Teaching on Torture

and sleepy sighs,
tired eyes,
8:30 am
on a college campus
in a basement classroom
with a tiny window.
How do we tell them?
How do we tell ourselves?

How do we teach about torture?
Reading the words,
speaking the voice of a perpetrator,
a confession
and asking “does the ends justify the means?”

How how do we teach about torture?
Reading the words of a poem,
speaking the voice of a mother
searching for her disappeared son,
and asking, “Have you seen my son?
Have you seen him?”

How do we teach them about
where the perpetrators learned
these “interrogation techniques”?
Within the halls of democracy,
and liberty,
“huddled masses
yearning to breathe free.”

How do we explain to them
that at a different time and place
we -in this very classroom-
could all be carted away
for merely thinking these thoughts,
and our mothers’
could have written poems about us,
and the military officers could have wondered
if the means to our ends were justified?



**Note: I am currently TAing for a class in which we are learning about the Latin American authoritarian regimes, and have spent the week talking about repression and state violence, and human rights atrocities. We are reading from Marjorie Agostin’s book of poetry An Absence of Shadows, and The Flight: Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior, by Horacio Verbitsky.

These topics have been a part of my work and studies for a long time. I’ve worked on cases in the international and domestic courts to attempt to hold perpetrators accountable, I researched this for my MA thesis, and have also done grassroots organizing to preserve historical memory. Teaching other young people about it in a classroom setting is a whole different thing….

More resources:
See School of the America’s Watch work, US’ role in training Latin American military officials
US use of torture post 9/11 – CIA Torture Report, and read other documents.
School of the Americas graduates arrested in Guatemala – read about it on DemocracyNow


“Have you seen my son?” by Marjorie Agostin, in An Absence of Shadows


3 responses to “Teaching on Torture

  1. Pingback: Teaching on Torture II | EmaBee's Art·

  2. Pingback: Carrying Stories | EmaBee's Art·

  3. Pingback: Memories: Navigating Chile’s Microbuses | EmaBee's Art·

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