Sunday, June 01, 2003

And which of these was the barbarian?

In Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire, set in 840 BC, a young Greek boy watches from a covert as Argives destroy his family home and raze his city. As he stumbles away from the scene in a daze, another shocked survivor remarks that: "See how numb we are? You'll never see Spartans in such a state ... Fifty of them!", the man still shouted, while his wife struggled to tug him back to the safety of the trees. 'Five!' One would have saved us.!"

In the United Nations-protected city of Bunia, the only town in the Congo with armed peacekeepers, and the only town slated to receive additional French "reinforcements", the following scene was enacted. According to the Telegraph:

"From her hiding place in the woods outside the Congolese town of Bunia, Ruta Bonabingi watched as militiamen roasted and then ate the severed arms of her dying daughters. It was the horrifying finale to 48 hours of terror for Ruta and her family.

...  "The Lendu were going about with machetes, chopping off one arm from the shoulder and then the other. Some people were screaming but most were silent. Then I saw them. Their arms had already been cut off."

The militiamen calmly cooked the flesh over an open fire before throwing their victims, some of whom were still alive, into the flames. "They were both moving, although very weakly," Ruta said.

She had watched her while daughters were dismembered and roasted while still alive, as 700 UN peacekeepers cowered behind razor wire not far away. One Spartan would have saved us.

In Pressfield's fictional novel, the little Greek boy resolves to find and live among these legendary Spartans, and learn from them what is necessary to prevent the repetition such tragedies. But fortunately for the world, those archaic notions have long been banished by enlightenment. Now we have the United Nations: action itself is intolerable; and the condemnation of human depravity a hate crime. The peace poet Judyth Hill in her poem Wage Peace says that you can:

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.

Make soup. That's exactly what the cannibals were doing.