Thursday, May 20, 2004

Views of a Beheading

In memory of Gloria Anzaldúa, who died yesterday:

Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one's shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an "alien" element. There is an exhilaration in being a participant in the further evolution of humankind, in being "worked" on. I have the sense that certain "faculties"--not just in me but in every border resident, colored or noncolored--and dormant areas of consciousness are being activated, awakened. Strange, huh? And yes, the "alien" element has become familiar--never comfortable, not with society's clamor to uphold the old, to rejoin the flock, to go with the herd. No, not comfortable but home.

--from the Preface to Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

The video of Nick Berg's murder has surpassed Internet searches for Britney Spears. And since I can't imagine that a new subset of the populace has turned to the Internet in hopes of gaining unfiltered information, it seems that those who were previously disposed toward celebrity gossip and scandal-mongering have turned their attention toward the (other) grotesque. Having already seen and experienced so much pain and torment firsthand, I have no interest in watching any type of violence, whether it be in the form of Mel Gibson's bloody depiction of a crucifixion or a terrorist snuff video.

Nor can I throw any support behind the argument that we must see it in order to "know our enemy." Viewing Mr. Berg's murder has as much to do with civic responsibility as Ms. Spears' music has to do with art and originality. Our enemy is not a band of murderers in turbans but rather our own murderous proclivities. When we humans watch a murder, we focus on the act, on the actors committing the atrocity, on the face of the other, refusing to notice amid all this objectification that his face is but a reflection of our own fear and hatred.

Moreover, I don't need to watch this video to recharge my "righteous outrage." I always already know that it's wrong to murder someone. The trick is to continue working toward a world that values all life without any notion of self-righteous vengeance to aid in one's pursuits.

By the way, if you were more offended or horrified by Mr. Berg's decapitated head than the children murdered by the Israeli army in Gaza or the pile of bodies from the Iraqi wedding party or African victims of AIDS, you, my friend, are less a moral being and more an ideologue. Or worse: a racist. And from my own personal experience, it's damn hard not to be either.

Disclaimer: No deities were crucified or otherwise harmed in the creation of my morality.

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