Lost in translation

Stoning the Devil between noon and sunset
Today 345 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia were stampeded to death. Hundreds more were injured. It happened in the frantic scramble of millions of pilgrims trying to edge close enough to three ancient pillars to cast 29 pebbles at them. Or something like that. Before the sun set.

I wish I wasn’t feeling so disheartened by this news. It’s not about the loss of life exactly. Antiwar activists are trying their best to give meaning to the Iraqi deaths we’ve caused in this war while Muslims in Mecca are dying because they’ve trampled each other.

When you take this religious war at face value you can see why many Americans dismiss Islam as a religion for simple people. On one hand you become convinced to take up the responsibility of the white man’s burden, and on the other hand you want to subdue any militancy such a people might entertain toward threatening you.

On a day like today it’s hard not to want to hedge your bets with the Neocon zionists.

A stampede like this has the propensity to happen every year at the ritual of the Ramajat. Sometimes the casualties have been many times more. Each year the government tries to improve the lay of the land to accommodate the increasing millions of pebble-throwing pilgrims. Imagine if everyone descending to the subway was determined to use just the leftmost turnstyle, and they weren’t about to slow down to do it.

Except that these death at Mecca were of their own choosing, and except that to die on the Hajj is an honorable death, this predictable tragedy appears synonymous with the useless muslim deaths by our hand.

I cannot help but feel there’s racism in my sentiments. These pilgrims weren’t killed because they were stupid or simple or primitive. This is tradition meets technology, maximum capacity meets three million persons, this is crowd dynamics.

I do not begrudge the Muslims their holy pursuits, especially as a response to the tragedies we’ve visited upon them. But couldn’t the pilgrims or the Saudi government for that matter take a special war-time care not to appear careless about their own lives?

It’s a hard enough sell over here. Here American newspeople are still asking questions like “civilian casualties -are the lives of our soldiers being jeopardized by too great of a concern for the safety of Iraqi civilians?”

It would be no great leap for a young American soldier to rationalize his callous barbarity. He can believe he’s machine-gunning the “stupid Hadjis” to their eternal paradise.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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