Pictures of People, Prone.
by Shelton Hull
After the last few weeks of columns, a diversion of sorts. We’ve all seen and heard so much about the crime problem, a major national story that is not going away, that it might be interesting to talk about the deaths of men, women and children, dying in the hundreds and maybe thousands, who are neither black nor white, but kind of brown. The Lebanese are darker in tint, like a quality cappuccino, whereas the Israelis have a creamier tone, not unlike a caffe con leche, or even a chai tea tone in the settlements.
In the years since the Intifada II began on September 28, 2000, I have seen a couple thousand pictures from that war that never stopped, mostly of machines and the men using them, the Molotov money shots, the Mermaid’s missile shots. But what I will always remember from those times, besides the empty promises of peace of a generation of failed leadership around the world, are the pictures of the victims of that war. There was the boy who got hit with a tank shell from ten feet away, his head split in half from crown to soft palate. The mom who shielded her kid from a bomb and whose entire front half was blown away, her eyes frozen, wide open, incredulous. An old couple, dead in their seats in a blown-out bus in Jerusalem, still holding hands.
As their war was eclipsed by ours, I lost the stomach for such imagery. When I found myself besieged by nightmares and waking visions not too long ago, those images flowed back like the post-nasal drip after a night out with Mel Gibson. And now, the carnage in Beiruit and Haifa, Qana and Kiryat Shimon have provided a new batch of such pictures for the world to see. Independent media outlets across the region have made this clash between Israel and Hezbollah the most graphically detailed conflict in the history of digital media, even surpassing the Iraq war in terms of scale-relation.
The civilian cost of their leaders’ failure to make the peace has been shocking, given how narrow the competing interests really are. The suicidal futility of kidnapping Israeli soldiers from inside their own borders betrays no real political agenda, just an empty bloodlust. The Middle East has been divided against itself for 60 years thanks to external manipulation by the US, Europe and Russia. Time and again, radical groups use resources from abroad to force civilian populations into fake-ass martyrdom schemes. In return for their compliance, they get sanctions, bombs and gangsterism.
It’s truly amazing how low human morality can sink, lower than pig shit; what’s worse is that the so-called men of today are all moderates compared to their ancestors. The evolution of mechanized warfare techniques and technologies has rendered the wholesale slaughters of centuries past almost passe, but that bestial instinct is never far away. Who would think that the Lebanese people’s support of Hezbollah would be rewarded by turning them into human shields, deliberately set up to be bombed in order to score political points on Israel? Who really thinks that two sides which are fighting a war of attrition over land will really accept the presence of “international peace keepers” to enforce another arbitrary border? By all accounts, the Administration was hoping that the war would end before such a “solution” gained traction on the international scene, because the addition of foreign troops into a war that already has at least three distinct sides already would not mean peace, but an unprecedented escalation.
Is such pessimism the new normal? It would be a shame if this became the kind of world where it’s flat-out dangerous to be nice to strangers, but that is the price of failure. As each of us struggles to deal with the consequences of this collective failure, it should never be forgotten that the basis of all solutions can be found in the union of loving hearts and enlightened minds. The terrible footage emanating from the Holy Land is worth the trouble of finding and seeing; it’s troubling, but it’s true. The thing to always remember is that none of it is necessary. Wars may be unavoidable, but peace may have its day.