Monday, May 08, 2006

Lessons in depravity

[Update below...]

It's been a tough week for me. Two current stories remind me of the depth of human depravity and I am having a hard time getting past them. I don't really want to blog them, but I also don't want to let them go and forget about them. It's like driving in traffic past a really bad wreck -- obvious injuries and probably loss of life, lots of broken glass, crumpled up remains of two or three cars. You know that rubbernecking not only slows the traffic but also violates whatever privacy rights the victims might have. But you still want to look.

The first story reveals the savage details of the death of Atwar Bahjat, one of Iraq's high-profile journalists who had been reported "shot" or simply "killed" in February 22. Now, two and a half months later, the details are revealed to be much worse than the initial reports. The animals responsible not only took their time degrading, torturing and beheading her, they created a video racord as well which adds a dimention of unbelievable cruelty to her death that makes the event seem to be happening all over again.

It is not necessary to read this story unless you think it is important to establish that I am not exaggerating. Be warned that the content is worse than disturbing; here is that link.

The other story is from Johann Hari, reporting on conditions in the Congo. Andrew Sullivan brought the report to the attention of his readers yesterday in a post appropriately entitles The Rape of the Congo. The Hari report [Reader advisory: This one is also hard to read...] is A journey into the most savage war in the world. I can't begin to describe what he wrote. It is too disgusting. Read it for yourself, if you want. I did and I now think it was a mistake. Just when I think I have imagined the worst of all human behaviors, something more terrible comes along to remind me that it can always deteriorate further.

(I am reminded of the Rwanda genocide which resulted in the killing of eight hundred thousand people in the space of a hundred days. Most of the killing was done with machetes which were brought in via pick-up truck in preparation for the event. Accounts are truly unbelievable.)

The reason for this post is just to get it off my chest. I am well aware that ranting, pointing fingers and hand-wringing are nothing more than empty gestures. I don't know what to do other than pray, lifting up those whose wounds are so severe that they will carry them with them to their deaths. It is hard to remember that we are also instructed to pray for those who inflicted those wounds, but that is also a subject for hope, a prayer for constraint in the future, if not for eventual salvation. And finally, a prayer for inner rest, that those of us who are untouched by these tragedies, will be able to do something positive to minimize or avert events like these in the future. And that we not forget that if those of us who seek peace and reconcilliation give up, there may be no one taking our place.


The beheading story turns out to have been a hoax. Thanks to Fayrouz for doing the homework.
I suppose I feel a little less down, but the ugliness of what happened is no less tragic. Besides, the images circulating are not in fact a "hoax" but a video of the real thing. I recall seeing it, much to my disgust, over a year ago. The hoax was incorrectly identifying the victim as Atwar Bahjat.
I am not curious, incidentally, about the motivation for such a hoax. When dealing with evil, motivation is irrelevant.

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