Why have discussion and opposing torture become controversial?

In Amy Goodman’s opening remarks at the Michigan Policy Summit, she told the story of some students in New York and their fight against censorship.

These drama students had developed a play that enacted soldiers’ words about the the war in Iraq. They learned their lines, built the sets, but their principal told them they could not perform it at school.

Why not? “The play is too controversial when it deals with war.”

Of course, artists make lousy slaves, so when the New York theater community heard about this censorship, they rallied to the students’ support. The students got to present on a major New York stage, and the play got more exposure than they ever would have at their high school.

Why did this strike me so much?

Because right now my organization is organizing to support the National Religious Action Campaign Against Torture “Banners Across America” campaign to invite houses of worship to display banners that simply say, “Torture is wrong.”

One local pastor declined, saying “we don’t want to hang controversial banners on the Church.”

When students are denied opportunities to provoke discussion of the most important social issue of today and when pastors are afraid to declare “torture is wrong,” because it is too controversial, we live in dire times. We live in a time when we need to fight for the soul of America.

I don’t mean that the way that Billy Graham means that, calling for a religious conversion.

Rather, I mean a fight for our conscience. A fight for our values. A fight for open discussion.

We need a fight to live in a nation when it is a matter of course that students discuss social issues.

We need to fight for a world in which saying “torture is wrong” is controversial, and that we don’t even have to worbanner because the belief that torture is wrong runs so deep and is so uncontroversial that even the thought of U.S. sponsorship of torture is inconceivable.

For some things, there should be no controversy.

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