When I woke up this morning, this page of the New York Times’ weekend edition lay around openly. It carries the highly pixelated shape of a person in an orange jumpsuit, hands tied behind his back, on his knees.
It brought back immediately my memories of a specific moment yesterday. When the news exploded into the world that this black clothed butcher with the deep British accent, the executor of IS, had decapitated Kenji Goto, the Japanese journalist who had been captured earlier, I looked up the video that had been put on the web by IS. Here is a link to the news and facts from yesterday.
On the other hand, the open page of the NYT that I found this morning, it is about a book review: “Guantanamo Diary“, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Mark Danner reviews the book for NYT, starting with the following: “On or about Sept. 11, 2001, American character changed. What Americans had proudly flaunted as “our highest values” were now judged to be luxuries that in a new time of peril for the country could ill afford.”
The text continues, making reference also to former Vice President Dick Cheney, when asked recently about an innocent man been tortured to death in an American “black site”, did not hesitate. “I’m more concerned,” he said, “with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”
I wrote about torture, cruelty, and why I believe that certain acts of utmost inhumanity need to be banished for all accounts and purposes, not leaving any ground for legal or ethical justification, earlier.
But here is the thing:
I would certainly claim that I am hardened by uncounted situations, and pictures and movies thereof, what human cruelty can do to others. Yet, none of those experiences leaves me cool, unaffected. Yesterday, I decided to look up the propaganda video of IS before it would be removed from the most accessible sites again. I wanted to understand more about what is referred to as a highly professional propaganda machinery. IS is acting through intense use of media, far away from amateurish make, brushed up with professional effects, using an identifiable style guide. So I assumed that this is not just a simple broadcasting of cruelty, but that it carries deliberate messages, likely tailored for different target groups.
Well, I am certainly having difficulties to understand those in the target group of potential supporters for whatever the cause of these devils are, I can’t really relate to the mindset of somebody who might be tempted to become what we name a “Foreign Terrorist Fighter” in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014).
But I do understand the feelings of those who are target of the antagonization which sits at the heart of this media strategy. I refuse to give these criminals the legitimacy they aspire, what they want to be seen as, like fighting for a caliphate with authority, brutally enforced legitimacy, and territory. I continue to name them torturers, heinous murderers, or, let me just be a little politically incorrect, heartless beings with no soul.
Felling better, having said that.
However, I also refuse to name them “animals”. That is a trick which is frequently used by those who want to establish legitimacy for their own unethical and horrible action. The Nazis created the word “Untermensch”, shamefully staining the German history. Many others did, and continue to do, exactly the same. By depriving somebody from being considered a human being, genocidaires and mass murderers can justify action that otherwise would be morally or ethically questionable, and it makes it easier for the killers who they need, to kill for them.
No, this butcher may be whatever curse I can find for him (feeling better thereafter), but he remains a human being. As such, my rules of the game apply for what I stand for: Humanity.
When I saw the video yesterday, I was immediately overwhelmed by a complex mixture of feelings including rage, despair, deepest sadness, shock. I cried and needed to compose myself immediately again, because some children were in the other room.
From then on, I literally obsessed for hours, when ever I had a minute, about what I would do if I would get my hands on this black clad coward butcher. Yes, coward, because he is hiding his ugly face. I do not. I had all sorts of day dreams about how to torture this man, in detail.
It took me a hard time to recover into my spirituality, into not only understanding on an intellectual level that this is EXACTLY what they want us to feel, but also to admit on my spiritual level that any such retaliation would be wrong for all intents and purposes.
We only have one chance to demonstrate our values: By adhering to them. So I am talking about my values here.
I remember my father. I was young, and he would refer to Jesus’ sentence saying that if one gets slapped on one cheek, one should offer the other cheek to the offender, too. My father often said that he would have difficulties with that. Instead, he considered some situations justifying the principle “An Eye for an Eye”.
I have two answers, one with my heart, one with my brain:
My heart tells me that I would give up my soul, and my spirituality, if I would give in into ripping that butcher’s nails off his fingers and toes, one by one. Well, it gives me some relief thinking about it, though, frankly. But that’s about it, that’s about as far as I can go, and it already makes me praying for that this resentment is taken away from me with the help of my Higher Power.
Secondly, my brain tells me that this is exactly what these groups want us to feel: They thrive from this. Because, amongst other reasons, think about what they did, too: They requested 100 Million USD ransom money.
They are not only a bunch of terrorists. They belong to an organized crime organization, they capture people in order to make money in order to exercise power. They are true sociopaths, like every organized crime group is, because they give an ethical and moral damn about how to generate money, how to establish power. If they can make more money by legal means, they will just do that. If they can make more money by chopping heads off, well, they will just do that.
That is who they are. In their cold and well crafted strategy, they aim at taking our values away from us, by making us doing what they do.
They are sociopathic criminals. They don’t feel anything like empathy. So, we treat them as such. We apply the rule of law to them. Because that is what is protecting our values, and our humanity.
Never. Never again.