The Grateful Dead
Copyright © by Len Holman, 5/15/13
The disposition of the dead is fraught with emotional, political, social,
psychological, legal, and mythological (including the realms of the sacred)
issues. Because we presently don’t have the technology or money or will to
fire a rocket filled with corpses into the sun, we find ourselves dealing with
the problem of dealing with the dead in some more appropriate or convenient way.
Usually, this is a matter for familial consideration—a time of remembering,
grieving, and the laying to rest of a loved one, a time of memorial and
finality. In the case of a “terrorist,” however, this common way of
seeing the burial process is not so common.
The older brother of the siblings who bombed the Boston Marathon was
killed and then the trouble started. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was buried at Al-Barzakh
Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia, about 25 miles north of Richmond. He
is a Muslim and Muslims have a burial tradition, so there it is. Except
for the uproar. The chairman of the Caroline County board of supervisors,
where the burial took place, seems flustered, embarrassed, and outraged that
such a notorious, hateful, and prominent terrorist would be buried in the sacred
soil of Virginia, and he warned that everything better have gone “by the
book,” or there would be consequences.
Well, it turns out that everything DID go by the book, that an interfaith
coalition was responsible to taking care of the paperwork and the burial, and
that there is nothing anyone can officially do about it. This seems to be
a case of American horror and fear of the very word “terrorist” rather than
merely a case of there being no space in the ground to bury someone. If
terrorists have as their goal the striking of fear in American hearts, and the
knee-jerk reaction to that fear of suspending both common decency and the
constitution, then they have achieved some remarkable victories. Just say
the word “terrorism” and the juices in congressional subcommittees starts to
flow, and the Patriotic American, so beloved of Fox News, holds up signs about
Tsarnaev being thrown out with the trash.
The brothers did a pretty horrible thing, but the body count was far less
than what is counted weekly in Chicago, for instance, or the dead at Sandy Hook
Elementary, or the Colorado theater shooting or—especially this—Tim
McVeigh’s fertilizer bomb in Oklahoma. The Ariel Castro case is
instructive. This man kidnapped, and held captive, three girls, now women,
for a decade, impregnating two of them, one of which was allowed to bring her
child to term, while the other was reported forced to abort multiple times
through starvation and physical abuse. If this isn’t terrorism, what is?
But we won’t have to worry about Castro for a long while because
he’ll be in the slammer until aliens land on the White House lawn. If
he’s killed in prison or dies of old age, THEN Americans can vent about where
to put this guy. And what about all the corporations, banks, lending
institutions, and insurance companies which pay little, expect much, lay off
people at will, bust unions, don’t forgive mortgages, and don’t lend money
to people who need it. That’s a form of social terror which is becoming
endemic to our system of “free enterprise.” Our government terrorizes
people overseas every day by flying drones over them. Their terror comes,
as ours does, from not knowing when death will strike, from not knowing who will
survive and who will not. Women worldwide are terrorized daily, as are
children and the elderly. We don’t see any of that on CNN unless it has
really good graphics.
what’s the deal with terrorism? Is it the World Trade Towers
going down? Or is it Obama or Hillary or socialism or the government
coming to take our guns? These are just symptoms or a malaise which—if
the U.S. wants to be that “shining city on a hill”—needs to be recognized
and ameliorated or eliminated. It is that realization, rising to the
American consciousness, that we are no longer invulnerable, that our nose can be
bloodied, that it isn’t nukes we have to worry about so much, it’s some
backpack-wearing lone wolf with a grudge. And as an attendant, horrifying
thought to that is the idea that no matter how muscular our military is, no
matter how many SEAL teams or Force Recon units we can deploy, we can’t cover
every crack in our armor. Some mosquito is bound to get in and bound to
get a taste of our blood.
If we were all Buddhists, we might be talking karma right about now, but we are not, so we fret because we have no formula for dealing with this new, terrible, seeming-never-to-be-ended reality. We will, no doubt, curtail more citizen freedom, and no doubt capture—or try to—the face of everyone on every street on ubiquitous cameras, and we will spend tons of money doing all this and more on bigger and better military toys, all the while cutting funds to those here at home who have little or no pull on K Street. We’ll do all that, but we will still be terrorized.
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