There is an old story, told in many versions, about
an Arab man whose toddler son was murdered by an older, but still young,
Arab child. Years passed as the father of the murdered child quietly
watched the killer of his child grow into manhood, eventually marry,
and have a son of his own. When the murderer's own son reached the same
age as the child he had murdered many years ago, the father of the murdered
child kidnapped the toddler son of the killer of his child. The murdered
child's father then took the toddler up to the roof of a house facing
the home of the killer of his son, and yelled for the murderer to come
out. Hearing his name called, the murderer came out of his home and
looked up to the roof across the small alley. Then the father of the
murdered son held up the murderer's son by one leg, took out his sword,
cut the toddler in half and threw the body at the father's feet.
This grim story is from the world that the U.S. has
entered in its attack on Iraq. It is a world with labyrinthine loyalties,
codes, mores, and blood vengeance. It is a world where the Old Testament's
eye for an eye measure of punishment--thought to be too harsh by Christians--is
seen by many Arabs as too lenient. It is a world where a thief can have
his hand cut off for stealing a loaf of bread. It is a world where the
concept 'turn the other cheek' is alien. It is a world where blood relations
are more than a nuclear family--a tiny rivulet of blood. Instead, blood
relations branch and cross and branch again and again innumerable times
and where the resulting extended families, clans, and tribes are like
roaring rivers of intertwined relationships and loyalties as complex
as any arabesque pattern.
"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," is
an apt line to describe, not only the harsh landscape, but the people
of this part of the world. This is the place where three major religions--Judaism,
Christianity, Islam--the desert religions--got their start. This is
where the Garden of Eden was supposed to be. This is where the God of
the Hebrews, the Christians and the Muslims was supposed to have actually
talked to men.
is little doubt that the U.S. can beat the Iraqis in direct orthodox
warfare and in the short term. The problem is that the U.S. sense of
history is very short. What will happen as the sands of time blow and
swirl? Will we find ourselves in the shoes of the child murderer written
about in the first paragraph above? Will we be patiently watched until
the time is right for vengeance? Will we one day be called outside to
watch as our civilization is killed before our eyes? Some would say
that this attack on Iraq--a war that didn't have to happen, and one
that we went thousands of miles away from our homeland to start--is
a sign that our civilization is already dying.
the U.S. brutalizes Iraq into submission, the Bushies will try to Americanize
and transform the Iraqis into Middle East versions of aracial, plain
wrap, corn-fed, apple pie eating, Norman Rockwell, standard model Americans.
Of course, this type of American--an archetype, really--is in short
supply even in America, because our land is being swamped by Third Worlders.
But that's for other columns. Suffice it to say that while the aracial,
plain wrap, corn-fed, apple pie eating Norman Rockwell, standard American
is disappearing, the mythical image of this genetic type still remains
in some form or another in the subconscious minds of many Americans.
While the original genes of this archetype are being watered down, the
products of those genes remain and are being taken over to one degree
or another by people of other genes who, in many cases, seem to be the
slowly fading, distorted shades of the originals.
though the Bushies will try to disguise the attempted Americanization
of Iraq by using euphemistic phrases such as "The U.S. wants to
free the Iraqi people and change that nation into a modern nation,"
it remains to be seen how may Iraqis will buy it. It doesn't take a
genius to understand that "modern nation," when used by the
Bushies, means a nation like the United States. We've heard this type
of language, in various earlier incarnations, before. In the past, instead
of saying that we were bringing modernity to different peoples, we would
say that we were "bringing civilization." We then "helped"
the "backward" American Indians, South Sea Islanders, Africans,
Australian Aborigines and others to try be just like us. Will we be
giving the Iraqis American haircuts? Will we be dressing them in American
clothes? Will we rewrite the Koran so that Islam becomes as innocuous
and bland as many forms of American Christianity? Will Allah become,
like the Christian plain wrap version of God, something of a Mr. Rogers
in the sky who is never judgmental?
Now, as I wrote in another column, we seem to live in
a strange universe--strange, because our science has not yet discovered
various unseen links and forces. Some believe that various unexplained
phenomena--things that come within what we call extrasensory perception
and things that are often relegated to religion are really the result
of sub-atomic particles and that these are the source of coincidences,
syncronicity and various odd occurrences. Whatever the cause, there
are things that happen from time to time that cause many people to scratch
their heads and wonder. As I wrote in that earlier column, one head
scratcher was the "coincidence" of seeing a U.S. space shuttle,
carrying the first Israeli astronaut, breaking up over Palestine, Texas.
Israeli? Palestine? Texas? This week, U.S. Army Pfc. and POW Jessica
Lynch was rescued from Iraq. Her hometown: Palestine, W. Va. Palestine?
Another coincidence? Syncronicity? The cosmos sending a riddle that
we can't figure out, or balancing scales in some unknown way? God sending
a message that we don't understand? Superstitious nothings?
Lastly, what about Frank Herbert's series of novels about the planet Arrakis (sounds like Iraq) also known as Dune? It should be no surprise to anyone that Herbert studied and used Arab culture as a basis for much that is in Dune. And the complexity of the relationships, the changing loyalties, and more seem to be right out of the present situation in the Middle East. I don't want to go too far with Dune as a metaphor for the present conflict in Iraq, but...well, let's see how history unfolds before we start scratching our heads over this.
# # #
TWO ICONOCLASTIC BOOKS BY H. MILLARD!
(Available at finer bookstores, by phone, or on the net)
The links appear to work on some software and not on others. If they dont work, you can order via phone.
1. ROAMING THE WASTELANDS
NEW! JUST RELEASED! H. Millards latest sacred cow toppling