Monday, January 01, 2007

Iraqi Bloggers React to Saddam Execution

The previous post and the one before it are lengthy summaries of reactions to Saddam's execution from a variety of sources across the blogosphere. Zayed of Healing Iraq, one of the anchors of the other post, has collected and quoted a number of Iraqi bloggers' reactions. More than two dozen individual writers are represented. Each has his or her own take on what happened. There is no way to characterize their reaction collectively other than to observe that there are deep and conflicted responses. As I read them I feel a lot of pain, both theirs and mine.

The last thirty-six hours have produced a swarm of hits to this blog (nearly 500 yesterday, according to Sitemeter) as the drama of an old-fashioned hanging took center stage during a holiday weekend. Traffic has slowed a bit now and the range of interests is returning to normal, but what I witnessed yesterday is revealing. In the same way that the taste of blood excites predators, the prospect of being among the first to see footage of Saddam's hanging excited lots of people. I know. I was among them. In the same way that I get a thrill out of watching CSI or a Bruce Willis film, I knew I couldn't rest until I had been among the first to see the video.

Having got that out of the way, I have to add that such thoughts make me feel ashamed. More than ever I am convinced that we as human beings must forever guard against returning to savagery.

I am reminded of the story of a Mennonite boy who had been assaulted and insulted by one of his peers. Someone asked him, "Don't you want to just grab him and beat the crap out of him?"
"I sure do," the boy replied, "more than anything. But Jesus said I can't do that."

Thanks to the insights of Neibuhr I am comfortable with the idea of Moral Man and Immoral Society.

While individuals in their personal dealings often transcend self–interest (hence "moral man"), nations dealing with other nations, or social classes with other social classes, have little or no capacity for self–transcendence ("immoral society"). Nations and classes have limited understanding of the people they harm by their unjust self–assertion; they lack appreciation for the often complicated laws and institutions through which such injustice is perpetuated; and they are more inclined to embrace rationalizations of self–interest than prophetic denunciations. These facts, for Niebuhr, explain why dominant groups rarely yield their privileges except when put under pressure by some countervailing social force.

By the same reasoning, within myself I discover a divide between self-interest and self-transcendence. I am aware that I stand in a number of overlapping circles. My obligations as a citizen conflicts with my obligations as a parent, a Christian, or even member of a potential mob. I might serve on a jury to determine whether or not a defendant is guilty or innocent, but I am precluded by prior beliefs from sitting on any case that involves capital punishment. I must pay taxes even though my tax dollars are going to pay for budgeted line items that I find morally reprehensible. I must teach my children to behave well in school and be respectful of their teachers, even though some of those teachers may be undeserving of that respect for any number of reasons. The list of contradictions is endless. (Mob behavior versus individual responsibility is easily understood by anyone who has attended a large sporting or entertainment event. Add alcohol and the understanding is easier to see. Add funny cigarettes and it becomes even more evident.)

The occasion of Saddam Hussein's execution (or assassination, as a couple of writers have termed it) offers a good opportunity to reflect on the larger issue of how best to deal with evil. Christians are supposed to overcome evil with good but at moments such as this, we have to look long and hard to find the meaning of good.


Mohamed said...

I believe you are correct that we live in an immoral, primitive world to a certain extent; were we are psychologically conditioned to enjoy violence as a form of entertainment through virtual reality/movies/street fighting etc. The problem with this world is that through the media/music/film industry human beings have been conditioned to become dominantly prejudice, selfish, narcissistic, materialistic and self infatuated. This could be a result of how film/music/media are pushed on the people like a religion anorexic celebrity driven, which has subconsciously occupied the mind of most of the population concerning concepts such as physical perfection and the satisfaction gained from violence & greed. I am Shi’aah Muslim & I believe the hanging of the dictator was completely absurd in the sense that it will increase the cycle of hate because of the methods used. The hanging of the former president was offensive to intellectual Muslims because scientifically it has been proven that when a man is hanged he also ejaculates sperm. Muslims believe that this is offensive to God because his name was used in an impure method of execution done by Shi’aah muslims. Personally I am against capital punishment because as a Muslim I beleive only God has the right to give & take life & this is what the Prophets have taught us. People are blinded by hate & anger through fear & patriotism, which will eventually narrow the mind of human beings. We can only progress towards peace through love and forgiveness because in the end we are all human beings this is the only way this world can be healed; how long will it be until mankind understands anger and violence only creates more loss & destruction.

Hoots said...

Thank you, mohamed, for your thoughtful comment. The more I read and study about your faith, the more I am convinced that the violence-prone players creating all the trouble are not only a minority of Muslims, but a relatively small minority at that. As I plow slowly through Vali Nasr's book I am forming the idea that Shiia Muslims have a long, well-developed intellectual history as reflected in your post.

Your input is welcome. Please visit and read again.