Archive for April, 2006

Today began as every other day before it has, and as every other day hereafter likely will, but it is nonetheless different in its own regard. Today is the day you would have turned 24 years old, and we remember.

I am a social-reconstructivist and I venomously attack things that I perceive as corrupt or despicable. My words and actions evoke counterfire; in nearly all contexts, this dialogue is very much welcome albeit is often uncivil. On this day however, with respect to my friend and those who fell beside him, I am cordially inviting us all to lay our swords aside, just for a period of time, and render proper customs to those who sacrificed their lives in service to their homeland.

Dedicated to my friend, the fifteen other Marines of 3/25 that died August 3rd of last year, and all those others who have been killed in violent conflict, fighting for what they believe. The world remembers, and offers you its gratitude. I have written the following and dedicate to your memory,

Listlessly stares my eyes into infinity,
Locks with those of the setting sun.
For your eyes’ returning glance they hunt and languish in despair
They see nothing amid the glowing transient abyss before them.

Tumbles my tears on mournful descent parade;
My eyes allow them their escape, my cheeks the trails they gracefully pass over.
Cold and motionless, my face, but for those tears, a busy mind behind them
Thinking and remembering, reconstructing you, and in silent prayer:

To think you died, good friend of old;
Your blood spilled in the sand.
Your sacrifice, though brave and bold,
Defended not this land.

Did Death, her ugly majesty,
Embrace your soul in greed?
Did peaceful grace, in sympathy,
Give aid in time of need?

Dear friend, I beg, I plead, I pray,
To whom in heaven reign
That on that God-forsaken day,
You died, but spared from pain.

Dear friend, if only He’d discern
The passions of my heart,
Your life, to us, He would return.
To death, mine, I’d impart.

May God bless you, as I’m sure He has, for your presence (within His own domain) He now enjoys.
Daniel Black

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Throughout the scorching African jungles that define Congo’s geography, a thick, nearly suffocating aura saturates the air and has lurked deep within the region for decades. This unseen omnipresence influences the local inhabitants as a phantom that summons them by the thousands, escorting them to their peril. A four year war that has taken the lives of 4 million left behind cliques of rebel militias that survive by killing entire villages and gleaning what resources their demise has left behind. Massacre, rape, burning and destroying, maiming and eating the bodies of the dead, these are not unthinkable occurrences, they are daily realities, and the rebels’ methods transcend the ranges of even our imaginations. It has been described by the U.N. humanitarian chief as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” and so it may be.

Journalist Bryan Mealer, in an article in April’s Harper’s, describes his encounters in the Congo, the images of Congo his eyes have absorbed, and the words of a few military Leaders that the U.N. has dispatched there to dispatch what goes on there. They fret and grimace as they discuss what they shoulder day-to-day. The officers warmly express their anxiety and gloom that have become a part of their lives and their identities. From reading their words, one becomes attuned to the soft and sympathy-evoking sounds a shattered spirit emanates. Mealer himself withdrew into this state of free-floating disparity himself once a sufficient period of immersion has transpired. His ambition dissolved as his vision, whatever it may’ve been, evaporated before his very eyes. It is interesting, though, to see what has succeeded these ambitions.

Bryan Mealer’s words struck me in their similarity to those of Chris Hedges’ in his book, “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning”. These two talented writers share in their experiences witness to some of the most horrible and seemingly hopeless cases of inhumanity, magnified to an unimaginable extent. The images they have been forced to confront throughout their careers I cannot capture with my words. Human matter, dead and decaying, microorganisms feeding upon the charred, pulpy mass that weeks earlier was playful, innocent children. Struggling with persistent poverty in a geographical area laden heavily with valuable mineral resources (gold, diamonds, and things of the like) humble, defenseless communities have fallen victim to the most horrific atrocities: cold indifference to genocide, desensitization to grotesque, subhuman acts of murder, maiming and corpse-carving as though they were jackolanterns and methodically shucking the human species as ears of corn. The cost that these events have exacted of their observers is morbidly high: it has cost them there hope for stability in the areas of societal dysfunction they’ve witnessed, but that hope’s departure has not left behind nothing. The odd consolation I have discovered is these outlying experiences have berthed identical agendas for the two journalists: not to affect change, but to develop an understanding. They return to ground zero, a small piece of hell they’ve found dwelling on earth, hoping gain a comprehension of things incomprehensible.

