Posted by Somebody's Mother on 11:34 a.m.
Are Milestones really Milestones?
The shadow of death certainly hung over the Christmas holidays. Both James Brown, the Godfather of Soul and former president, Gerald Ford died on Christmas day. Then on the Saturday following Christmas, Saddam Hussein was executed.
For baby boomers, this feels like the end of an era. Soul music was an integral part of my adolescence. Songs like I Feel Good and Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud were part of a decade that went from civil rights to women’s’ rights. James Brown was a big part of the background music of my generation
As I moved into my twenties, the Watergate scandal took over the news and I remember sitting with my parents and watching Richard Nixon resign. My whole family was shocked to see a president resign in such infamy to be replaced by Vice President Ford. It was unthinkable.
Now over thirty years later, Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror has ended in the midst of terror and chaos. As a follower of the blog, Baghdad Burning (which has been published as two books of the same name), I’ve been given a new perspective of how unimportant this death is to the person on the street. Iraqis deal with death everyday. Riverbend (the pseudonym for the author of the blog) says that nowadays Iraqi families feel lucky when the corpse of a loved one is identifiable. In her entry of December twenty-ninth, she writes about how differently she views death, particularly those of American soldiers.
When she first started writing in 2003, she agonised over the death of each soldier. She sympathised with them because she felt that most of them didn’t want to be in Iraq and were probably unsure why they were there at all. Now she speaks of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed by militia, secret police and American soldiers. She wonders why American deaths are more important than those of Iraqi citizens. Is it because there are fewer of them, she asks.
It is equally significant to wonder about the deaths of celebrities and why they have an impact on our lives. Obviously, I never knew James Brown, President Ford or Saddam Hussein. I just don’t move in those kinds of circles. So I wonder why I’m supposed to lament the deaths of the first two and celebrate the death of the latter as some sort of liberating event. Maybe it’s because the media tells me to or because the world is a far smaller place than it used to be so that we feel as if we really know people that we have never met. Maybe these deaths are more of a media event than a real milestone.
January 1, New Years’ Day, is also supposed be a milestone – a new year, an opportunity for change. The fact is that people are still dying in Iraq and will continue to do so throughout 2007. People are dying in Darfur and probably will continue to do so throughout 2007. The AIDS pandemic in Africa will also be the same story. The changing of a single digit in the annals of time never seems to change much. For all the furor of the new millennium, mankind has continued slogging through the same maze and has fallen into the same pits. Both the Western and Eastern continents will be paying the price for September 11, 2001 for a long, long time. That was the devastating milestone of my generation. In fact, if we look back on the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the powder keg that kicked off World War I, that fracas cost the lives of millions for most of the twentieth century, almost one hundred years of wars and conflicts that have been the seeds of the conflicts of this century.
A milestone that I like to look at is the changing of the guard in South Africa. Though by no means a bloodless revolution, it ended apartheid in a far more peaceful way than anyone could have imagined. Many people of my generation remember when Nelson Mandela was released from prison as a moment of hope. It is that kind of moment that I am praying will be forthcoming in 2007. I look forward to a moment where North America and the Islamists of the Middle East as well as the Sudanese government see some form of compromise in ending the slaughter presently taking place in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur. That would be some milestone! Happy New Year, readers.



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