Monday, September 23, 2013

A Psalm for the Prisoners in Guantanamo

The following is from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. This 88th psalm is taken from the New Revised [English] Standard Version.
1  O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
2   let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.

3   For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4   I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
5   like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6   You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7   Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

8   You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9   my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10   Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
11   Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12   Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

13   But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14   O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15   Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
16   Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
17   They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
18   You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
When I read this, I thought immediately of the Guantanamo detainees, shuttered away from humankind, terribly far from family and friends, subject to beatings, force-feedings, endless interrogations, profound isolation, sleep deprivation, forced drug injections, emotional abuse. While the poet appears to have written the psalm to express the desolation that can overcome any human being borne down by the suffering of human life and loss, it appears specially apposite to the condition of the detainees, still locked in indefinite detention, prisoners of an arbitrary, capricious and cruel regime.

And we, this society as a whole, is to blame for their suffering, by failing to stand witness, for failing to demand human decency stand before one's own tremulous fears. May any deity that be forgive us our weaknesses.

May this prayer reach the God of those who despair in the US prison meant to symbolize the supposedly omnipotent reach of the US war machine.

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