My first real, vivid memories of this world took shape in a time and place where the universe had no grand villains.
Perhaps Stan Lee & Co. were on a short hiatus.
Adolf Hitler and the evils of WWII were decades and decades past, more like horrid fables than my reality. The end of the cold war had meant an end to the “communist” evil, Muslims had yet to leave their day jobs en masse to become full time terrorists, the Israelis and Palestinians were signing the Oslo accords, and while the land grab and brutalization continued, there was that glimmer of hope. The president of the United States was more notorious for his libido than his war mongering antics. Khomeini had died and I knew very little about his quiet, uncharismatic heir apparent. Rafasanjani, though certainly not as popular as his successor Khatami, was nowhere near as despised as Ahmadinejad. I vividly remember images of Yeltsin, Clinton, Rabin, Arafat, Rafsanjani, etc, etc, on the evening news. But there were no big, internationally acclaimed bogeymen on the world stage. No superstars, no spectacles. At least not that a six year old would recall.
Yes, that was also the age when Iranian and Iraqi corpses were still freshly rotting out on the fields, the blood gargling, ripe, moist. The Rwandan genocide was taking place before our eyes. But somehow so long as the savages are civil enough to remain in their own decrepit, miserable cage, far from view, it just never seems so bad.
Fast forward just a few years, and all that had changed. The world had become a full fledged comic book. The good guys with the fair(er) hair and the shiny, designer superhero capes and armor, the bad guys with the coarse ugly beards, barbaric tongue and no table manners.
And beneath all of that, the crumbling and crushing of bones and flesh.
All of this did not come about overnight of course. I was just too young and naive to predict or understand what was coming.
So today, as this saga continues, I fail to see the significance of yet another corpse. Even though it was a corpse saturated with all the hate and evil that there is in the world, the flesh and bone of fathers, the tears of children, the blood of mothers and sisters and wives. Even though it is a corpse that is long overdue. Even though it is a corpse that massacred thousands of innocent lives, and annihilated the possibility of many more. But I cringe to witness what he has left in his wake: in his rotting carcass, he has left a world in which there are too many of his clones roaming, killing, watching. In killing us, he has had the power to sliver in and replicate himself.
It was the ripening of this horror story, this endless replication, which allows the senseless slaughter to go on. One death will not change it. Except for those like O
sbama, who would have us think that this really is a comic story with good vs. evil, with one grand opening and one majestic finale.
But what finale?
Will American troops be coming home now?
Will Afghans and Iraqis be left to live in peace (or war)?
Will the people who see fundamentalism as their only route to survival, decide to embrace a more tolerant worldview?
Will the hundreds of thousands of lives that were ruthlessly destroyed for this great “success” be redeemed at the cashier’s register?
Will the US suddenly cease to be a mighty military killing machine?
Will this seneless slaughter stop?
So I fail to see why the absence of one life really carries any weight – except for a certain O
Will this “better world” for which the terrorists – American and Middle Eastern – strive now finally become reality?
I pretty much doubt it. Whoever was writing the comic book has a sick sense of humor, or knows tragedy all too well. Unlike most superhero stories, you can no longer tell the good from the bad; the superhero from the villain; the damsel in distress from the evil sidekick. It all becomes one and the same.
“They’re savages, they celebrate our killing and death” is what I have heard so many times before.
Last night, the streets of Washington must have been an ironic site indeed.
But one thing this will do: it will serve the spectacle well. Journalists, analysts, experts, pundits, etc, etc will write and talk and bark and spew for months. It will be a marvelous addition to the comic book. Along with images of the airplanes crashing into the twin towers, along with the tears and blood of the dying, along with “mission accomplished” and one
terrorist’s politician’s pompous victory video speech after another.
sbama claims that the world is now a “safer” place. Just like that, like switching off a button or waving a magic wand. Who knew it was that easy? But will this “better, safer world” for which we non-terrorists strive go one step closer to becoming reality?
I pretty much doubt that too.
Especially because when we talk about building this “better world”, this vague notion that is the topic of discussion everywhere, this alternative reality with which we all flirt but for which few seem willing to sacrifice, there is a “hint” of a dilemma. The dilemma, of building this alternative world, or glimmers of it, is that we do not get to do so on a clean slate – we will build it on a canvas awash with the blood of children, with the tears and echoless screams of the innocent. “Certainly, the past never does pass in the commonsense meaning we give to the word pass”. Though in life their voices were never heard, in death, the echoes will live on. Their anguish will haunt us always, and they shall be reborn.
But for now, we celebrate. We celebrate, because as a nation, there’s nothing we can’t do.
Two wars, two trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands hurt and killed and brutalized, ten wasted years to get one man and he says you can do anything.
Spiderman would be proud.