Monday, August 13, 2007

Cry Fowl on Torture

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

It's a crime against nature, but I did it anyway, saved some pigeon from a prolonged and horrible death after the stupid thing slammed into our sliding glass balcony doors, and got stuck on the terrace.

That's what I think happened, anyway. I only came after the first thud, saw the pigeon and the pigeon-shaped smear on the door and made my assumptions.

I considered leaving it there. A month ago, its cousin caught me in the head with such a splashing shower of crap it took a roll of paper towels, a bath, and a Laundromat to get it all off. Now I had one on my balcony, and could have turned the tables, maybe shat on it for a change.

Despite my hard-boiled self I was moved. Every time it worked up the energy to fly off into space, it smashed against the dirty Plexiglass designed to keep toddlers from falling into the noxious schoolyard below. Three or four times it tried, each with a sickening thud that caught me in the gut.

There was something familiar about it. A bird in the hand, then the Bush, our great U.S. President getting ready to bomb Iran after his resounding failures in Iraq, not to mention that jolly vacation destination Afghanistan.

Opium growing is up again, and the Taliban retaking villages where they can, and elsewhere exploding suicide bombs. In Iraq, soldiers and civilians alike are still dropping like crows with West Nile. Women are back under wraps that Saddam at least didn't insist on. Queers get a couple of bullets in their heads for wearing ponytails.

Now Cheney's pushing for fun and games in Iran, and why not throw ourselves against that brick wall with U.S. commanders blaming Tehran for everything from the suicide bombers to the roadside bombs in Iraq? It's all a terrible plot, though for once Condi is up in arms against it, pushing for dialogue and diplomacy instead of the heavy artillery.

The smart money's on Cheney. He always gets his way. I imagine he will now, too. After a few harsh words from Dick and a prayer meeting Bush will claim the idea as his own and fly with it no matter if his father intervenes, or that little French pipsqueak Sarkozy who was invited for a picnic this weekend, but however much he loves the U.S. can never get behind this war unless he wants Paris to burn.

How many times can you set off with such optimism, slam into a solid object dragging a nation behind, without a little self-reflection?

If you're like the pigeon, endlessly. With each false start, each collision I'm astounded Bush hasn't put it together with the bruises on the U.S. economy, our heritage ripped to shreds with that black op torture.

You must have read the New Yorker piece about what the U.S. is doing in secret prisons for our "War on Terror," turning sinners into saints by mortifying their flesh, destroying their minds. Destroying ours.

Even the interrogators have nightmares. "When you cross over that line of darkness, it's hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it's well outside the norm. You can't go to that dark a place without it changing you."

As for me, I turned away from my small chance for revenge, the pleasure of a helpless foe, the power.

Pigeon feathers were starting to accumulate in the corners, and there was poop on the tile. Each thumping crunch pointed to a new concussion, and the withering chance the creature would get itself off without an injury. There's nothing I can do for my country, but this pigeon anyway, had a lesbian rescuer.

I did hesitate. I'm afraid of birds, and I was on my way out to sign a contract for an apartment. I wanted to leave it there, hoping against hope the creature would think to fly up first, up, goshdangit, up, and then out, before I got back, but every time I watched the stupid thing just tried to go directly out.

Imagining a return to broken wings and filth, I pulled on a raincoat and gloves, everything but goggles which I would have worn if I'd had some after watching Hitchcock's birds, and went out on the balcony, muttering lies I would have said to a horse, like "Calm down darling, everything's fine, just fine."

I pushed a broom towards it, slipped it under the scared flapping wings, lifted it up, complete with bird, and watched the fat dirty thing fly away at an astounding speed considering the bird brain damage.

I got no backwards glance, or coo of thanks, nothing but a little stray fuzz and the greasy pigeon-shaped smear of Turin marking pity on my door.

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