Friday, April 18, 2008

Photo Op

The story is that an islamist bomber in Iraq was out to get an American convoy, and rather than wait a few moments for the school bus to pass, he just blasted away. Casualties of jihad and all that. Lots and lots of dead and wounded children. That was 2005 though, so any emotion we might feel about it is old news by now, objectively speaking. I only heard about it just now, on Dennis Miller's radio show. He's awfully good. He was interviewing Michael Yon, the photo-journalist. He's awfully good too.

Miller was talking about one particular photo. A wounded little girl, swept up by our soldiers, wrapped in a blanket and rushed to the hospital. Too late, but we love our boys no less for that. Heroism and humanity can fail, sometimes, and it remains just as precious.

How I love that young sniper. He's not my son -- the dates aren't right -- but he might as well be.

As for the bombers, there need be no moral pronouncements or expressions of rage or outrage. No need for that. We breathe in, we breathe out. It is what it is. We observe, we feel, we resolve to act rightly in the world. One choice is to talk about it all, like women around a coffee table. It's not that words are useless. It's that they don't actually do anything. But they should help us think clearly.

So here's an idea about a word. The islamist bombers? They're not "terrorists." They are "horrorists."

The islamist bomber could have waited, and bombed the convoy. But theirs is not a military effort. Emotion. Emotion. Not the transient terror of the flash and heat of an IED. Those few seconds of climax are just a sort of foreplay. It's what follows. Terror is so fleeting. The horror remains, an emotional memorial, carved from body parts, blood made imperishable by trauma forever preserved in the soul like scorpions in amber.

I don't suppose this is what the Koran actually urges, for all that unbelievers are to be beheaded. Such violence would be meant as a sort of justice. Where is there justice in the arbitrary and deliberate death of a little girl? We would learn nothing from terror. But the horror and revulsion we feel must be treasured. It is their gift to us. They define themselves by their actions, and we should be grateful for their clarity, if not their methods.

Evil? Look again at that picture, and tell me whether or not there is evil. That way I'll know your heart, too. It is important to know that there are enemies, and what they are capable of. Otherwise, each of their subsequent atrocities will swoop down like a hawk upon fowl.

Our bodies mark old wounds with scars, that we may learn from our mistakes. Our hearts do likewise. And like a fine and delicate thing, an instrument perhaps, or something made of crystal, our souls are set to shaking by the mere sight of pain, unrelated to us save through our shared humanity, and we are reminded, like Jesus calling from the Cross, to love one another. There is enough pain in the world. The only violence we should commit is that which prevents an even greater inhumanity.

Hardly anything is pure. But many things are not actually vile. And that's why, always, always, we must strive to share our liberty, and ensure justice, and urge mercy, and pray for grace. I'm not "patriotic" because I'm blind. I'm patriotic because I see. And what I see is that there are men who target children as an ends to a means, and there are men who race to aid strangers in their distress. You think that would be pretty obvious. But there are some people who look at this photo, and blame the Americans, for being there. The horror they feel, if any, must have a different inspiration. I find no words to explain this to myself.


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