Wright from Washington City
October 7, 2000
Life and death
in Bizarro World
By DAVID T. WRIGHT
Ronn Neff recently told me that we now live in a "transparodistic" universe. He's right. People seem able to become habituated to almost any bizarre situation or idea and, with the right cues from their rulers, regard it as normal.
For instance, here in the Imperial City five or six years ago, a bunch of ethnically diverse people in the ethnically diverse Mount Pleasant neighborhood were incensed when a cop arrested an ethnically diverse disorderly drunk. So they rioted, gleefully smashing windows, looting shops, burning a police car, and generally having a grand old time. Held back by a mayor who didn't want to "inflame tensions," the po-leece just stood around and watched for a day or so while the rioters, well, ran riot. When the cops finally moved in and started arresting people, they did so with a minimum of violence.
On the other hand, as I've pointed out before, when the International Monetary Fund held a conference here this summer, things went a little differently for the mostly white middle-class fringe-lefties who showed up to protest the IMF's rape of Third World countries. The vast majority of the protesters were unarmed and peaceful, unlike Mount Pleasant's recreational rioters. But that didn't help them. Using trumped-up pretexts, The Authorities invaded the houses in which the protesters were staying before the conference even began. Their signs and other property were confiscated without warrants. Many were thrown in jail without being charged. And the Washington City cops showed none of their earlier compunction about gassing and beating up on people, whether they were participating in the demonstrations or not.
Similar things happened to protesters who dared to show up at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Sensibilities about due process were put aside as Vopos ran roughshod over demonstrators. Meanwhile, former anti-Vietnam war protesters at the Democratic convention, grown fat and contented, schmoozed and feasted on delicacies supplied by the mega-corporations against which they had fought the good fight thirty years ago. People who had spurned lettuce and grapes for years in support of Cesar Chavez, who supported Greenpeace, who would never think of crossing a picket line, ignored the police violence right outside and reserved their outrage for a Boy Scout honor guard. Let them eat crab cakes, I guess.
So, here in the Land of the Free, it's sort of okay to bust things up if (a) you're a member of a designated victim group, and/or (b) it's only ordinary people's property and safety that are damaged. But threaten the serenity of our exalted rulers when they get together to decide our fate, and you're likely to get your head bashed in. That's not so hard to understand if you think of America as a banana republic or another Roman Empire.
Of course, things could be worse. For instance, when Arabs get uppity in Israel or the areas it illegally occupies, the Israeli cops and soldiers simply start shooting.
In the past few years we've seen video of Israeli soldiers breaking kids' legs with rocks. We've seen cockpit video of an Israeli helicopter shooting up an ambulance carrying wounded Lebanese civilians. We've seen Israeli soldiers shooting rubber-coated bullets point blank at kids and at a cameraman. There was a recent eyewitness report (in the London Times, if I remember correctly) of an Israeli Merkava tank gratuitously shelling a taxi driving along a road in Lebanon and then machine-gunning its helpless occupants. Just this past week Israeli soldiers have been firing live ammo into unarmed crowds, using a few rooftop Palestinian snipers as an excuse.
And now the latest. First a 12-year-old child was killed and his father wounded. Witnesses said they saw no Palestinians who were armed with anything better than stones. The soldiers apparently fired in cold blood: the fatal shots came after the father waved to get their attention and shouted, "Don't shoot!" Then the Israelis killed the ambulance driver who tried to rescue them.
They really do seem to have a thing about ambulances, don't they? In fact, according to columnist Charley Reese, during the recent disturbances the Israelis have shot three other Palestinian medics and fired on a total of six ambulances that's their score so far.
I may have become a little jaded to the atrocities that happen so regularly around the world, but seeing that terrified little boy die filled me with a cold rage even more when I read the following in a report on the BBC's web site:
But the Israeli Cabinet Secretary, Yitzhak Herzog, said that Palestinian security forces could have saved the boy.
In an interview with the BBC World Service, he said that "if Palestinian policemen had wanted to save the boy, they could have walked into the square, said 'Stop the fire'... and rescued the kid."
The chutzpah of such a statement is breathtaking. Nineteen Palestinian policemen had died in confrontations with the Israelis in the past week. The Israelis actually destroyed one police station with rockets, also hitting a nearby apartment complex. I have little doubt that any Palestinian cop who had walked into the open shouting "Stop shooting" would have wound up just as dead as that brave ambulance driver. In any case, it would take a hell of a lot of courage or stupidity to expose oneself to Israeli troops treating the area as a free-fire zone.
I don't need to point out that such atrocities carried out by troops of Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein, and broadcast on the evening news, would provoke cries of horror and disgust from newsreaders and pundits, politicians and Socially Conscious celebrities. But when Israeli soldiers do it, everybody thinks, okay, that's just what the Israelis do. What's for lunch?
But let's try not to forget: People who can commit and then glibly defend the wanton murder of an innocent 12-year-old are scum. Animals. And if most Israelis condone such casual viciousness, they should be cut off from the civilized world. Let the Arabs have their way with them. Surely the result couldn't be any more brutal.
As for us, well I was going to ask when shooting children would become okay for cops here. Then I remembered. It already is.
Proceed directly to "Bizarro World, continued" from October 16, 2000.
What do you think of Wright's analysis? If you'd like to see your brief comments posted on the site, please respond here.
All comments will be subject to the usual editing, and we will be looking for those that are the most thought-provoking, pro or con.
Return to the David T. Wright section.
Notice to visitors who came straight to this document from off site: You are deep in The Last Ditch. You should check out our home page and table of contents.