Thursday, May 5, 2011

Interrogate yourself

If you could interrogate anyone living or dead, who would it be? I asked myself this question last year after reading an interesting book called “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq” by Matthew Alexander and John Bruning. It’s a compelling story, well written by a guy who was an interrogator. He used a pen name.

This book got me thinking about the nature of questioning, the art and science of interrogation, and the modern narrative debates. Based upon the book and the thoughts it provoked within me, I wrote a play about three interrogators and their subjects.

But back to my question, who would you interrogate and why? What would you wish to know. What secrets do you wish to have them reveal?

After considering the question for a long time, my answer was Jesus Christ. Raised and educated a Catholic, the interrogation of Jesus really grabbed me. The story of the “passion” was something I heard and literally participated in year after year as an altar boy, walking the Stations of the Cross with my priests. The story took place in a real place. The gospels have various versions but a few things intrigued me. In light of how we view and see interrogations, in films, the media, Jesus, while tortured horribly remained vague to his captors. He never really revealed his motivations, and his interrogators seemed to not really care. Pilot washed his hands of the whole thing, literally. So when I read the word interrogation, my mind jumps back to Jesus and his confinement, his questioning, and his torture and final hideous mode of death, nailed to wood.

I’d never think of using torture if I had the chance to question Jesus. I’d really want to talk with him and question him, not his beliefs but find out more about him.

I also think of Abraham. His God interrogated him soundly. That interrogation started a movement of a family…and movements on a larger scale. Some think of it as an order from God, but it always seemed to me that Abraham did a bit of soul searching and made a decision on his own.

Interrogation is in the forefront of our national conversation and I’m glad it is there. We deserve more consideration of this rather dark art and why we as humans seem to continue to use it, how we continue to stretch the boundaries of torture and justify its use. Whatever I believe has no consequence given the fact that the captors, the winners, will always have the power to act as they see fit. Ends justifying means always the nexus of the debate, yet those wielding the water, the nails, the thorns have the upper hand over the people in captivity.

While writing my play, I came to a few personal conclusions, one of which is that the hardest person to interrogate is the self. It’s hard to ask ourselves the hard questions and even harder to give honest answers.

It’s a time now when people are asking a load of questions to others but I feel we need equal time for a bit of personal soul-searching. Thinking back to Jesus, I remember the bit of time the night before he was betrayed and captured. He sat in a garden and interrogated himself in way. Questioned his Father, doubted his role in life, questioned his motives. Rough to read and imagine, yet there’s something rather profound there to consider.

Maybe this doesn’t apply to military interrogations or those related to law enforcement. Interrogation is part of the human experience, perhaps; so ingrained in us that it will always be a subplot in testaments yet-to-be-written. This is not meant to be fatalistic, it’s just a fact we haven’t confronted because we don’t look into the mirror often enough and really interrogate who we see.

If you could interrogate anyone living or dead, who would it be?

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