video isn’t something that resurfaced fifty years too late; this video demonstrates an abhorrent practice that our government enacted, supports, and promotes in its political prisons.
I looked at my flatmate after watching and said, “I don’t know how I can be part of a country that does this to people.” I meant every word.
The saddest part, though, may be that ours isn’t the only country. I asked my flatmate, “Where can I go?” because this happens everywhere. More often than not, you’ll find that the people of a country take no issue with people of another. Rather it is their government who is intolerant and oppressive. So when will we, the people, rip the torture tube from our noses, burst out of these politically-imposed shackles, and rise up against the government machine? Our nation was made of a group of people who could no longer bear the injustice in their homeland. The world is out of space; we can’t run away and start anew. The legacy we are meant to carry forth into the next generations is one of perseverance and strength, one that says we came to know of the tyranny of our “leaders” and wouldn’t hear of it.
It becomes up to us now if our brothers and sisters fighting worldwide for the struggle that is their own, that is just as real to them as those abstract ideals of which we are so impassioned that they become tangible, if they must rot in a prison that stomps on their religion, on their souls, on their human worth, while we carry on in silent acceptance.