The Cross is universally recognized as a symbol of the Christian faith. Like all good symbols it communicates a wealth of information. While there are literally thousands of different interpretations of just what Christianity is, and what being a Christian means, and how that it purports to affect the behavior of those who claim it as their faith, the Cross has become the umbrella-- the icon--of all Christians.
Its history is in many ways the story of humanity and Empire.
The Romans were not the first State to use crucifixion, nor sadly was it the last, but they are forever linked to and identified by its use as a method of execution. For at least several thousand years before the time of Christ, and for hundreds of years after, the mere sight of the Cross was cause for immediate fear.
photo by Bengt Nyman by Bengt Nyman
There were any of a number of
forms of execution practiced in Roman time. Poisoning was common, but
this was usually reserved for the Elite, who were given the option of
taking their own lives for capital offenses. Another, less common, was
the straightforward beheading. This was considered to be the most
humane of all executions, and was reserved for citizens of Empire. In
fact, to demand death by beheading was the right of any Roman citizen.
Needless to say, most of those who lived in the Roman Empire were not
citizens of the Roman Empire.
The populations of all lands and nations conquered by Rome, all slaves, all artisans, all tradesmen, were possessions of Rome, to be used or discarded as necessary.
These were the ones for whom execution could be exercised in more ... creative ways. These were subject to being put to death in the Stadium, at the hands of a Gladiator or by means of ravenous wild animals. But this method of execution became more a form of entertainment than a statement of authority. And there was also being torn apart by means of being tied to horses or chariots facing in different directions, or being burned to death. Nero elevated this to a sort of performance art by using the condemned as living torches to light his gardens.
While all of these methods were gruesome and painful they were also of relatively short duration. As such their use was of little value in terms of making a lasting impression on the oppressed. Death was, after all, a daily and public occurrence. Children who grew up watching death as entertainment grew into adults for whom witnessing death had very little chance of making a lasting impression.
Crucifixion, that is to say the process and ritual of crucifixion, stood alone in its ability to make a lasting impression. When done correctly the suffering and agony of the condemned could be prolonged for hours, sometimes days. It was the highest expression of inhumane brutality. As such, its use became a symbol, that carried a great deal of information.
Rome did not waste this form of execution on the likes of common thieves, petty crooks, even murderers, for fear that its singular message would be diminished. Crucifixion was reserved for enemies of Empire, those who dared to oppose it, who dared to call for resistance or rebellion. Death by crucifixion was used to enforce the power of Empire.
It was not a message to be ignored. Oppose Rome and not only will you suffer and die, but your suffering will be as prolonged and enhanced as possible, and your death will come only after hours or days of intense public agony. So in its time, the Cross could instantly instill fear and compel obedience in all but the most foolhardy. Crucifixion, and its tool of the Cross, was a statement of faith in Empire.
In the early days of Christianity the symbol of the fish was the faith's icon. It was only after the passing of a few centuries when the faithful began to use the sign of the Cross, to claim it for their own and to impose a different meaning on it.
The Drone is quickly and universally becoming recognized as a symbol of the American Nation. Like all good symbols it communicates a wealth of information. While there are literally thousands of different interpretations of just what the Drone is used for, and what its use means, and how it use impacts the behavior of, and expresses the morality of, both those who support or oppose it, the Drone is becoming the umbrella--the icon--of all Americans.
Its development represents long and focused intellect, countless hours of labor and trillions of dollars spent. It is the height of ingenuity--streamlined, efficient, and easy to use. For that reason alone it can be said to represent an American ideal. Never mind that ultimately it is only a weapon of death and destruction; there are many who would claim it is an American ideal because it is a weapon of death and destruction.
The Americans are not the first to use a form of mechanized death, but sadly for humanity, they may well be the last. Sadly because mechanized death may ultimately help to spell the end of humankind. What can be said is that the drone represents in all important ways The Empire of America.
The history of war--some might say the history of humankind--is the development of machines of death that create ever more distance between the combatant and his enemy. The bare hand gave way to the rock, to the spear, to the bow and arrow, the crossbow, the catapult. All provided a distance and a superiority in combat.
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