Why would 100 prisoners organize a hunger strike in Guantanamo? Did our Congress answer that question adequately before an army of doctors coerced force feeding? Force feeding is not the opposite of hungering for food. Feeding tubes down the mouth are dangerously painful. Force-feeding is rape of the stomach.
It’s mutilation of the esophagus. And violation of one’s dignity.
Human life begins with eggs, seeds and then food. Food has a double oo. Food is one letter away from good. Good is one letter away from God. I’ve watched a scrawny, pinion-peppered baby robin get fed. I see that tiny dinosaur head with saucer eyes and huge mouth gaping wildly towards the mother. That robin chick clamors for food. It chirps vigorously before, during and after being fed. From mom’s beak, down mom’s throat and then regurgitation into chick’s mouth. Gulp, yum. Food.
But food is something we decide we want. Birds would never feed chicks against their will. Even a severe parent can’t force their child to eat those smelly foods, moving the jaw up and down.
Hunger strikes are often related to prisoners struggling for human rights. In England and the US women fighting the right to vote decided to stop eating about 1910. Pankhurst described the suffragettes’ ordeal, “[the prison Holloway] became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office.” When the prison guards opened her cell door, Pankhurst raised a clay jug over her head, to avoid the force-feeding proclaiming, “If any of you dares so much as
to take one step inside this cell, I shall defend myself.”
Why does the US think that force-feeding is helping humans on the path of sanity and justice? Morally, only the very sick or wounded should be force-fed. Can we learn from the past, or will we veer towards extinction? Alice Paul, who more than Lucretia Mott or Susan B. Anthony, ushered into the White House the right to vote, was force-fed along with other women. Remember by 1913, the campaign for females sufferage (started in 1848), was floating like a dead fish in oily Potomac. In March of 1913 Paul had organized a march of 8,000 women which upstaged Wilson’s inauguration. Later, they organized a sustained picket (first group to wage civil disobedience) in front of the White House, called the Silent Sentinels. In 1916 hundreds of women were arrested for obstructing sidewalk traffic. In jail our foremothers, Lucy Burns, Dora Lewis, and others were beaten, hurled against walls, choked, and kicked. But the worst punishment was being force-fed.
At Guantanamo approximately 100 of the 166 detained prisoners are refusing food. Of those, 29 were being force-fed, shackled to a chair, fitted with a mask with tubes inserted through their nose for up to two hours at a time. Over 130 have joined the hunger strike that began February 2013. Force-feeding is considered torture by the United Nations and condemned by the American Medical Association. One prisoner described force-feeding by saying it felt like, a “razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.
Is the treatment in Gitmo racist? The US treats immigrants as guilty, inhumanely, without evidence. A recent letter from a prisoner says, “I do not wish to die, but I am prepared to run the risk that I may end up doing so, because I am protesting the fact that I have been locked up for more than a decade, without a trial, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and denied access to justice. I have no other way to get my message across…”
Why would so many men and women go on a hunger strike, knowing they will receive the extra torture of force-feeding? They must be fighting for their lives. In 1917 finally Woodrow Wilson persuaded Congress to put the 23rd Amendment to vote. He had promised 5 years earlier in 1911 when first elected that he would defend women’s rights. Only after hundreds of women had suffered in prison was Wilson persuaded to act. Aleluja. Now for 93 years women have reaped the benefit. Suffragists risked their Lives, willing to die, so that we their grandchildren can Live.
What will we say in 90 years about the 30 Guantanamo prisoners asking Obama & Congress for their civil rights? These people, most are innocent, are choosing the torture of force-feeding instead of the long languishing torture of prison without cause.
Jewish scriptures proclaim, “Choose Life so that you and your children can live.” The baby birds that flap and tumble and chirp outside my window eat ravenously. They have their answer. The summer winds blow hot this year. Cuba is far away, and Guantanamo is a nightmare that I choose to ignore. “What does our God require of me?”