Sunday, July 10, 2005

As many of you know, Scott and Shelley were in London Thursday (they still are, although they are on their way to Ireland soon, I think). Scott had a compelling adventure that day and it merited an article in the paper, in fact.

When I came home from work early on Thursay afternoon, I opened up the puter to see what news had taken place while I was at work. I saw the news about the bombings and immediately tried to call Scott and Shelley. They didn't answer. So I checked their blogs. They were fine (Scott and Shelley, I mean, but the blogs were too). A few minutes later my mom called. I answered the phone with the line "they are fine". She had just gotten up and turned on the news and freaked out because she remembered Scott having said something about King's Cross.

From what I can gather from the internets, it appears that the rightwingers in the US are talking about these events in the same way that they talk about all similar events: incorrectly. The internets are also full of more thoughtful American digestions, so all is not lost.

Nevertheless: I was thinking about the "how can this happen?" and "what sort of monsters?" and "why here/now/us/them?" school of commentary. At the risk of implying a lack of sympathy for the victims and their loved ones, I have to say something about that (I gave this a test run in my local bar last night and it went over relatively well).

Sitting here in my Safe European Home I sometimes consider what this place was like 60 years ago. In keeping with the Metaphorocaust (this is the accepted spelling, I think), please think about the rain of fire brought down, at various times, by the air forces of Germany, the UK, the US, and the USSR (and to a lesser extent those of smaller powers like Italy and Canada) on assorted European cities. Did the civilians (and they were almost all "innocent" civilians, whether in Berlin or Coventry or Leningrad or Warsaw or Hamburg or Rotterdam or wherever) ask one another why this was happening? Perhaps some did, but I suspect most realized that it was more or less directly connected to the WORLD WAR their country was a part of. This doesn't make it OK, in my mind, but it is pretty straightforward.

Terrorism may be more disorienting than 1000 bomber raids but both of them are tactics. They are/were specifically designed to "bring the war" to the civilian population of the enemy country, nominally because it is/was thought that the civilian victims would pressure their states to change policy/surrender. It didn't work in World War Two and, I suspect, won't work now (it hasn't worked in Israel, Spain, the UK, Russia, Sri Lanka, or any other country I'm aware of).

I reckon what I'm trying to say is that when your country is involved in a war it is not unreasonable to expect that you might become a casualty. This has not always been the case (your average Roman citizen had little to fear from the Persians and your average New Yorker didn't trouble himself with Navajo reprisals) but it happens and has happened before.

The only sure way to avoid such things is to stay out of wars. Sigh.

Until then, I suggest that any indignation ("How dare they?") be directed less at the perpetrators than at whichever political/economic/social/religious forces put us in conflict.

I'm reminded of the parable of the frog (or was it a mouse?) and the crocodile, as told by Forrest Whittaker's character in "the Crying Game". In case you don't recall it, I will paraphrase. A frog/mouse needed to get to the other side of a stream. A crocodile offered him a ride. The frog/mouse agreed on the condition that the crocodile promise not to eat him. The crocodile did. On the other side of the stream, however, the crocodile chomped the frog/mouse. As he was dying, the frog/mouse said "but you promised not to eat me! Why are you doing this?" The crocodile replied: "It's in my nature."

And now I must point out something that one of my colleagues noted: my place of employment is a target of opportunity to any terrorist in Germany. What with our "big fuckin' Union Jack" on the outside of our building and all.

Neil Young helps me close this: "Soldier, your eyes. They shine like the sun. I wonder why. Soldier, your eyes shine like the sun. I wonder why."


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