I thought I’d put literary quotes up every few days or so. Here’s the first…

This is attributed to Thornton Wilder in his – as I remember it from high school – beautiful play, Our Town.

“People are meant to go through life two by two. ‘Taint natural to be lonesome.”

Gorgeous, isn’t it? I love the way the voice of the speaker comes through with the use of the vernacular ‘Taint and the simple language expressing this rather profound, and certainly true, thought. The humanity of the statement is raw and hits you pretty hard, even isolated from the rest of the text.

Will people ever learn this? We think we know it, don’t we? But we don’t. We make it seem conditional. Only certain people need to be “two by two.” This is what we think, really, because this is how we act.

Case in point: Politics and punishment. Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement in conditions many of us believe to be barbaric, cruel, unusual. Solitary, no permission to exercise, no blankets, half naked, being given anti-depressants to combat the effect that this arguably torturous treatment will have on him. (Isn’t it interesting how it’s okay to cause a disease as long as you give meds for it simultaneously? No preventative care here. No way.)

So, today The Guardian has an excellent article by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella contemplating this particular feature of the American penal system. “Where’s the outrage?” it asks. Where, indeed? Check out the sub-head. Is this really the headline Americans want to accurately represent them? Because, right now, at least for Manning, it does.

So, there’s the Manning confinement, but there’s the huge issue of when is this treatment ever, ever okay?

I’d say never. Because, as Wilder so beautifully pointed out in this play that high schoolers all over America read, “‘Tain’t natural to be lonesome.” No, it isn’t. And it isn’t civilized to enforce it on anyone. It’s torture.


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