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Archive for July, 2011

memorial to Oslo's victims

The  event of last Tuesday in Norway, when Anders Behring Breivik, 32 year old fanatic, “set off a bomb in Oslo that killed 8 people and then massacred 68 mainly young people at a summer camp run by the ruling Labor Party on the nearby island of Utoya” was flat-out scary.  Even scarier is the idea that he has a message, shared by at least two cells of committed followers poised to act similarly to him. Allegedly Breivik intends to spend the rest of his life in jail  getting that message out to even more people in the world who agree with him and who will, ostensibly, join the cause.

Don’t scoff. Hitler thought the same way.   Breivik’s lawyer remarked that he could not ” describe [his client] because he is not like anyone.” That too could go to describe Hitler.

There will always be those who hate.  Breivik hates Muslim immigrants although he killed his own people for being, he asserted, cultural Marxists.  (I had to dig into Wikipedia to figure that term out. The quickest study was provided by William S. Lind who wrote,” “Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious.”)

According to Doug Sanders, Breivik’s manifesto is titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” and in it, Breivik “describes himself as a member of a nine-year-old organization he calls the Knights Templar Justiciar, comprising between 12 and 18 members, who pledge to use “martyrdom” to crush Muslim immigration, multiculturalism, and the individuals and parties who tolerate immigrants, who they characterize as “Marxists” or “multiculturalists.”

It would be a good thing if people knew more about the ancient Knights Templar, a group which did not pay taxes and whose leaders were burned at the stake by Philip the Fair in the 14th century, France.  A group can hurt a community and make itself hated when it goes to extremes.

As Doug sanders also writes,

“The revelations come as a blow to European police and intelligence officials, who now appear to face two parallel terror threats, one Islamic and one anti-Islamic, which share xenophobic beliefs, violent tactics and even inspirational leaders, and differ only in their targets.”

When ideas are good, no force is truly necessary to gain acceptance: nothing is required save good writing–or good singing, as in Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (“All men shall be brothers.”)

When ideas are bad, they are held by fanatics who demonstrate the use of  bad writing or speaking, otherwise known  as the rant.  A rant is not just loud, bombastic, repetitive speech or writing; it is further characterized by obsession.  Those who rant tend not to show good humor or tolerance, or allow others to think as they wish.

The writings of the Norwegian gunman, if anyone could get through the 1500 pages, would definitely be classified as rantings.

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–All photographs by David Urrutia

Graveyards, like books, make a statement.  The few words written on gravestones are arguably among the most potent one can read. Perhaps it is this very potency that keeps many away, for the message in graveyards can be most uncomfortable.   For others, graveyards represent an opportunity to pay respect to and pray for those departed. 

(I see images in my mind’s eye as I type this, of characters depicted in film, visiting and scrubbing their forebears’ tombstones.)  Since more and more people today choose cremation over being buried in plots, those living are doubtless going to have fewer chances to read the last words commemorating the lives of those born at the turn of this century or earlier.

  What does it matter, you may well ask, once we are dead, to have words carved on a block of stone?  Possibly it matters not at all.  Nonetheless my husband and I felt very touched  by the message we got when visiting the cemetery at Cambria, in California, right after attending the Fourth of July parade in Cayucos, a message not entirely made with words.   David, being a photographer, felt drawn to the lack of pretense in the rambling, not-so-terribly straight rows of gravestones that were mixtures of love, whimsy and cultures.  Cambria cemetery, dating to 1880,  had quite a few tombstones that announce the interred as having been born early in the 1800s in Scotland, Germany, and other parts of Europe.  How potent four words can be when they tell so much about a life:  Born in Ireland, 1820.

I felt the pioneers around me, as well as those severely tried. Three tombstones neatly arranged together with corners dulled by decades of rain showed that three siblings had died within months of each other, during the great flu epidemic after the First World War.   There was nothing to read but  names, ages, months and years of demise, and in those few words I read a tragedy to redden my eyes as I contemplated the parents or whoever had survived to pay for the stones.

The wood sticks or crosses told another story, sometimes with nothing but a date: unknown person buried by the community. Another type of tragedy.

Yet despite these sad musings, there were several deer serenely grazing, and demonstrations of honor and respect for the beauty and hope of those lives now concluded.  Never have I seen so many chair-backed benches near ingenuously handmade graves .  One child’s grave was decorated with his toys and no one has taken them away. Another bench was under a sign that implored the visitor to read the words of the interred, who had been a writer. (I almost thought some writings would be there, and dutifully looked, on the spot, for a page or two under glass.)  Yet another was of a cherished mother, wife, artist and writer.  May I call lucky a deceased person who has left behind in this life people still living who respect her passions and creativity?  

We will all be in that state, someday, and I mean no disrespect in my title.  It came to me after reading two inscriptions. The first said of its occupant: “He lived for better or for worse, but he died for good.”

The second was a quote, presumably from the lips of the deceased:  “I told you I was sick.”

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If there’s one sure-fire way to break through as an author, it’s to sell a book about a recent tragedy. And if that tragedy involves a celebrity or politician, all the better. Most of these tell-all books manage to arrive in stores within weeks. No one worries about how well written they are, or how fact driven. Only that they are about some media crazed event that’s been hogging the nightly news. I used to think publishers were to blame for this trend; after all, they’re the ones who buy the books. But, to be fair, if the general public didn’t buy them, publishers would stop rushing them to market. Maybe instead of the upcoming ten to twenty titles that will be centered on the media’s latest fascination, Casey Anthony, we’d have only one or two. And maybe those two would actually be worth the price of admission.

I didn’t follow Casey Anthony’s case very closely.  I knew the basics from what I saw on the news or read in the paper, but I didn’t spend countless hours in front of CNN or MSNBC or FOX, hanging on every little detail. Naturally I felt bad for the family. The death of a child is a terrible thing, and if little Caylee was murdered, that makes it all so much worse. Yet from what I gathered by news accounts, prosecutors were never able to prove how Caylee died let alone that she was murdered—by her mother or anyone else. The cause of death remains unknown.

I’m not sure what it was about this case that caused such a media frenzy. (Could it really be as simple as Casey’s tattoo?) Awful as it is, children die every day, some from illness, others by freak accidents. A smaller number fall victim to foul play. But how many of those children wind up at the center of the 24-hour news cycle? Thankfully for their families, not many. I couldn’t imagine how awful it would be to hear about my child’s demise day after day after day. Countless strangers giving their opinions on TV. Media-hungry attorneys (and I use the “attorney” term loosely here) popping up on every possible venue giving their expert opinions. If there is a lawyer more reprehensible than Nancy Grace, I hope I never see his or her face.

Obviously the media is absolutely stunned by the jury’s speedy verdict in Anthony’s trial, but is it really stunning? As a juror, your duty is to find a defendant innocent unless there is concrete evidence to the contrary. Maybe Casey is guilty, but the prosecution couldn’t prove it, and so the jury did their job, unpleasant as it might be. For now, the members of that jury remain anonymous. But it’s only a matter of time before they surface. Some by choice, others because the media will find out who they are. Some will break down and cash in on the offers of fame and fortune that are sure to follow. Some won’t. But all will be judged in the media, just as Casey Anthony was judged. How could they allow a murderess to go free? A woman who killed her own child? How will they be able to live with themselves?

To be sure, the media will keep this case alive for months, debating among themselves as to whether justice was done. Nancy Grace will keep on it until some newer, even more sensational case comes to light. That’s how she makes her living. But, as disgusted as that makes me feel, I also know that if people just stopped watching and listening to her, she would have to find something else to do. Just as publishers would have to find other books to publish.

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