Curtain Raiser

Speaking of Known Evils, Colltalers

The two brutal events that have seized worldwide headlines this past week – the newest flareup in the age-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the downing of the Malaysian commercial airline over Ukraine – have visited their victims with the prospect of a lifetime of grief and regret.
To everyone else not directly involved, however, even a qualified analysis of these tragedies can become a minefield of self-important punditry and rancorous radicalism. To navigate such a path with a minimal sense of justice and impartiality is simply no longer an option.
The magnitude of these events have also the ability of covering up, even if only for the duration of a 24h news cycle, all other tragic, ongoing miseries festering around the world, from the street trenches of Aleppo, to raging firefights in Kabul, to the Central American refugee children crisis in the U.S., to widespread hunger, poverty, and environmental woes that won’t fail to exact their grim tolls, just because we aren’t looking.
After all, it is all too human to prioritize our attention, and set sights on a few targets at a time. That doesn’t exempt or redeem anyone from the objectionable crime of dozing off or zooming out of the catastrophes all around us, so to get some sleep, literally or figuratively.
But even invoking the word human seems out of place, when you think about the ferocious shelling of Gaza, incited or provoked as it may have been by the Hamas or the Israeli extreme right, or to count among the victims of Flight MH17, dozens of children and important AIDS activists.
That’s when tragedy crushes our tenuous grip on reality and reaches out to a realm of pure, unjustifiable and hopelessly irredeemable terror, and any attempt to make sense out of ruthless fate or shameless political motivation is not just utterly naive, but also absolutely abhorrent.
We can’t avoid rushing to judgement based on the emotional jolt we all felt upon learning that some 300 travelers may have been blown out of the sky by mistake, at the very least, or because of some downright evil calculation. Nor can we stop ourselves from jumping at possibly the wrong conclusions when picturing people running for shelter in Tel Aviv, or trapped in Gaza, with no way to hide from the raining bombs.
Taken apart, however, these two sources of incredible heartache gracing our thoughts today have little in common, beside their complexity and deep roots. And, obviously, the apparent lack of any short term solution in the horizon, which signals to their long lasting endurance.
To avoid jumping at rushed conclusions about Israel and the Palestinians, one needs to look farther back into the past. It’s hard to pick a breaking point, though, if last April’s Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, or the now dead peace talks started last year, or the Six-Day War of 1967, farther back to the creation of the state of Israel or even farther, to pre-Christian times. Pick as one may, it’ll always be an incomplete choice.
And then there are issues of terrorism, Hamas’s hatred of Israel, Israel’s insistence in building settlements in occupied land, the supremacy of right-wing party ideologies over its politics, role of the U.S. and the global community, and the parade of useful cliches that support each side.
As for the shooting down of Flight 17, the misinformation adds the particularly cruel twist of an extra layer of grief to the already shattered lives of friends and relatives of those who perished, besides serving the unattainable settling of yet another ancient, unresolvable, ethnic conflict.
As it happened in the midst of a U.S.-led campaign to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is also doing an outstanding job towards the same goal, the disaster has the bleak distinction of adding 298 more corpses to Ukraine’s centuries-old struggle to pull apart from Russia.
But despite unproven claims that it was Russian separatists operating at the border who bombed the plane out of the blue sky, even if by accident or sheer troop drunkenness, there’s at least an equal possibility that the missile was shot by Ukraine’s regular forces. The fact, as it’s been reported by the media, that the equipment, or troop training, for that matter, were all Russian is absolutely besides the point, of course.
The truth may or may not come out, eventually, but for now, it continues not to be a deterrent to defense operatives, lodged in the upper echelons of media conglomerates, to dictate and spin what’s been reported digitally, electronically and in print, about this tragedy.
As it’s been noted elsewhere, other commercial airlines have also been shot down for political or national security reasons by both the U.S. and then Soviet Union, in well-documented incidents of military calculation gaining the upper hand and orchestrating the mass killing of civilians.
And as we’ve pointed before, most people can’t help it but adding yet more noise and mud to the free-range speculation that mar newscasts and Sunday talk shows. The irony is that such views, however numerous, tend to be quickly reduced to one or another side, nuance be damned.
What we can, and should avoid, though, individually and collectively, is to allow being manipulated by and corralled into the political machinations, and economic interests, that control the background of armed conflicts. Often, the only way to do that is to simply shut the hell off.
Not an easy thing to do when one has a blog, we concede, for what else is there to talk about if we choose not to use our space to vent about what keeps us up all night? Oh, yes, there are the flowers and love and the simple joys of living one’s life fully. But we’re as far of all that at this moment as one would, if given a choice, from the shores of Palestine, the tribal corners of Pakistan, or the charred fields of Ukraine.
The two staggering events that have seized worldwide headlines this past week are unfortunately neither the first nor the last time we’ve stopped in horror in our tracks. There’s no getting used to carnage, no growing accustomed to the monstrous grinding of war machines.
But even if to spare ourselves from utter despair, we keep on writing, sole weapon of diminished destruction, so not go completely insane. Not so much about our opinion, which as it’s been said, just like anatomy, everyone has one, and plenty of it. Nor only to point fingers, lest them not be cut out of spite and prevent us from even having them to pound the keyboard. And neither just for the sake of posting as a trivial compulsion.
We write to say no. To pledge no allegiance to any side that considers life a fair game to spend in route to the top of the body heap. We write because we can’t help it, yes, but also because we can’t silence in the face of what we see; we simply can’t shove down our throats so much grief.
Ultimately, we write this to those who’ll never have a chance to read it, who have already showered as hail over a desolated field, or blown apart in route to a better day. Fighting the lump, we may be also writing for those who won’t even see tomorrow’s light or a new day on this planet.
In their memory, even the grandest of thoughts pales, while the smallest of the gestures, grows meaningfully. We claim neither with these words, just the record of another blood-soaked step in our cavalcade through the neighborhood of pain. Despite of all, have a peaceful week ahead. WC


3 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. colltales says:

    Thanks Bryan. Enough, indeed.


  2. Reblogged this on Bryan Hemming and commented:
    Two events connected, or not, will be connected forever in my mind, and in the minds of many others. Wesley Coll says it all.


  3. You know, Wesley, after your excited pieces leading up to the World Cup, the tension you felt, and your eventual disappointment, I was transported back to the time when I was a kid kicking a football round a patch of green, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends.

    How sad it was to read your elegy to the killings of Ahed Atef Bakr, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, Mohamed Ramez Bakr, and Ismael Mohamed Bakr, four boys playing football on a beach, no doubt also excited by the World Cup atmosphere, dreaming of themselves playing in a magnificent stadium to a magnificent crowd.

    They were not the only ones. Other Gazans were killed in a cafe, by a beach, whilst watching a World Cup match. Small relief from lifetimes of oppression and imprisonment. I cannot keep quiet when I read another heartfelt piece from you. Enough, Israel, enough.

    Liked by 1 person

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