Everybody has a “kill ’em all” moment—at least once in a while. Everybody. Mother Theresa had ’em.
Not immediately, mind you. It took a couple of seconds to register. I mean, at first all I saw was a very pretty girl in a beautiful hijab. I mean—look at those eyes! At the same instant I did think (no cliche) “What’s wrong with this picture?”
See it took a couple of seconds because I just couldn’t imagine this. I’ve read plenty of gruesome tales from various histories (Roman, Persian, Henry IV, etc.) where such things happened. But that was like, oh… a THOUSAND YEARS AGO.
It literally took a couple of seconds before my brain would accept the visual information being streamed in through me glassies. I’ve read a bunch of psychology articles which talk about the old ‘deer in the headlights’ deal—people hesitate for a moment or two because they literally cannot process that what they are experiencing could be happening. So they drown. Or fail to duck. The brain just takes time to accept data that has to be absurd or a hallucination because it’s just too crappy.
And when it hit me? I immediately thought: Kill ’em all. Just kill ’em. Nuke ’em. Whatever. They are profligate, unreachable sons o’ bitches who are evolutionarily five hundred years behind some basic norms of human decency. They are like a ten year old who found dad’s gun. They can inflict way more pain and suffering than they are mature enough to be allowed to handle. I don’t care if it’s patronising. Hell, I wish I could be more patronising and actually act like dad and punish ’em. Because frankly? They don’t think straight. And I’ve heard all the arguments like Thomas Merton and the whole, “you think yourselves so much more moral because you kill your enemies from great heights and don’t see their faces.” Well, ya know what? That sure as shit does make one more moral, pal. Because when you can go right up to a child and cut their nose off like Kurtz in Apocalypse Now? You have reached a whole new level of disregard for human life. Some rationalisations are better than others, mate.
Now, if you’ve read this far, then please understand: this ain’t about politics. I don’t wanna hear about how you hated Bush. Or love Barack. Or whatever. Because frankly? I don’t give a shit about Afghanistan. They’re just some Rudyard Kipling story I read as a kid about weird people in turbans constantly going at it with white people who are in a climate that’s just too damned hot for a civilised Englishman to be fighting over. What—ehverrrr. It’s a nice story, but that’s about it for me. These people have obviously been suffering since before Alexander. And we may have wasted a ton o’ money and time, but whether the USA was right, wrong or indifferent in “goin’ in.” This picture tells me that we haven’t messed things up any more than anyone else has. Or any more than they were already doing themselves. As we say back in Ireland, ‘Different bread; same sandwich.’ We may have changed the flavour of the pain for a while, but these people would be suffering whether we were there or not. That’s what the piccie says to me.
And hopefully, dear reader, I hope you’re mature enough to realise that my initial visceral response has long since passed and I do not seriously advocate doing anything violent because of this young woman’s plight. As I wrote in the first line, everyone has visceral feelings like that. But we’re adults, right? We get past it. And, beyond the obvious ‘wrong’ factor, as I wrote in the previous paragraph, it wouldn’t make any difference anyhoo. Even if I could somehow magically get that young lady a nose job or a plane ticket out? That would probably just incite the locals to do her in. Or her entire family. Hoo boy.
But that’s not what this column is about.
What I really want to say—what I coulda said in a couple of sentences is this:
I salute Time Magazine. This cover is a work of artistic, civic and marketing genius. No exaggeration. I can’t think of the last time I saw one photo that said so much; that not only moved me, but so perfectly summed up a situation; and then kept paying dividends over and over as I keep looking at it. In fact, I cannot stop staring at it. Or thinking about it. (Which is pretty amazing considering how awful it is to contemplate or even look at.)
This image portrays a woman of great dignity and beauty. And then of course there is THE HORROR. How many works of art mesh all three of those attributes. And still make a buck. (Sorry to lower the loft for a minute but the idea is to sell a product, right? If this be sensationalism? It’s sensationalism done right.)
They accomplished what I try to do—take an idea that canot be expressed in even 100,000 words (let alone 1,000) and express it in a way that is even more meaningful. By not using words.
The best compliment I can think of to bestow upon this article? I don’t think I’ll read the actual text for a while. How can it possibly measure up to something this potent and powerful. It needs no words. I wish I could write a piece of music this deep.