Earlier this week, a friend asked me how aspiring surgeons learn to cut. She couldn’t imagine ever putting a knife to someone else’s flesh.
“Habituation,” I told her. “You get used to it.”
I’ve spent a lot of time since that discussion thinking about my response. Like others in this country, I read about the recently declassified contents of four memos that describe brutal interrogation techniques condoned by the Bush Administration and carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency. But as horrified as I was by the content in these 100-plus pages, what continues to haunt me are the descriptions of the individuals responsible.
Many of them seem like ordinary professionals. Some appear to be not all that different from, well, me.
Can anyone become habituated to the horrific?