Early this morning, I logged onto the Internet news sites and saw the latest round of images of U.S. troops leering and mugging for the camera as they forced Iraqi men to stand naked and hooded, made them sprawl across one another on the floor in groups, simulating homosexual acts, and humiliated them in front of the cameras in other sexual ways, dragging a naked Iraqi man on the floor, a dog leash around his neck, and other atrocities.
It occurred to me that the reason this is happening, and the reason our country may be shocked but shouldn't be in the least surprised that this is happening, is the following: The pornography chickens are coming home to roost. Or to say it the way the Bible does, the American, indeed Western, fascination and enslavement to pornography has sown the wind and now we’re reaping the whirlwind (cf. Hos 8:7).
The U.S. (along with the rest of the West) has been in the steadily tightening grip of the pornography industry for the last 40 years. It's a boa-constrictor of lust that's not about to loosen its death-embrace.
Hugh Hefner was the vanguard of the Porn Invasion, the tip of the spear, the first whiff of the rot that has steadily decayed our country and culture from within. The massive and steadily expanding availability of pornography, in all its forms (including, I'm sure, some that you and I would never even dream of), has become so widespread that it pervades every element of our culture; movies, TV, books, music, and beyond.
It's no longer just seedy men skulking around back alley bookstores and porn theaters in the bad part of town. These days, pornography is as common and as mainstream as cable TV (where much of it is easily available). It has a place in many, perhaps most, American homes. Perhaps in your own home.
Porn has metastasized across the Internet, and it's there in the mainstream neighborhood video rental places we all frequent. And when the 30-something housewife stops by the video store after getting groceries, she picks up a Disney DVD for the kids and an X-rated DVD for herself and her hubby, for once the kiddos go to bed. Several Catholic priests I know have told me in recent years that the incidents of married women confessing sins involving porn (and related sexual sins) are skyrocketing. And that's just from those Catholic women who still go to confession. The actual number of women involved with pornography is, I fear, staggeringly high. Much higher than we might imagine.
What once seemed to be a man's weakness has now become about as common among women as among men. Teens and even children are now being shaped and distorted by the steady diet of pornography that swirls all around them. Hardly a week goes by without some new story involving grammar school students getting busted for sexual antics (and sometimes crimes) on campus, in school buses, even in the school room. Third graders don’t naturally know about this kind of behavior, much less act it out, unless they are learning it from somewhere. The multi-billion dollar porn industry is finding and forming eager consumers at every level. Its many tentacles slither across our culture, snaking their way into our homes through our computers, televisions, radios, and DVD players.
Which leads me to my thesis about the “bad apples” among our troops in Iraq. Of course it's only a small minority of Americans there who are acting out these macabre sexual impositions against their Iraqi captives, but it seems to me that it's a significant minority. They reflect the moral state of the nation. They are America. And though we recoil in shock and embarrassment when confronted with their stupid and shameful antics with the prisoners, we shouldn't be surprised by their behavior. They learned it here, stateside, on the Internet, in the movies, at their neighborhood video store, in their living rooms remote control in hand to select that night's steamy fare from a variety of hard- and soft-core offerings served up on the platter of good ol' satellite TV.
Is it any wonder that when, suddenly, these military “bad apples” (the blandly innocuous term so many people call them on talk radio these last few days since this story broke) are acting out the depraved images that litter the minds of people who are enslaved to porn? I don't think so. I think it's a perfect example of the old adage “garbage in, garbage out.”
Or maybe it's more apropos to call it a good example of “monkey see, monkey do.”
It's terrible to have to say such things about our fellow citizens, American men and women in uniform who are there in Iraq in our name, but what other conclusion can one draw from this? What else would explain their sexual, pornographic depredations against the Iraqis?
Yes, we're shocked by these pictures. We should be repulsed and horrified. But not surprised.
Copyright 2004, Patrick Madrid, all rights reserved.
Patrick Madrid is an author, a columnist at Catholic Exchange, and the editor of Envoy Magazine.