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How About Them Names?

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TJ wrote the Declaration of Independence. BF invented the lightning rod. GW was a commander in the Revolutionary War and the first President of the US. AL was our President during the Civil War and delivered the Gettysburg address. JD was a President of the Confederacy. FDR was a President during the WWII. Together with WC of England and JS of Russia he fought AH of Germany. MA and 18 others performed a terrorist attack on 9/11.

Etc. etc. What if our history in schools is described as the paragraph above? How would we like it? No names, just initials; the whole narrative gains a sense of anonymity, like it never happened in reality. The paragraph above sounds strange, even grotesque. Names matter. They enliven the events, make them what they are. Names are the reference points which we use to make the description coherent, build a connection between the reader and those people described. Here's what we get when we don't use the name:

CIA captured KSM"

CIA is an organization. KSM is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a person. An organization captured a person. That's how it becomes an OK thing. If a person captures an organization (a case when Vincent Bugliosi- VB, tried Helter- Skelter)- that would be a big spin, something really unusual. Otherwise- we are OK with the process, no biggie. Organization in Russian means "organu'. In Russia organu were always right and never had an individual name. That way an individual becomes an object of the organu's affection. The loving hand of the organu seized KSM and delivered him for processing. He confessed. End of the story. Nothing personal. Nothing humane either.

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We should not try KSM in the open court because he already confessed in being a mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attack. That's what we hear in the media every day. In the book To Kill A Mockingbird a black man, Tom Robinson stays on trial for allegedly raping a white woman. A very much biased court convicts him but he remains Tom Robinson, a human being, not a TR. Those bigots, they were more human than we are now. They accepted a responsibility of their actions; they looked into the eyes of their victim. We don't. The name of the man we target is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. You can google the name and find out that Khalid is the name of the pre-islamic Arabic general Khalid-Ibn Walid who defeated Byzantines and Sassanides. Sheikh means a man of wisdom and Mohammed is the name of the Prophet. That's how his parents called him. How do you call your children? Would you prefer your child to retain his/her name under any circumstances? If we detain a human being and want to try him we should at least have a decency and courage to look him into the eyes and call him by his name. We extended that courtesy to John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed deserves that much.

Instead we put hoods over their heads and follow the cowardly path of those before us. When Klaus von Stauffenberg was dragged before the firing squad together with his lieutenant, the Nazi executioner shouted, 'Those are the people whose names I don't want to speak out!' To which Klaus replied, 'Germany will remember our names.' And indeed she did.

Names make us human. On the notorious Moscow Trials in 1936, 1937 the people wrongly accused of terrible crimes were stripped of their names. They were addressed as , 'The accused..' The prosecutor would dictate the accused Ikramov or accused Krestinsky to answer the questions and people in the country would then forget who those people were, that Ikramov's name was Akmal and Krestinsky's- Nicholai. They were not humans anymore and then Bucharin could call himself 'a fully disrobed human-looking beast' and nobody would be surprised. We are not disgusted or surprised when KSM is tortured. It is like puncturing a voodoo doll. He is not human in our eyes. We know that ALL International laws were broken when CIA 'got' him. We know that when he was tortured it was not about 9/11 and not about our security. It was pure malice. That's why we hide behind the abbreviations and turn our eyes away. We are worse than those jurors who convicted Tom Robinson.

Names are our connections to the past. John is a common name. But it comes from the Bible, from John, the Baptist. He sacrificed his life for the new religion, new morality where 'there is neither Jew nor the Hellenic,' where all were equal in the eyes of God. John Fitzgerald Kennedy- John, son of Gerald, was our President. Son of Gerald means, "son of the ruler with a spear'. Beautiful, isn't it? Those who killed him didn't care for all that. But we should. It was not JFK who was killed, it was John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the world stood still for a moment on that fateful day.

Real life does not allow us to be stupid. But we vehemently strive for stupidity. We made a movie about a Jewish family in the 1930s and called it Holocaust. Then we projected the name of the movie on the real event. And now we have museums of the Holocaust, the Holocaust stories, survivors, etc. But it was not that way. The real thing was much more. We made it topsy-turvy, some kind of a spooky story for kids and Sarah Silverman. We cheapened it, sold it in a wrapper, the way we sold JC (yes, that's how we call our God) to the tabloids.

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Names of the dead, the maimed, the vaporized by our nuclear bomb and napalm and Shock & Awe. Names of those who died under the drone fire. Names of the tortured, burned alive, shot, cut, sacked to pieces, drowned. We should not move our eyes away. We should hear those names. Those were the people who wanted to live as much as we do.

I am not sure but I do think that if the 9/11 terrorists would be able to read in advance the names of those people they were going to kill, one-by-one, they could have abandoned their plans. Maybe not. Nobody read the names of the 100000 Japanese to the crew of Enola Gay. And that was the worst cowardice because whether you do good or bad you must be courageous enough to do it with the open eyes. That's the essence of the real human- to be honest to thyself. We cannot afford lies. Dante in his Inferno states with disgust that when you see those who were so cowardly that they could not face either good or evil, those who were just hanging in the bubble of self-deceit- you just 'glance and pass.' Those people deserve nothing but contempt.

'This beautiful young girl is Maria (Magdalena, Alex Roland).' That's how the pledge for help starts on our TV. We do good to a real person. Those asking for good know that. Thus if we need to know the names of those we help why do we refuse to know the names of those whom we harm?

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The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.


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Insightful piece, Mark. And investigating 9/11 wit... by boomerang on Sunday, Mar 14, 2010 at 9:03:34 PM
Look at media. We have FDR, JFK, RFK, LBJ, for exa... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Mar 15, 2010 at 8:14:55 PM