Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Memorial Day Undercurrents

I’ve started about 3 different entries for today but as soon as I get about a paragraph in I lose all interest. I’m feeling particularly apathetic. I think it has something to do with all the war movies my step dad insisted on watching on Memorial Day. It’s just – when you’re actually in the MIDDLE of a war and people are *actually* bleeding and dying for some ridiculous reason (or no reason at all); it makes it really hard to stomach the Holloywoodified dramatizations of the same thing. In times of peace it’s just so easy to shrug all the violence off as so much make-believe; with all the realism of a video game.

(***may trigger***)

Looking back, maybe it started when the conversational subject somehow landed on the Nick Berg video. My stepdad hadn’t seen it but Curt had watched it, in full technicolor and stereo sound. This I did not know. My dear husband was smart enough not to tell me about it. I’d seen the stills and brief snips of the video (but no sound) but thought I knew, from reading other’s accounts what it entailed. A couple of local DJ’s had, in fact recently been fired because they played the audio of the tape on air, “gurgles & all”. For some reason I was under the impression that it had been a relatively quick, clean execution (not that that matters & all but for some reason it helped to think he didn’t suffer). Maybe it was the recent viewing of “Kill Bill vol. 1”. If petite women like Uma Thurman can decapitate an adversary with a single sword stroke then it should be an easy feat for a strong, burly terrorist. But as my stepdad grilled Curt for details my naivete was quickly shattered. No, it wasn’t a curved scimitar of razor-edged Syrian steel that was used (as I’d thought). But a dull knife, possibly serrated about a foot long. It wasn’t a quick stroke. They basically sawed his head off – ALIVE while he screamed with every stroke. That’s about as far as Curt got before he finally took my “that’s enough!!!) pleas seriously and cut short his narrative.

You may think I was trying to bury my head in the sand to spare myself the “unpleasantness” , but you’d be wrong. Sure, I’m one of those people who covers their eyes during the scary parts of horror movies. I have an overactive imagination as it is - I already imagine the worst so I don’t need it spelled out for me in kodachrome. But that wasn’t it. I caught a hint - just a hint of eagerness in my stepdad’s voice as he asked where he could find the video to watch himself and that did it. In that instant it suddenly clicked for me why the video was one of the top most googled items on the internet in the week following the murder. It wasn’t because so many folks are outraged - it’s a snuff film, pure and simple and people are getting a perverted voyeuristic thrill out of watching this horrendous atrocity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that wasn’t his intent at all – I think he was honestly wanting to see what all the fuss was about – to witness the “awful truth” himself, free of the censorship of the cable news networks. But in that moment it just felt so very, very wrong for us to sit there, safe & sound in the living room describing this man’s death in grisly detail.

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