Thursday, October 16, 2008

The fluttering eyelids of a torture survivor

I had a meeting last night during the presidential debate, though there was a television on in the room and I had a clear view of it. I was struck by how much John McCain's eyes were fluttering. It was like he had sand grains stuck in both his eyes and kept flipping his lids involuntarily, to clear his vision and free his precious tissue of the irritation - but failing in that effort.

When I got home, I watched much of the debate as a rerun. Even with the sound up, I was struck again by how much McCain's eyes fluttered. This effect just made the man look impossibly nervous and out of place. I went to sleep wondering what conditions were associated with eyes fluttering.

I got up this morning and did a websearch for "eyes fluttering." You would think I am making this up because I so badly want the other guy to win, but what turned up from my search was a woman named Gail Kastner having a flashback of an electroshock treatment that was tantamount to torture, as narrated by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine. Kastner had been describing the dreams she had of her torture treatments:

"I hear people screaming, moaning, groaning, people saying no, no, no. I remember what it was like to wake up in that room, I was covered in sweat, nauseated, vomiting - and I had a very peculiar feeling in the head. Like I had a blob, not a head."

It's Klein's description of what Kastner looked like as she described this horror show that Google found when I searched for "eyes fluttering":

"Describing this, Gail seemed suddenly far away, slumped in her blue chair, her breath turning into a wheeze. She lowered her eyelids, and beneath them I could see her eyes fluttering rapidly. She put her hand to her right temple and said in a voice that sounded thick and drugged, 'I was having a flashback ...'"

As we all know, John McCain is a torture survivor. As I certainly would (I'm far from tough), the man cracked under torture and even attempted suicide. These facts are often discussed in connection with the discussion of whether or not he suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and whether that makes him a poor candidate for commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

McCain's many opponents in the veterans movement insist that he does suffer from this clinical condition, that it explains his impulsive and explosive behavior, and that you don't want a person suffering from this horrible condition making decisions about war for a government with an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons.

These are serious issues. Without trying to capitalize on another man's suffering, I submit that in last night's debate, under the harsh glare of the television lights and intense international media attention, John McCain exhibited all of the symptoms of a torture survivor suffering a flashback of the awful hours of his interrogation.

I have respect for John McCain as a veteran and compassion for him as a fellow human being, but he is not fit to lead this complicated, precarious, war-torn country and its enormously powerful military. Anyone who votes for John McCain is endangering us all.


The rude sketch of McCain is mine, from the previous debate, when he said that puzzling line about our being Americans, rather than rifle shots, which I treasure as an important contribution to American surrealism.

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