Recently, before the start of class, one of my bright faced Taiwanese students waved me over. “Teacher,” she said, “My friend sent me this ISIS video. You should watch it!” We had discussed ISIS in class, and so, not wanting to squash my student’s growing interest in world affairs, I acquiesced. Plus the clip was only 41 seconds long.
I am not posting said clip. It is simply too grotesque. A prisoner with bound legs and clad in an orange jump suit is seen for a a second or two trying to hop out of the way of a tank. The tank catches the wretch and rolls over him longways. The camera then does a close up survey of the carnage. The most notable image: the flattened mass that used to be the victim’s head.
The video was hardly more outrageous than any of the other killings perpetrated by ISIS. But newspaper reports, the printed word, have a way of concealing even as they reveals. Witnessing someone turned into a red pulp is not quite the same as reading about it. In those brief seconds you viscerally and vicariously experience the terror of the imminent end, the obliteration itself, and the remains—all in 41 second.
As France reels from the terrorist attacks a few days ago, there are a number of questions swirling around the future of Europe when it comes to the still steady influx of refugees. Hollande has stated that France will still accept refugees in the wake of the attacks, despite Marine Le Pen smiling like the cat who ate the canary and enjoying rising political clout. The narrative persists that the refugees are not to blame for terrorism, and I think it is a legitimate point, but it cannot be denied with a straight face that the “Everyone Welcome” policy of Angela Merkel and other EU leaders seems a bit rash in retrospect. After a bomb scare in Hanover just yesterday, it is clear that everyone is very much on edge, and both sides of the refugee issue are very much entrenched. This is where we are right now, but I would also like to explore how we all got here and what ‘here’ even is.
First off, the largest culprit cited for the refugee crisis is the Syrian civil war, a product of the failed state bonanza known as The Arab Spring. It began with peaceful protests by a Sunni majority and then turned to a proxy war once Hezbollah and America got involved. I have my own theories on the subject relating to how involved the US and other western powers were in turning the peaceful protests into a war. Hint: very. The mainstream media version claims that “The Butcher Assad” barrel bombed his people and so they took up arms against him. It’s thin, very thin. In fact, it has been argued quite convincingly that Assad had the support of most Syrians at the start of the civil war, not to mention that the US supplied Al Nusra and helped turn the war into a sectarian conflict.
An Urgent Revolution
I cannot tell if this revolution sweeping through our country’s colleges is a legitimate revolution or merely a strange version of a limbo contest. The limbo contest was my first and immediate choice, but all things deserve more than a cursory glance. What I mean by ‘limbo contest’ is the definition of racism seems to be changing even more rapidly with cultural shifts in our country. Racism used to be a withholding of rights under the constitution, but then laws changed and the bar was lowered to the more nebulous but legitimate “denial of access”, and now we have lowered the bar to awkward social situations in which nobody has been directly verbally attacked. If you want to take a step up from that, then we can include poop swastikas that had no accompanying letter to explain who exactly the fecal feature was attacking. My first guess would have been that the Jews should be the most offended people at Mizzou, but hey what do I know?
Brick-Head was talking, and I was, for some reason, still listening. I did not really feel like telling him to leave partly because I assumed he would walk away at any moment and partly because I didn’t feel like getting into an argument with him. My hesitance at verbal sparring stemmed from the fact that, despite not knowing his real name or anything about him, I was pretty sure I had a good feeling as to what sort of person Brick-Head was. He was tall and burly, wearing a sweat-suit that only helped accentuate his impossibly spherical beer belly. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties and likely spent a great deal of time over a grill with a beer in his hand. I got the impression that he could make it to the final round in a casting call for the new spokesman of Buffalo Wild Wings. I intend none of that to be invective, since there is almost nothing I love more in the world than beer and grilled meats. The problem is that I love my privacy and solitude almost as much, which was why we were on the wrong foot from the beginning.