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March 15, 2015 5:46 PM   Subscribe

The Final Rhapsody of Charles Bowden by Scott Carrier [Mother Jones] [warning, descriptions of graphic violence]
Bowden's last report, for instance, was a confession by a member of the Chihuahua State Police who tortured and killed hundreds of people for a Juárez drug cartel. El Sicario, the assassin, describes in detail how there was no separation between the police and the cartel, how he was just following orders, and how he found himself in Hell. For instance, he became an expert at boiling people alive in a big kettle of water, keeping them alive for a day, long enough to get them to talk — you have a hook and you keep pulling them out and slicing off the dead flesh because they can't feel that, and you have a doctor there pumping them with adrenaline so they won't die. Bowden talked to the sicario for months before he would open up, and then the more Bowden listened, the more he came to see the man as a normal human being, not evil. And then Bowden began to like him. They became friends.
Scott Carrier visited with Chuck Bowden shortly before his death. This profile, based on that visit and decades years of friendship, originally appeared in High Country News. Read Clara Jeffery's remembrance of Bowden here.
posted by Fizz (4 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Fizz at 5:49 PM on March 15, 2015

Thanks so much for posting this - after what seemed like ~5 years of near silence, I was starting to wonder when I'd be reading a similar article about Carrier himself.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:02 PM on March 15, 2015

... and now I see that he has a new book that I completely overlooked when it came out - so thanks again.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:08 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

the more Bowden listened, the more he came to see the man as a normal human being, not evil.
Or, you could chalk it up to Hannah Arendt's classic soundbite: "the banality of evil". A man who is "just doing my job" is dangerous. The only thing more dangerous is a man who is "enjoying my job".

...he knows that the whale is not Evil, that Ahab was wrong. The whale, for Bowden, is part of nature, our nature.
Yes, the whale is a part of our nature, but so is Ahab.

I'm somewhat surprised that he first burned out on Crime Writing when he lost "the distinction between the desires of criminals and the desires of the rest of us." (Banality of Evil, remember?) But when he became a Nature Writer, he really could've successfully ignored the human drama in the desert, but we are all lucky he didn't. And I am especially glad he investigated Gary Webb's controversial (extreme understatement) stories and backed them up.

Bowden appears to be one of the people who figured out some time ago what is just dawning on others of us now - and not intellectually, but from observing Real Life. In the second link, he describes the crime-controlled Juarez as a City of the Future (a bad future), then in the quote from his book Blood Orchid: "Imagine that it goes deeper, right to the core of what we call our civilization and that no one outside of ourselves can affect real change, that our civilization, our governments are sick and that we are mentally ill and spiritually dead and that all our issues and crises are symptoms of this deeper sickness … then what are we to do?"
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:21 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

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