Why is anyone surprised by the abuse of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? Wingnuts defend the abuse of prisoners saying, "This is no worse than a fraternity hazing". I agree that there is a connection, but I don't see it as an excuse.

After all, if New York police think sodomizing a handcuffed suspect with a broom handle is a proper interrogation technique, why should towelheads in a war zone expect better?

A certain sick segment of the American public loves police brutality, with the sort of ferocious intensity the Romans used to display for the slaughter of animals and slaves in the "circus". On COPS, the show devoted to police brutality as entertainment, they announce that "All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law". It reminds me of the sheriff of Maricopa County (where Phoenix, Arizona is located) who delights in torturing inmates in the County Jail. Consider: not everyone in "jail" (as opposed to a prison or penitentiary) is a convicted criminal. Jail is where pretrial detainees are held. So, by definition, a lot of inmates in a jail are innocent of any crime. But who cares, right? We love abuse just for the sake of abuse. After all, you know we all deserve it.

Calvinism has taught us that no one is truly innocent. Have you ever noticed how "Christian" stuff for little kids always seems to focus on Noah's Ark? Granted, the rainbow and the animals and stuff are cute, but ... the story? God decided to kill off every living creature on earth, except for Noah, his family and whatever beasties he could load on a boat. We begin to teach the depravity of humankind from an early age.

And then there is hazing. There is something about this sort of activity which requires pushing the boundaries of reason and prudence. Hazing inevitably becomes increasingly physically abusive, hazardous or degrading. It gets worse until someone dies. Recently (May 4, 2003) there was a hazing incident among Illinois high school students. It's been in the news, not because it's a rare or unique incident, but for the same reason the Rodney King beating was given so much media exposure: because someone videotaped it. Students were choked, assaulted and forced to eat pig intestines. Five students ended up in needing medical treatment, three for concussion, one laceration, another for fractures of the skull and tailbone. Now about a year later, three of the victims have sued the perpetrators and their parents. So what words of wisdom did one of these parents have for the world? One of the parents, Phyllis Gendelman, was quoted by the AP, saying:

"America is lawsuit crazy"

Yes, Mrs. Gendleman, America is certainly crazy, but I don't think lawsuits are the underlying problem here.

This is America: a place where someone has to watch you pee into a cup if you want to get a job. This is America: where "Christians" demonstrate the dignity of religion and show their "love" for "life" by screaming at women seeking medical treatment at a clinic, or by carrying signs that say "God Hates Fags" at the funeral of a young man killed for being gay. This is America: where, as a prank, you can call a fast food restaurant, impersonate a law enforcement officer, instruct the manager to strip search a customer, and they will do it!

So, people of Iraq, just keep in mind it's all in good fun, and you'll get your turn to humiliate and degrade someone else after you've been initiated into the club.