Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Moral Chaos in Baghdad; Homophobic Rites of Passage

I rarely read the news about Iraq these days -- things have gotten so bad that it is difficult to know about it, difficult to maintain any sense of morality or sanity in the world and still see what's happening -- but sometimes one should inhale and check in: it has gotten so bad that suicide bombers are blowing up unemployed Shia to avenge American attacks on Sunni districts. A man lured drifters and unemployed towards a van, pretending to offer jobs in a square where such people gather to find work, then detonated explosives (and himself), killing over 150 and wounding about the same number. Al Qaida took credit online. Unfortunately, in such a state of anarchy and terror, police and soldiers are not to be trusted, because some are participating in executions and others, in a state of paranoia, will shoot anyone who approaches. Conspiracy theories are fomenting that the Americans are responsible for such violence, stirring hate between Sunni and Shia that they may "divide and conquer;" but this is too convenient -- certainly the Americans are ultimately to be blamed for this -- see Gwynn Dyer's pre-war Ignorant Armies for a lucid description of the likelihood of civil war, predicted by many of the antiterrorist experts that the Bushies sacked -- but Muslims need to own their own part in this insanity, too. You can read the original article from which this was summarized here. (Also worth reading: Riverbend has returned to blogging after a hiatus and has written her reflections on 9/11).

Strange about foreign war, though. However bad it gets, it's still foreign. However bad things get there, I now know that I will still drink Starbucks' Chai (my primary vice -- tho' a bit of pot or alcohol now and then is a pleasant diversion); I will still watch movies (I watched Deliverance again tonight, for the first time in a widescreen format -- thank the Gods of Moviedom for the DVD format -- and grooved on the beauty of the photography, the lovely sound design of the film, and the fascinating aspect of homophobic rite-of-passage to the film; contrary to my previous opinion, there IS a homoerotically charged moment between Lewis and Ed in the film, just as Ed is going to bed, drunk, looking soft, feminine, and vulnerable towards his reclining masculine friend; I thought that Boorman chose to underplay that element of the book, but for the attentive, the moment is there); I will still buy CDs (the new one by Dutch anarcho-avant-punk collective The Ex comes out this week, a singles compilation); and I will still buy DVDs (Roeg's Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession is being released by Criterion this month). Such is life -- for all my debts, I am affluent and comfortable and very well off, while the unemployed of Baghdad are being blown to bits. Life goes on. I've marched, I've brought the war into my ESL classrooms (and still do so), and I've written online about it. Somehow it seems like it's not enough -- perhaps that's ultimately why some part of me just wants to forget its happening.

Most of North America, I fear, is in a similar state.

The existence of sites like Demonbuster, encountered while I was looking for an interesting Deliverance link, is even harder to contend with, harder to fit into my head, than the latest news from Baghdad. I challenge you -- particularly if you have the sound on -- to actually spend more than two minutes perusing their site. I won't.

Also trivially, the phrase "homoerotic rite of passage" gets 119 hits on Yahoo search; the phrase "homophobic rite of passage" gets none. Yet surely the suppression of homoerotic desire is far more important to the passage from boyhood to adulthood in a generally straight society than its cultivation -- I mean, that's what the high school boy's lockerroom is all about, isn't it? (And I assume most gay-bashings are done by high school boys from outside Vancouver -- like raiding chimps in enemy territory, they're going out to "prove" themselves men by ritually/symbolically overcoming their own homosexuality by projecting it onto, and then assaulting, a token gay man).

Anyhow, as soon as I click "publish," there will be ONE site with the phrase "homophobic rite-of-passage" on it.

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