Random thoughts on blood & guts, and Syria… [NSFW]

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I’ve been a journalist, as I care to define it (getting paid for it, albeit not that much) for about 16 years or so, but that was mostly music and whatnot. In that time, I was never really squeamish about blood and guts; I had no particular desire to see it, but it didn’t bother me much when I did. Part of that was probably culture; I grew up seeing fights, bleeding, people who’d been shot or otherwise injured violently. I was a wrestling fan, so I was weaned on the bloodbaths that often typified the southern territories of my youth; I also watched stuff like “Faces of Death”, and the various websites catering to those interests, which disturbed me, but never enough to just avoid it.

From a professional standpoint, it wasn’t an issue until September 28, 2000–the day that Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount (aka al-Aqsa Mosque, aka Haram al-Sharif), in a political move that led immediately to the Second Palestinian intifada. It was a nasty, brutal conflict that I never saw up-close, but wrote about extensively–that work entailed parsing the visual data, which was both copious and exceptionally awful to see: Bombed-out Israeli buses with dismembered dead bodies still in their seats, left there for the media to understand why Likud was ascendant; old Palestinian women with their chests torn open like Thanksgiving turkeys come wishbone time; children shot to death on-camera. I’ll never forget the image of a young man who’d been allegedly hit with something big enough to bisect his skull from crown to cuspids; it was, for me, the visual embodiment of yet another needless war.

Those images were made somewhat tolerable by the context: Those depicted were often combatants, or at least innocents who could be credibly categorized as “collateral damage”. But 9/11 was something different–a mass-murder of entirely innocent people, carried out in real-time in a manner that was impossible for the general public to ignore, in America or everywhere else. Our nation was instantly plunged into a collective PTSD-type state, with the inconsistency and reckless behavior one might expect of that condition–not just the wars, but the overall character of our nation and its sphere of influence. America got a lot more cold, callous and ruthlessly violent at that point, and it remains that way to this day. The new war brought new methods, which coupled with the proliferation of communications technology meant an unprecedented amount of human carnage visited upon casual consumers of mass-media. That process really began–or at least peaked–with the killing of Daniel Pearl, a reporter whose head was chopped off by the terrorists he was attempting to investigate. His murder, along with many others (Margaret Hassan, Nicholas Berg, etc.), were videotaped by the killers and disseminated through the internet; never had it been easier to watch people die on-camera. The effect was chilling.

I watched all this stuff, and rarely flinched. But over the past few years, my ability to watch such things has curtailed dramatically. I can think of several reasons for that, none of which are of any particular relevance at this moment. The point is that I mostly avoided such material, even when there was a journalistic imperative. For example, there are tons of photos documenting the immediate aftermath of the Haitian earthquake from a few years ago, none of which I’ve really looked at. I tried, but kids crushed in rubble was too much to even attempt to look at. Those tendencies have persisted, almost without exception until a few hours ago, when I started looking at reports about the alleged poison-gas attack in Syria.

Courtesy Associated Press

 

Putting aside discussion of the actual conflict (about which there is plenty to say, and plenty to see all over the web), as well as the wide discrepancy in the estimates of those killed (which range from 600-1,300, last I checked), I’ll note that i spent a good couple hours just looking at pictures of the people killed and injured by whatever it was that was dropped on them. Most of them were children, many of whom died with their eyes still open, and not much visual sign of any trouble, aside from blue lips and blank expressions. They almost looked like drowsy kids daydreaming in the summer heat, which is probably exactly what they were before they were murdered by the hundreds. It was hard to even look, at first; the cursor danced swiftly from top to bottom, allowing me to take in outlines without real detail, until it gradually became more tolerable. Eventually, I got to the business of scrutinizing the faces of the dead to see if they gave any casual indication of what had happened to them. The blue lips suggested hypoxia, rapid oxygen deprivation, which could come from drowning, suffocation, asphyxiation or strangulation. But they weren’t wet, they had been gathered in the open air, not inside a building, and there were no external markings to indicate any trauma of any obvious kind. Also, their eyes were clear; they weren’t jaundiced or bloodshot, and there were no broken blood-vessels, like there would be if someone had been strangled.

I sat there for a good while, trying to think of how all those people could be killed so fast, leaving corpses that looked like that, without using some type of banned chemical or biological agent on unarmed civilians, and it was only after I’d satisfied myself as to the likelihood of what happened–which would be a war-crime, enough to merit the immediate execution of anyone involved on any level of its formulation or implementation–that I became even slightly comfortable with having made myself look at those pictures. It helped that, eventually, I was able to stop thinking about myself, and start thinking about the victims, and their silenced voices. Always a good idea…

Courtesy RT

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About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

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