Friday, October 15, 2004

Getting Revenge on the Dead

I've seen this quote a few times now, included in reports about the recent penetration of the Oz-like "Green Zone" and the twin suicide bombings:

The National Security Adviser, Qassem Dawoud, said: "This cowardly act will not go unpunished. We shall strike them ... we shall smash them."

First, dying for what you believe in is hardly a cowardly act, is it? I mean, we give our highest honors for bravery and courage to our troops who put themselves in harm's way, and more oft than not Medals of Honor are distributed posthumously.

Second, how in the hell do you punish someone who is already dead? Yeah, yeah, I know Qassem means they want to go after the support system for those who try and take others with them as they commit this act.

But who has stopped to think how against human nature it is to kill oneself? What does it take? People who are so desperate, so void of hope, or so mentally depressed that they see their own death as a positive measure -- or maybe even a final pain-killing measure -- would strap explosives onto themselves and then detonate them. The human being, marvel of creation, could not have survived this long if suicide was easy.

I remember the story about Thich Quang Duc, in Saigon in 1963, dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself alight. And I remember thinking, "There is no greater sacrifice than this..." There was much to be said about whether or not Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation was right. But you have to admit, at least back then, it meant something.