The Right to Breathe

When I was about 11 years old, a guy that had a crush on my sister went swimming with us. He was about 18, and his hormones were such that I’m sure he viewed me as a nuisance, just another obstacle blocking his path to the Promised Land. At one point my sister went off to get a snack or take a bathroom break or something, and this boy, who was sitting on the edge of the pool as I was clinging to the side in the deep end, put his hand on top of my head and pushed me under the water and locked his elbow.

I still remember this vividly– watching all my air bubble past my face, feeling my lungs spasm, hearing myself making primal animal-like noises underwater as I struggled and kicked and thrashed and panicked and clawed at his hand  and desperately tried to get to the surface. I got tunnel vision, and the tunnel kept getting darker and darker and smaller and smaller. It felt like it lasted for an eternity. I have never been so terrified or felt so helpless in my entire life. I still have nightmares based on that experience.

Finally he let go of my head because my sister was coming back. I burst to the surface, coughing and gasping and crying hysterically. He laughed. Given his reaction, and her assumption that I tended toward the dramatic, my sister didn’t take the situation at all seriously. I went home crying, and my mother didn’t take it seriously either. But looking back at it from an adult perspective, I’m quite certain that little weasel could have killed me that day. Thank God my sister came back when she did or things could have been quite different. He laughed.

There is nothing worse than not being able to breathe. Nothing. The fact that my boyfriend died all alone while most likely struggling to breathe is something I’ll never get over. I used to help him through his asthma attacks, and the worst part about it was the panic in his eyes. But that last, most critical time, I wasn’t there. He died alone in his truck, clutching his rescue inhaler.

So when I hear Republicans say that waterboarding isn’t torture, or that it’s justified torture, I take it kind of personally. Everyone should have the right to breathe. I don’t think these people understand the waterboarding concept at all. It’s simulated drowning. It’s the same as being held under water. Your air passages fill with water. And when you try to struggle toward the “surface”, that surface is covered in wet cloth.

I once saw an episode of Strangers in Danger where one of the hosts volunteered to be waterboarded to see what it was like. He lasted about 3 seconds, and when he sat up, he looked terrified. He said it was much worse than he thought.

I think every politician who says waterboarding isn’t torture should have to experience it, right in the middle of the rotunda of the House of Representatives. Call it a practical experiment. I strongly suspect that they’d change their minds about the practice right then and there. End of freakin’ debate.

According to The Guardian, a winner of the Pulitzer prize, the recently released Senate report on the torture committed by the CIA includes this description:

“At times Abu Zubaydah was described as ‘hysterical’ and ‘distressed to the level that he was unable effectively to communicate’. Waterboarding sessions ‘resulted in immediate fluid intake and involuntary leg, chest and arm spasms’ and ‘hysterical pleas’. In at least one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah ‘became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth’ … Abu Zubaydah remained unresponsive until medical intervention, when he regained consciousness and ‘expelled copious amounts of liquid’.”

The Guardian further stated: The CIA doctor overseeing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that the prisoner was ingesting so much water that he or she was no longer concerned that regurgitated gastric acid was likely to damage his oesophagus. But, the doctor warned, the CIA should start using saline, because his electrolytes were becoming too diluted.

My first thought is, what kind of a doctor would participate in that sort of treatment? Whatever happened to “first, do no harm”? And he or she was being paid with our tax dollars.

That there is even a question in any civilized human being’s mind that this treatment is torture makes me weep for humanity. And that’s but one of the grisly tales in that report. Standing on broken limbs, rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, beatings, detainment in coffin-sized boxes, and hypothermia are only the tip of the iceberg. If this is what we are capable of as a society, then all is truly lost. I’m sickened.

But I’m hardly one to talk. What happened to that 18 year old boy who tried to drown me? He stopped coming around for some reason. It probably had something to do with the fact that he stopped by to visit my sister one day when I was the only one home, and I kicked him so hard in the stomach that I actually felt my toes going underneath his rib cage. As he stood doubled over, gasping for air, I quietly shut the door. I never saw him again.

water-boarding

[Image credit: fitsnews.com]

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7 thoughts on “The Right to Breathe

  1. KerikM

    I’m glad you got your revenge!
    I hope some good comes of this mess hitting the fan. Torture isn’t even a reliable way of getting information–in that situation you will say *anything* to make it stop. So it must be sheer sadism that makes people do that. It isn’t what this country should be about, that’s for sure.

    1. Well, I have mixed emotions about that revenge, but I was 11, after all.
      But I do agree with you about the uselessness of torture. It’s proven time and time again. All it does is make people hate and distrust us and not take us seriously when we spout patriotic hyperbole.

  2. Christina

    “You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.” – Jesse Ventura, former Navy SEAL

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