Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free At Last


I have a very specific nausea reflex when it comes to acts of violence. Like most Americans my age, I'm not generally affected by depictions of violence in film, TV or videogames (although the more graphic the depiction, the less sanguine I remain; the data about such depictions desensitizing test subjects to acts of real-life violence are increasingly conclusive). I'm swiftly moved to the point of physical illness, however, by depictions of violence done to innocents, whether real-life or fictional. I can't bear to stay in the room, for example, while my wife cheerfully digests the true-crime docudrama cable shows produced by Bill Kurtis and his ilk; I know many women, particularly, derive from such programs a sense of vicarious triumph over the understandable anxieties that dog them any time they hear footsteps in a parking garage, and they're welcome to it, but I can hardly stomach the recounting of the cold-blooded slaughter of innocent people, much less the re-enacting of it. (Hell, I got sick once when I accidentally caught the cold opening of a "Law & Order" episode in which two college students using an out-of-town parent's apartment for a little nookie were walked in on by thieves and then methodically blown away, despite tearful pleas for mercy. It may not surprise you to learn I'm not a fan of the show.) This reaction doesn't disturb me; on the contrary, I find my visceral response to such things a welcome confirmation of my own persistent humanity.

All of that is to say that few things sicken me more than when terrorists kidnap innocent people, particularly aid workers or journalists who are there to help non-combatants and get their stories out to the world unfiltered by the military, paramilitary or government powers-that-be. If there's a clearer-cut category of self-defeating evildoing than threatening to take the life of a person not only with whom one has no quarrel, but who is actively trying to do something that aids one's own supposed cause, I can't imagine what it is. I am, for a number of reasons, in foursquare opposition to our misadventures in Iraq, but when I hear of a hostage being beheaded on camera with a knife, for God's sake - no matter who they are: military, contractor, U.N. worker, whatever - my reasoned opposition is sorely, sorely tested. Such acts are not, sad to say, inhuman in the strict sense, but they are acute reminders that the purveyors of "intelligent design" and such nonsense are demonstrably full of crap. We are descended from animals; of that, there is no doubt.

And so today I'm literally overcome with flushed, tangible relief. I rejoice, as I'm sure every person with a beating heart does, to hear that Jill Carroll is a free woman. She says that her captors, though they publicly threatened to take her life on several occasions, treated her well and subjected her to no acts of physical violence at all (although the emotional trauma of her ordeal can only be massive). If that is indeed the case, I am profoundly grateful.

I am not a religious man, but at times like this I often wish I were, if only so I might thank the providence which allowed this mercy to come to pass. I have been sick for three months over Jill Carroll's predicament. Today I am, as my homegirls Emily and Amy would say, a little bit closer to fine.

Welcome home, Ms. Carroll.



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