Dignity and Death

Christmas is gone, and with it the associated materialist frenzy of buying, replaced now by the zen-like spirituality of the January sales. People deprived of the right to shop for 48 hours are once again exercising the privilege of living in a free country and buying gadgets. And why do we all need new models of mobile phones with video streaming capabilities, PSP games consoles and nifty new laptops and broadband connections? To be able to watch a 69 year old man spend his last few seconds on this earth being taunted, insulted and then killed. Yes, Christmas is well and truly over.

Last week’s news concerning mobile phone video of the execution of the world’s least popular tyrant was full of righteous denunciations and a great deal of tut-tutting. Bush, Blair and even Prescott denounced the video, a decidedly less sanitised version than the official one put out by Iraqi officials, and the press have pretty much agreed.

But, wait, though the air is thick with righteous mumblings at every water-cooler and lunch table about how awful and sick it all is, can you shift to another sense for a moment and sniff the air? What’s that smell? Is that hypocrisy? If I am offended by the circulation of the execution video but am fine with the fact that the death in question has so much in common in terms of style and presentation with a lynching, am I perhaps not missing the point? And if I denounce the manner of his death and shout, as many have done, without a hint of irony, about the need for dignity at such events, perhaps I have failed to recognise what looms large on the agenda of a condemned man. It’s not dignity. It’s death. And the fact is that it is likely that this man, whatever his crimes, did not receive a fair trial. At least that’s if people such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, are to be believed. If you are not convinced, ask yourself the question: might Saddam have been acquitted? It seems a shame to have bothered with a trial at all.

So when the leaders of the free West grumble and rhubarb and go “shame, shame” with straight faces, it is not the leftover Christmas cake giving me a severe case of indigestion. Or am I being overly sensitive? If anything became clear last week, two things did.  A: Saddam was a very bad man; and B: This is internal Iraqi business, our hands were tied. Now, I don’t think point A is in any doubt, but when even the Guardian’s obituary for Saddam underplays the importance of the US backing and training as well as the French and UK weapons sales that helped Saddam do his killing at his most productive period, I suspect conscience-salving on a grand scale. But point B illustrates, this petty act of barbarism was not our fault. Because in a world where we unblushingly use terms like “regime change” and where democratically electing an Arab nationalist party means we will stop talking to your government and deny you aid, the West clearly has no influence over court proceedings in liberated Iraq.

And what should Christians do about all this? Isn’t it all just a bit too political? I guess it is. Let’s leave politics to the politicians and get on with the important business of choosing curtains for the vestry. I mean, by not getting involved in politics, it’s not like we’re saying everything in the political world is acceptable as it is, are we? Happy New Year. 



One Response

  1. I personally find it bothersome when people use God to justify their political stance. Why does this bother me? Because you can find people on either side of an issue that genuinely feel they are right due to religious reasons. It’s when it comes down to gut level honesty that we discover for ourselves what we truely believe, not what hype we get caught up in. Things like war are really crappy, but I have to believe they are necessary sometimes because man is fallen and already screwed up. That statement is not in defense of any war or politician, I mean it merely as that. Love is what matters most, and without it, nothing else matters.

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