The following remarks were delivered by Executive Director Jennifer Copeland at a press conference introducing House Bill 740 to end North Carolina’s role in torture.
All the people who spoke ahead of me told you about what happened in North Carolina and how it happened. They mentioned that information gleaned through torture is seldom, if ever, reliable. So, you know the facts.
I’m going to suggest a reason for why we did it anyway. What I have to say is more about us and less about the 49 people we know of who were victims of torture on our watch in our state. You now know about them. I want to tell you about us.
The truth is, cruelty comes naturally to us, to humans I mean, maybe not this particular group of people gathered here today, but humanity in general. We all read Lord of the Fliesin high school. We’ve also seen it at work on the school yard.
Generally speaking, our cruelty is driven by fear and greed. We want more. We’re afraid someone else will get it. Sometimes, we are genuinely afraid for our lives, afraid someone else will take that. In the early 2000’s, I think that’s a lot of what was going on in this country. Maybe it still is, but we had it in spades starting September 11, 2001.
Because this fear and greed is our natural inclination, nearly every faith tradition practiced by humanity puts the brakes on this behavior. My own faith tradition, Christianity, recently celebrated Easter. In that celebration, we confess that peace is the only way to real life. We confess to follow a savior who would die rather than fight back against an unjust system.
We tell that story every year to remind ourselves that without these stories, we will always regress to our baser selves. The stories tell us we can be better than we are. We can be people generous enough not to be afraid when we lose something. We can be brave enough not to torture others when we’re afraid. And most importantly, we can admit when we’re wrong.
We’re here today to admit that rendition, detention, and interrogation are wrong. We’re here to confess that we can do better.
Some of us may recall the story told in Christian communities around the world Friday, two weeks ago, the story about when they came for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. They came out to arrest him with swords and clubs as if he were a bandit; and one of his disciples took a sword and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. But Jesus touched his ear and healed it. And Jesus said, “No more of this.”
No more of this. We can do better. Thank you.