Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about words like discipline and sacrifice. I’ve been thinking about those words in the context of war – and more recently in terms of “moments of silence” and reflections on the value of human life. I’ve come to the conclusion that human life (like just about everything else) is all about context. One moment human life is precious – the next, it is cheap, fleeting and flushed away with disdain and without remorse. Lives are fulfilled or wasted in so many varied ways. Much of our pain (some would say “all”) is self-induced. Some might argue it is all external and due to some cause beyond our control. Some of the ways that human beings have devised to debase and dehumanize one another defy description. War, torture, deception, and advertising. Consider advertising and deception about war.
There are reports from the Brits that confirm the deaths of over 650,000 Iraqis over the past four years. I don’t think of failed discipline or an unwillingness to sacrifice on the part of Iraqis – quite the contrary. The questions which continue to emerge are about the American character and it’s fundamental characteristics…the deeply ingrained love-affair with the cowboy, the renegade and the mythical underdog (even when it’s the Yankees-Notre Dame underdog). Consider this:
There is no doubt that Hollywood produces violent films, but that is only the beginning. There is a process of hero-making that elevates certain violent characters into legends. “Dirty Harry” was one such legend. “The Man With No Name” was another. Now, it is worth considering that these types (because it really is not all about Eastwood) were anti-social and frequently driven by revenge or money. These characters are part of the American fabric of life – and have a place right there with comedic legends like Caroll O’Connor (Archie Bunker), Jackie Gleason (Ralph Kramden) and Henry Winkler (Arthur Fonzarelli).
With nearly one million corpses on the ground in Iraq (after a US subsidized 8 year war with Iran), the future for the children of this nation is particularly bleak. It is perhaps a fait accompli that the child with a great memory and the capacity to add 2+2 has been born and pieced together the unspeakable tragedy visited upon his home at the behest of American leaders. It may also be that this child will grow into a capable military leader and charismatic author of a new order in Iraq – in thirty years. And that child may recall the bitterness of his youth: the loss of family members, disemboweled friends, school buildings reduced to rubble, working several jobs from the age of 9 or 10, being imprisoned as a teen for resisting a puppet U.S. government, and being brutalized in his nascent efforts to liberate his homeland’s natural resources from foreign captors. This familiar tale of woe may be met by elders who have survived the worst. These elders may encourage, subsidize and direct his education abroad in an elite Western university. And he may return home to mete out a measure of redemption that is long overdue in the hearts and minds of his loved ones – and who will be able to fault his math?
1 son of a US President who evades war and steals 2 elections + 1 Vice President with questionable business dealings and a penchant for buckshot blasts to buddies + a scandalous administration + fabricated claims to justify a war + 650,000 dead + personal angst = a new Dirty Harry who will care as much about demonization in the American media as Eastwood’s characters cared about being suspended from the force. Surely this child of Iraq (who is probably alive – and not so well) is not really the “warlord” “strongman” “dictator” he will be reviled as in 2028. He is just another gun-toting loveable character out for revenge – and perhaps a little money. Or, perhaps he really will be a man who speaks with forked tongue. History and his survivors will be the judge.
Leopold, King of the Belgians…one of the most demonic practitioners of the “white” Western ethos of violence, brutality and degradation. Initiated the long-standing and increasingly popular practice of cutting off limbs; created the arbitrary and capricious distinctions between Hutus and Tutsis.
“You used to hold me! You used to squeeze me!” – Sung by Saddam Hussein to Donald Rumsfeld on his way to the gallows.
“Used to be my homie, now you act like you don’t know me.” Part I – Sung by Toussaint L’Ouverture to Napoleon Bonaparte on his way to jail for life and death. All this after whoopin’ some serious French ass in Saint Domingue/Haiti.
“Oh, hell no!! Ain’t this about a bitch.” – Geronimo in a boxcar traveling to jail from Arizona to Florida – hotter than a mug and pissed to the highest of pissed-tivity.
“Huh?” – Libyan President Moamar Khaddafi after abandoning his nuclear weapons program in hopes of increased Western support and being told that all Bush and Blair have left “is hard dick and bubble gum – just ran out my last stick is where I’m coming from.”
“Rarely do you see a President out for justice – pass my gunpowder and my muskets, blowww!” – G. Dub on the verge of war. “As long as you muhfukkas are still drinkin’, it’s all good. I’ll run the damn country and tell George to kiss my ass, too. And if there’s some beef, we can roll; but you gotsta keep drinkin! Feel me?!?” – George Washington as the nation’s number 1 liquor distributor and father figure.
So, the revolution may not be televised, but it will be advertised. Best to have a criminal/gangster source of revenue and tell your enemies to kiss your ass – ’cause if you ‘truss, that’s your ass. And that’s a bedtime story that little man in Iraq probably already knows. This is a grave topic and it is not be taken lightly. Violence deserves to be contextualized – and ideally, should not be a ritualized form of entertainment – but it is precisely that and when it visits us, at home, it’s not so funny. Truly being a human being means being able to summon authentic empathy for others that is pure, clean and connected to an action.
I have not decided what I will do, but I know that I will not rush to judgment the next time CNN or someone else introduces a new “strongman” and asserts that he is a threat to me and mine.
Do you know this man?