Thursday, July 07, 2005

Feeling Old and Shot and How

Very little going on today is funny, which leaves me in the awkward position of having to either talk about very serious things, or find some marginally funny things to talk about. Since I'm listening to the saddest song in the world, which I accidentally came across today, I'm leaning towards the first of those two options.

[As an aside, the saddest song in the world is called "13 months in 6 minutes" and it's by the Wrens. It's sad in that great way, though. I noticed how sad it was even though I couldn't make out half the lyrics, and then I looked them up, and then it turned out the song was way sadder than I could've imagined. How 'bout them apples? Find it and listen to it. Actually, I'll see if I can make it available for download, maybe. It takes place in Secaucus, New Jersey! So sad. Part of it sounds like "Good King Wenceslas"! I'm telling you, it's unbelievably sad.]

I got into half an argument this morning about what happened in London (half an argument because I decided to stop arguing), most of which I'm gonna rehash here. Of course, it goes without saying that this morning's events were terrible, especially if they were indeed in reaction to the G8 summit, which is one of the noblest causes that the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations have been involved with in a long time. Why would anyone orchestrate an attack in response to erasing third world debt and providing increased aid to developing nations?

The argument stemmed from the fact that someone made a couple of comments about wanting to "fucking kill" all the terrorists, and about their "dirty fundamentalist" hands. While I'm not trying to twist this individual's words, and I do indeed believe that anyone involved in the bombings should be brought to justice, I believe just as firmly that such hateful speech can be very dangerous.

The danger in anyone saying the terrorists "should be fucking killed" is who can be included in that such a blank slate identity; "terrorists" are not a people. It's not the same as saying "we're going to fight the Nazis" or "we're going to root out Communists." Historically, those were self-identified groups who were united around common goals. Terrorists-with-a-capital-T don't exist as one unified group; one is not born a Terrorist, but becomes a terrorist with a violent action. There is no TerrorLand where they come from, and there is no single creed that binds everyone who commits these kinds of acts together.

Just like Osama Bin Laden's terrorists had little to do with the terrorists of the Iraqi insurgency, the terrorists of today's attacks in London may have a completely different rationale. It would be impossible to unite groups like Al Qaeda, the PLO, and the IRA under a single banner, despite the fact that they have each been labeled The Terrorists at one point or another.

I am in no way defending the actions of any of these groups. Like any rational person, I adamantly condemn violence perpetrated against innocent parties to make a political statement. Nor am I insisting that the author of the original remarks meant to include in her statement anyone besides the individuals directly responsible for what happened in London. I just fear that on a larger scale, for lack of a clear definition of the group we want to "fucking kill" all of, "The Terrorists" can become a synonym for Muslim, or Brown, or Not-American, or Non-Western; this is as unfair a branding as calling every Christian a fundamentalist abortion-clinic bomber. Similarly, everyone who holds fundamental religious beliefs should not be automatically scrutinized as a terrorist either--consider fundamentalists like Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi.

When United States responds to events like these by invoking the cause of freedom, I believe we have an even greater responsibility to protect freedom, in its purest form of tolerance and in the name of innocence until proven guilty. We're talking about life and death, the terms should be clearer. When our country is in a "war on terror"--which, to my understanding, is an abstract noun as opposed to a specific, armed opposition--I worry that the vague nature of our enemy is amorphous enough to be manipulated to suit any aim, whether it be as honorable as the liberation of the persecuted or as base as a desire for oil.

I've been getting e-mails all day from my company trying to allay my non-existent fears about terrorism in New York. They advise me to get enough sleep, eat nutritiously, cease smoking, take a walk, or do a crossword puzzle. They also remind me that in case I need to talk to someone, I am always invited to give the company-provided mental health hotline a ring, lest I forget this Human Resources talking point of my (very generous) benefits package. My mother's also taken the time to call me and let me know that if I see bomb dogs or armed military personnel on my subway, I shouldn't worry.

I'm more concerned with the fact that they were simulating bioterrorist attacks in Grand Central station (with "non-toxic" gases), and for the whole week it went on I thought they were always setting up for a laser light show I was always narrowly missing in order to get my train. Seriously, their equipment looked like it was about to start shooting spinning neon pink spirographs on the wall. There I was, pissed I'd miss the moment when they dimmed the lights and the Deep Purple blasted out of the PA system, when in fact it was just a lousy bioterror drill.
I'd like to get in touch with the Transit Authority of New York and, after thanking them for their proactive scientific studies in Grand Central station, encourage them to investigate just how it is I've entered the ladies room near the pretzel stand on the lower level and twice found that someone pooped on the toilet seat. Where's their fancy equipment for that one?


Blogger Kunaxa said...

Compelling post.

"'The Terrorists' can become a synonym for Muslim, or Brown, or Not-American, or Non-Western" <--- Yours truly = D)All of The Above

It's just all too ovewhelming and I can't bring myself to get into anymore arguments about it, especially at work.

Although, I have a friend in Afghanistan and I asked him whether he knew about the bombing in London ... his answer was a slick:

"No, but I did hear that Lil' Kim is going to jail."

4:28 PM  

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