By Ted Braun
Traditionally male violence against women has been delivered by fist or gun. On May 6, however, another delivery system was brought to light: chains and rope. Ten years ago a man in Cleveland, Ohio, kidnapped three young women in their teens and then kept them bound and hidden in his house for a decade, during which time he continued to rape and beat them. One of his captives was impregnated five times and then punched in the stomach to cause miscarriages. One of the captives was allowed to give birth to a daughter. This horrific situation was brought to an end when one of the women was able to catch the attention of a neighbor who called 911. Police soon arrived, broke through the front door, and rescued the women.
Violence was not unknown to this man, Ariel Castro, of Puerto Rican background. Previously married, he had beaten his wife, breaking her nose twice, knocking out a tooth, dislocating her shoulders, and threatening to kill her and their children. She found refuge in a women’s shelter. One of his grown daughters recently described him as a “monster.”
This recent experience in our nation raises significant questions for our American society: what can we do about “monsters” such as this, and how can we help develop a society that has empathetic concern for the well-being of all its members, creating structures that would make our human connectedness more possible. Somehow we have to transform our social structures from a dominator model of relating to a genuine partnership model of mutual egalitarian give-and-take. This is especially true in our gender relationships, where women have been considered to be the “other,” to be dominated, controlled, and used for the pleasure and profit of men. It would be interesting to have the three young women as part of this conversation.
Another example of a place where people have been held in captivity for the last ten years or more is the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It is surprising to discover that there is U.S.-controlled territory on the island of Cuba, but the reason goes back to the early 1900s. As part of the Cuban-American Treaty in 1903, Cuba agreed to lease to the U.S. in perpetuity 45 square miles of land and water for a naval and coaling station. The original yearly rent was $2,000, then later raised to $4,000. Since 1959, however, Cuba has refused to cash this annual rental check, denouncing the treaty with the U.S. as a violation of Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which declares a treaty is void if procured by the threat or use of force. To describe this development in another way, it was similar to a man in the process of divorcing his wife, demanding that a part of her, her vagina, would remain under his control.
In 2002 a military prison was opened at the Naval base to hold persons alleged to be unlawful combatants who had been captured in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. It soon became known for its indefinite detention of detainees, denial of protections under the Geneva Conventions, brutal interrogation practices, physical beatings, sleep deprivation, sound and light manipulation, confiscation of personal items, desecration of the Qu’ran, and use of solitary confinement as additional punishment. Some of the prisoners there have been held without trial for more than eleven years.
The figures are stark. 779 men have been brought to and held in Guantanamo since January 2002; 604 have been transferred elsewhere. There are currently 166 detainees at the prison. 86 of them have been cleared for immediate release, but our government has put all release efforts on hold. 46 men are slated for indefinite detention without charge or trial. There is growing despair among the detainees who don’t see any prospect other than dying there. More than 130 of them are now participating in a hunger strike to protest their condition.
In response, prison officials have brought in forty Naval nurses and specialists to force-feed the hunger strikers. When the detainees are force-fed, they are first shackled to a “restraint chair.” Then the specialists force a two-foot-long tube through their nose, down their throat, and into their stomach, for pumping in nutrients. Detainees testify that this is exceedingly painful. Human rights groups have called it torture. The American Medical Association has come out strongly against this practice. “Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” AMA President Jeremy Lazarus declared.
Cuba would like to have this indignity of having the Guantanamo base and prison on its soil ended and the land returned to Cuba. It has no power over the U.S. to accomplish this, however, even though Americans would feel the same way as Cuba if another nation in the world could claim 45 square miles of territory in the U.S. as its own, under its flag.
There is one other Guantanamo problem confronting our nation that we need to work on, the same one Ariel Castro had in Cleveland. How do we treat those we consider the “other,” in this case, those from another country and of another faith (most of the detainees are Muslim)? How do we develop an empathic concern for all our fellow human beings on this planet?
Ten years in captivity, whether in Cleveland or in Guantanamo, is a mighty long time. But as Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.