Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mos Def gets a taste of the Guantanamo treatment

Today we find ourselves at the intersection of Cuba and famous rappers. Again. 

Three months ago, JayZ and Beyonce came under fire for a "business trip" to Cuba and subsequent song lyrics criticizing the president. I posted about it here.

This morning, as I have most days in the past two weeks, I opened up my YouTube app to search and obsessively replay Robin Thicke's, "Blurred Lines."

A top suggestion quickly diverted my eye - a man in prison orange, head restrained. The title - only partially visible - said all it needed to earn a click.

While waiting for the video to load, the mind reels. Why would Mos Def have to be force fed? In prison orange. Damn. What could he have done? I didn't realize we force feed our prisoners. 

The 4:minute :38second video uploaded just a day ago by Britain's The Guardian documents Bey's attempt at enduring the "standard operating procedure" of force feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay. 

It's currently got 819,534 views. The clean version of Blurred Lines boasts 83,849,401.

A couple of facts, in case you haven't yet used the past four minutes wisely to watch the video. Or at least as much of it as you can take to understand the severity of the situation.

A title screen in the video states that there are are currently 120 detainees on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay and that 44 of them are being force fed against their will.

Though as of about 18 hours ago, NBC reports that "the U.S. military holds 166 foreign captives at the detention camp on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. Of those, 106 are on hunger strike, with 45 being force-fed as of Monday, according to a Guantanamo spokesman."

I believe I can safely say this was Bey' first encounter with a feeding tube. After having his wrists and ankles cuffed he's strapped to a chair. 

The "SOP" starts. Gloved hands begins the obviously painful process of inserting a feeding tube into this man's right nostril. At one point it took at least three faceless medical professionals to restrain him - holding his head and laying across his chest to keep him in the chair as part one of the procedure was complete.

It ends there. Part two never happens.

Bey begs for it to stop, emotionally breaking down and finally getting his signal across that this was not for show - that he was done with the experiment in which he had agreed to partake.

In retrospect, a safeword may have been helpful. Just saying.

For Bey, this experience was obviously traumatizing. He may be a very talented rapper, but last I checked he didn't have any Oscars. It was painful for him. He was visibly shaken. 

It was painful to watch; At times I felt my gut wretch.
But Bey is a force feed virgin, and he's no Terri Schiavo either.

The detainees have been doing this a while. And after spending the past so many years being held in Guantanamo, I confidently believe that this is not the worst of the treatment many have received under the care of our watchful government. 

The video raises questions. Red flags, if I may.

I ask myself, why would this man volunteer to do such a thing? To raise awareness, obviously. Precisely why I decided to write this post.

But for me, it's not just about the force-feeding. I mean, technically, we're keeping these men alive by feeding them. Doing a service if you will… I'm sure someone somewhere is telling themselves that at night.

The point is, Americans are told that we are a great people. And that I'm not negating. But how are we seen to the rest of the world? 

Our ambassadors and liaisons may be saying all the right things, using all the right buzzwords and making sure the media reports the right version. But the men and women working for the government as soldiers, spies and most recently drone operators -- these are the impressions that will be lasting.

An article in the Global Post cites a May 23 speech in which President Obama addresses the force feeding practice in Cuba and asks, "Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that."

NBC reports that a US Court denied inmate's requests to end the force-feeding on Monday, and that only President Obama has the power to intervene. 

What you reap is what you sew, my friends. And my concerns are over the treatment of human beings within our own borders and beyond. We've designated our leaders to act on our behalves and they've taken liberties that we as a nation have so tamely relinquished.

It's time to demand better.

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