Saturday, January 7, 2017

Another Day, More Bodies and Blood—Je Suis Charlie Reprise

French police outside of the Charlie Hebdo offices after the mass murder there two years ago.

Two years ago on this date I posted a poem in reaction to the mass murder of the Hebdo Charlie staff in Paris.  You may remember the incident; it got a lot of attention at the time.  Terrorists, offended by the savage portrayal of the prophet Mohamed in satirical cartoons published in the leftist and aggressively anti-clerical and atheist publication.  The killings set off not just sympathy for the victims and for France where the magazine was a minor but important cultural institution, but also a shit storm of controversy.  Some viewed the dead cartoonists as martyrs to Free Speech.  Others, including many on the American left, argued that the dead deserved no sympathy or mourning because they were essentially anti-Muslim bigots who went out of their way to degrade and insult millions of people.  I, a notorious free speech absolutist, mourned the dead while understanding that much of what they produced was a product of arrogance, heedless bravado, and, yes, stick-a-thumb-in-their-eye cruel bigotry.  This won me few friends and my own private catch basin for the spill over vitriol directed at the victims.
On the other side, the moral cesspool of the American right instantly elevated the  Hebdo Charlie staff to martyrs of Islamic Terrorism, blithely ignoring the fact that the dead were proud heathen communists who they would have despised while they were drawing breath.  I was a long-time opponent of the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the insanely stupid War on Terrorism, a defender of Muslim civil rights in this country, and an advocate for the growing tide of war exhausted refugees from civil wars the U.S. essentially created.  Wingers and trolls aware of that reputation began demanding that I denounce Islamic terrorism and join in demanding revenge and annihilation of everyone who kneels in prayer five times a day.  My outrage at that overwhelmed my disgust with the murders themselves and I rapidly churned out the poem that I published on the blog then and repeat below.
I do not bring this up now out of some twisted nostalgia.

A family seeks cover during the shooting spree at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport.

This week on Friday there was a senseless mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that left 5 dead and several wounded.  It was the kind of attack that a year or two ago would have riveted media attention for a week.  Instead, perhaps because the shooter, a mentally ill veteran who served a tour in Iraq and does not fit into any convenient slot—Muslim terrorist, Black thug, or White racist/nationalist/gun nut—the incident is already slipping from public awareness.  Of course we have the upcoming coronation of Donald Trump, Republican rapine in Congress, the sensational story of Black teens terrorizing an innocent White boy (see my post on Friday for this one), and various celebrity shiny objects to distract our attention.
Also I am reminded that within the last week or so two bombings in Baghdad killed 11 and 27 each and an attack on an Istanbul nightclub left 39 dead.  These attacks drew virtually zero notice in the U.S.—a bored what-do-you-expect yawn at best.
All of this makes that two year old poem seem more relevant to me today.  What do you think?

Spontaneous vigils like this at the Place de la Republique in Paris erupted and days later hundreds of thousands marched in solidarity carrying signs that read Je Suis Charlie--I a Charlie--in the City of Light and around the world.  Today no one marches for the dead of Baghdad, Istanbul, or Ft. Lauderdale.   

Je Suis Charlie
After the attack on Charlie Hebdo January 7, 2014

It is always the same.

I stand over the spreading pool of blood
            grieving, shaking my fist in anger,
            seeking justice not revenge for the
                        the villagers of Mai Lai,
                        children of Sandy Hook,
                        the Afghan wedding party,
                        the Gaza hospital patients,
                        a Black boy on cold asphalt,
            you know the drill.

And you loom suddenly before me
            with your sneer and leer,
            kicking aside the bodies,
            pointing your finger
            and demanding
            Where was your voice —
                        at Pol Pot’s killing fields,
                        the Munich Olympic Village,
                        Ruby Ridge and Wacco,
                        the drive-by at the South Side playground,
            As if those deaths trumped
                        the ones at my feet—
or excused them.
As if the killers you hate
were more heinous and despicable
than those who shed this blood.
                        As if I did not mourn those
or protest the perpetrators.
                        You just assumed in your bigoted rage
                                    that I did not
                                    and that I, like you, put value
                                    only on certain lives.

Here you are again today.

The blood of today’s crumpled bodies
            mixes with ink,
            spreads across scattered cartoons.

I weep for Liberty and yes—
            those once human lumps
            of shredded flesh.

You care not whit for these dead,
            if you had known who they were,
            you would have hated them,
            cheeky Frogs and Commies
            everyone of them.

But their killers made a claim for Allah
            and that made them your favorite
            current object of revile.

Before I can raise my tear streaked face,
            you stand there and accuse me
            of cowardly silence.

Yet here I am, unsilent,
            my voice raised against fanaticism,
            unreason and bigotry,
            for freedom,
            yea even the right to be an asshole.

But that is not enough.

I must, you say, if I love justice,
            hold every man, woman, or child
            who kneels five times a day
            to equal account for these murders
            and make them all pay
thousands of times over
with their own blood.
I see and condemn a sliver of fanatics,
            you see whole races equally guilty.

There seems to be not much difference
            between you and these killers,
            except maybe degree or,
            perhaps, time.

—Patrick Murfin

No comments:

Post a Comment