The Sliding Scale of Atrocity

Back to the political crap – first, lemme just say that I feel so much better now that Robert Fisk has passed along the intelligence to us that a senior leader of Hamas in Gaza has declared that the latest *suicide bombers* – three teenage boys, who in an overwrought and not very effective teenage way tried to attack the Israeli settlement of Netzarim and were killed before they got very far – were in fact completely out of bounds as they were too young to fight the good fight in a religious way.

Nice to know that Hamas does draw the line somewhere; although I have to say, being the cynic that I am, that it’s probably just because by the time a boy reaches eighteen years of age, he’s usually put on a bit more muscle than a scrawny fourteen or fifteen year old and thus can pack more explosives into enemy territory.

On another note, the Palestinians are really stepping on their dicks in the propaganda arena with all this talk about the atrocities of Jenin being worse than the Nazi Holocaust, worse than Bosnia, worse than 9/11. Five will get you ten that they’d never in a million years say Jenin was worse than Qana, on the sliding scale of horror – even though having whole neighborhoods systematically razed and snipers taking out anyone daring to show their face on the street is, in many ways, worse than being blown to bits in between heartbeats, at least for the survivors (witness the faces of those who lived in Beirut twenty years ago when the PLO took over, and then the Israelis showed up).

Qana holds a holy place on that sliding scale of horror, as it should, given the innocents killed there in their sleep; but it’s still not as significant from an historical perspective as the Armenian Holocaust, the Nazi Holocaust, the Bosnian concentration camps, or 9/11 – sheer numbers alone decry that leveling, much less the effect on a nationalistic and world-wide scale.

It’s one thing to indulge in overblown rhetoric for the sake of the press, but quite another to expect to be taken seriously in an international forum when one lacks perspective. I have no children, and thus cannot truly speak to the pain of a mother losing her child, but I have lost close family members in violent ways, and I can say with certainty that there are better and worse contexts to frame a death, to frame the remains in a casket, to frame a painful set of memories that never quite fade enough for peace. It doesn’t make it better to know that someone else killed your brother than to know that a brother has chosen to end his own life, and it doesn’t make it better to know that an impartial disease has eaten the life of your loved one than to know that a drunk driver smeared your loved one’s brains across the pavement.

But there can be perspective, if we allow ourselves to lift our eyes to a level above our individual pain and see that the world goes on and we can choose to remain a part of history or we can actively participate in creating a better future. Maybe even stop something before it goes too far and more people get hurt. It starts with telling the truth – on all sides.


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