Wednesday, September 22, 2004



I am sitting here now, awake, because of something i saw earlier. Something i had a choice to watch, and should probably have said "no" to.

I watched that man get beheaded.

I sat and watched the video of the men in black masks hold him down and cut his head off like they were butchering a pig. They didn't use an axe or a sword, they used what looked to me like a chef's knife. They cut into him like you -- not i -- might saw away at a roast. He screamed and screamed, even though his mouth was covered, even after his head was mostly detached and they had cut through his windpipe, because they started at the front of his neck, not the back that would have severed his spine more quickly, and all that was left of him to know he was not dead was his struggling and a horrifying gurgling sound.

It's important. Important that i not back away from how horrible it was to watch.

And yet ...

As i watched, my mind filled with images of children's burned bodies, of women crushed in the rubble of falling buildings, of young men with rocks in their hands falling to the power of bullets ripping their flesh.

What is more atrocious, i wondered.

Let me say clearly that what i saw in that video was horrible. I am in no way saying it was not. It sickened me in a slow, unconscious, nauseating, creeping way the source of which i didn't even realize at first. The people who did that committed a horrific, unforgivable act.

But the question remained: What is more atrocious?

Is what those men did more horrible than what U.S. troops have been doing for how long now? Those men at least understood what they were doing, could not have evaded the reality of it if they had wanted to. They were there, hands in the blood, taking away that man's life because they believed it was what they had to do. They held him and killed him.

Some of the U.S. military may be equally convicted, but do they exercise courage in those convictions? Is it more horrible to cut a man's head off with your bare hands and a knife, or is it worse to sit miles away and push a button that sends death flying through the air to kill tens or scores or hundreds of people you'll never see?

I can't explain what i'm feeling right now, or why i'm scared to go to sleep. I think i didn't believe that seeing that particular violence would violate me. Or maybe i wanted to confirm that it would. And so it has, but it has also left me with more questions about myself, the world, this country i live in, the very nature and purpose of violence in the first place.

My fears and my nausea.

And waiting nightmares.

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