Friday, December 09, 2005

Torture & "The Finger"



"In the eyes of many, America is no different than the former regime in Iraq that brutally tortured and intimidated prisoners." Congresswoman Shelley Berkley

England's high court, the Law Lords, has finally stepped up and spoken out against torture. The Law Lords' ruling that evidence obtained through torture by other countries--in particular the US--is not admissible in British courts. They also made it clear that Britain had a "positive obligation" to uphold anti-torture policies abroad as well as at home.

How long will it take for the United States Congress and Supreme Court to do the same?

Lord Bingham, author of the lead opinion said, "The principles of the common law...compel the exclusion of third-party torture evidence as unreliable, unfair, offensive to ordinary standards of humanity and decency and incompatible with the principles which should animate a tribunal seeking to administer justice."

Another member of the court, Lord Hope, wrote, "Views as to where the line is to be drawn may differ sharply from state to state. This can be seen from the list of practices authorized for use in Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. authorities, some of which would shock the conscience if they were ever to be authorized for use in our own country.''


No reply or defense from the Bush administration. Except maybe for the picture shown above.

So it seems fitting to relate a historical tidbit about torture currently making the email rounds. Whether apocryphal or not, I offer it as metaphor for the attitude of President Bush and his minions toward those would deplore torture.

The Origin of "The Finger"

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers.

Why, you ask?

Because without the middle finger, it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow, rendering English soldiers incapable of fighting in the future. The longbow was made of the native English Yew tree. Drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew").

Beginning to catch on?

Much to the amazement of the French, the English staged a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, in essence: See, we can still pluck yew!

As 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say with an English accent, the consonant cluster has gradually evolved to the easier fricative 'F,' and the words are often employed in conjunction with the one-finger salute.

But wait, there's more. Because the arrows used with the longbow are made of pheasant feathers, the symbolic gesture became known as "giving the bird."
There are many who feel it is still an appropriate salute to the French. As far as I'm concerned, it's an equally fitting gesture toward Bush and all his fellow Right Wingnuts who support and condone torture.


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2 Comments:

Blogger Thomas said...

I like knowing that social conservatives can forgive showing the finger in public yet can't forgive gay people for being gay.

2:43 AM  
Blogger Stef the engineer said...

Actually the English archers waved TWO fingers at the French (supposedly) - the standard British insult is the V sign with both fingers.
Demonstration is

http://www.ideaorg.net/skinscribe/html/webold5.html

3:56 AM  

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