Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Horror Fatigue

i cannot bring myself to watch the cold-blooded murder of nick berg. they say that vietnam was the first truly televised war. the images of wartime brutality, broadcast directly into the comfortable american living room, provided the genesis for an increasingly diverse anti-war protest movement. i don't think it will play out that way this time.

we've become enaged in a battle of one-upmanship in a race to prove who can be the most depraved. i really wish i had something meaningful or profound to say about this tragic event, but this is a case where words have no traffic.

i have a growing collection of grisly and horrible images burned into my mind like so many nightmares:

time has not blunted my memory enough. not the tiny, pixellated, doll-sized images of manhattan workers hurtling towards a death more merciful than could be had in the raging inferno of the world trade center. nor the body of a man impaled on a steel strut jutting out of the same.

i have a copy of the new york times published the day after the 911. in one photo, one can make out the figures of dozens of people looking out from a gaping hole in the side of the building, they arms lifted up to beseech aid from a nearby helicopter in the moments before they died. more heart-breaking are my memories of the missing posters. for weeks after the disaster, footage of new york was peppered with them. one could see them decaying on subway walls, or drifting alone on gusts of wind as autumn settled into new york.

then came the 12 year old iraqi boy with both his arms blown off, his face contorted with agony from the burns covering his body and grief for the family he lost. still and silent babies, their skin ashen gray, laid out neatly in a row, screaming and anguished mothers beside them. before that was daniel pearl, haunted and gaunt, stating that he is jewish before his murderers turned his last, horrible moments into a propaganda film.

newspapers around the world carry a parade of trophy photos of powerless, terrified iraqis in one of the most notorious torture chambers in iraq, where apparently, american soldiers have taken a page from saddam's book. we know there are worse images yet to come, and i can't help but wonder what innocent bystander, tied like a dog in a dark room, will be offered up in answer to those outrages.

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