I believe the human mind loves understanding, just as beasts of nature love dominance and newborn infants love affection and attachment. The historical events these two men have come face to face with at their respective epicenters have engendered little desire to become agents of improvement; this may be because seeing such cataclysmic injustice on a sweeping scale makes an individual perversely aware of his/her smallness and insignificance, but it nonetheless leaves behind this innate desire to comprehend what they see.

The U.N has, since Bryan Mealer’s work in the Congolese debacle started, increased it’s involvement immensely. The U.N. workers have a tough job before them, perhaps one that is hopeless but spitefully still worthy of pursuit. The different militia groups they combat are perhaps completely beyond the reach of Western rationale and for this realization, the stages of diplomatic non-violence have been rightfully bypassed. Deep in the jungles of the Congo, many countries are systematically eradicating the indigenous fighters that terrorize the poor and defenseless villages. India and Pakistan, for example, work cooperatively by flushing the militiamen out of the jungles with Special Forces and then, once they’re exposed to aerial view, exterminating them with helicopter gunships. By Mealer’s account, these insertions are highly effective in the making of men into meat, but to what end do they serve?

The strategies employed by these countries in their “peace-seeking” efforts are drawn on a pillar schematic that is identical to the ones of the militias they are up against. A struggle to terminate rampant violence uses the very same tools for resolution as are used for the causes of that resolution’s necessitation. Simply stated, to put a stop to mass murder, we bring our guns; to eliminate the incidence of senseless death, we are flushing the perpetrators out of the jungles and massacring them. Do I endorse my beloved non-violent conflict-resolution strategy in this case? I will not naïvely presume that civil dialogue with these war parties can hope to untangle the situation, but I firmly believe that the potential outcomes of a campaign defined by the mutual intolerance of all involved parties are inherently limited. Through gun-fighting, we are confining ourselves to perpetual aggression that may only know peace if one or both of the opposing sides has met the demise of its/their entirety. Is peace hopeful in this case? If we kill them all, will history accept our actions as justified and forgive the use of genocide to end genocide? Is that even possible? Here’s a more disheartening rhetorical question: Do we, as a culture so far from the violence, even care?

The injustices of the Congo run deep but also spread far. Some forms of injustice are not as easily diagnosed as others. The violence of the Congo is just that: violence; aggression in the pure sense of the word, but what has allowed it to evolve to such a desperate and dire extent? The inaction of the world’s observers. As the Rasta gunfighters work alongside the Hutu to eradicate entire tribes, the local Congolese hang onto the fringes of survival, evading bullets, machetes, cholera, dysentery, and starvation, the U.N. fighters strive for peace firing bullets and dropping bombs, and the journalists are slowly allowing their sanity to escape them in exchange for something, some blueprint of humanitarian wholeness that speaks and conveys: “there’s the answer, that is why; here, this is the design and how it all fits together”. They are all losing their battles, and why is that? Which faction is to blame? The only group of individuals I haven’t mentioned and that is everyone else, all of us who do nothing, who do not kill for profit, try to escape, kill for peace, or struggle to understand. It’s ironic that we are not a part of the struggle even though we are a part of the world, but instead we associate ourselves through disassociation. Apathy to injustice is an agent of injustice, and although we do not fire the shots that cause the deaths of peaceful, innocent people, we do turn our attention to other things and ignore the fate of the defenseless. This cold-shoulder acceptance causes journalists’ hope for change to rescind as hope for understanding emerges, an understanding they will never have like the peace the Congo will never know.

— Dan Black

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