As a child, beheadings remained comfortably in the realm of the ancients. The Romans and Greeks, the French at the time of the Revolution and the British in the 1600s, all partook in this grisly form of punishment. But as kids, we were safe, separated by the chasm of centuries, and knowing with real confidence that all it would take was a kiss from the prince for Sleeping Beauty to wake up and that no matter how many times you read the story, the glass slipper would always fit Cinderella, just in the in nick of time.
As a child I didn’t know that the French were still shouting “off with their heads!” (In French), up until the early 1980s and that the Saudis would continue to do so, and would show little sign of fatigue, even until 2013 when around 80 unfortunates would succumb to this horror.
And then, in 2002, when I was no longer a child and when the world was no longer innocent, we watched Daniel Pearl being executed. The event was filmed with a hand held camcorder and distributed by video tape. He was most probably murdered by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of the masterminds of September 11, our collective adult moment in global time. We watched a confession we knew was staged, we felt his pain, felt the agony of his wife and of his parents and then we averted our gaze hoping that this was something that we would never have to witness again.
And then, in 2014, when adulthood had brought with it the cynicism and skepticism of the aged, beheadings became the marketing strategy of the evil and the insane. And all this in the name of Islam. I am told that those who defend the indefensible rely on a famous passage (Sura 47:4) “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks”. For this reason the kneeling position along with a confession, as then this all might indeed have that appearance.
It has struck fear and revulsion in us all, in the children within us, as this is the fabric and the essence of our young nightmares. We try not to watch and not to give it life but who amongst us hasn’t spent a moment pondering what must be going on in the mind of the victims, the numbing terror of those kneeling on the ground, the horror of their loved ones and the physical pain that they have to endure in their last moments on this cruel earth. It is a death, not surrounded by those precious to them and with closure, but one of brutality and indignity. It is termination of life and not the fulfillment of it. And all this in the “name of God.”
I imagine that God too weeps as He witnesses what His children are doing. In our world, car bombs have lost their impact unless multitudes are butchered, mere kidnappings are passé and we forget the plight of the girls that we were to “Bring Back” as the next news cycle revolves into focus. Shock and brutality is the only way that we will be forced to take note. Beheadings and threats of Ebola are our new bedfellows and we will get used to them too.
Obama insists that ISIL not Islam. And I am sure that he is right. It is evil and it is depraved. But it is successful for now. It has allowed a motley bunch of fanatics to subdue anyone in their way. It has started a trend that I fear cant be stemmed and it has attracted the stupid and the damaged from the West who rush to join this “noble” cause. Maybe it is not in the name of religion but their insistence that it is is very confusing.
We all know the witch is wicked. We all recognize that she is driven to destroy what is most beautiful and pure, and even a child knows that in order to save the world that she needs to be stopped. It is simply not good enough to send her a strongly worded letter or to stop selling her soap. We all knew that as children – now it is time to remember.