Imagine what sort of footage video and cell phone cameras might have captured had they been around during the sinking of the Titanic. Hollywood’s Titanic shows Jack and Rose courageously fighting for their lives to the very end. But I think actual footage would show faces filled with despair, stupefied by the inevitable. Death and dying looks so much more tolerable and acceptable when it’s well-rehearsed by gifted actors.
Contrast the recent execution of Moammar Gadhafi to that of the police officer in Reservoir Dogs where director Quentin Tarantino creates a scene that is disturbing, yet somehow entertaining. There’s a sinister dance by Mr. Blonde, wielding a blade to the sounds of K-billy Super Sounds of the 70s, followed by the slashing off of the cop’s ear, followed by Mr. Orange repeatedly shooting Mr. Blonde, and, finally, shortly thereafter, followed by intensely-scripted dialogue between potential adversaries just prior to executing the cop.
We know it’s all fake, so the possibility of such violence disrupting our sense of security, and making us question what exactly is going on outside in the real world, is not called into question beyond the usual. But when we see the fumbled recording involving the execution of an international tyrant, where the video shows the crazed expressions of those surrounding, in essence, a whipped dog, who is asking of his captors, “What did I do to you?”, it’s almost like being back on the playground where the school bully is finally getting his. But, this time, it’s to a degree that does not leave open the possibility for reprisal.
Its moments such as these, in the history of planet Earth where, if we are at all human, we should stop and shutter at our own lack of humanity. I found myself caught up in the imagery while contemplating the darkness that seems to obscure the line between justice and just desserts. This was similarly the case when Saddam Hussein was hanged under the shadow of secrecy, a setting that hardly lent to the event’s attempt at official sanctioning. Here again, it’s through the eye of an erratic and blurry cell phone camera that the world was able to see the clumsy and disorganized execution of another modern-day tyrant. And once again, my feelings were those of hopelessness and emptiness. A god that allows the common man to make vengeance a part of the world’s everyday existence is a god who has long since departed.
In the movie The Quick and the Dead, the bad guy hands a pistol to a little girl and gives her one shot to shoot the rope so as to save her father from hanging. Trembling and crying, she fires the pistol, shooting her father in the forehead. That little girl grows up to be a fast-draw gunslinger, eventually coming face to face with her father’s real killer, dispatching him with all the justice in the world behind her.
That’s drama for you. It all seems right. There’s none of the burden found with everyday reality, where people are trying to make a living in peace and security, while unknown to them something is simmering, just waiting to unleash a sort of mayhem most of us believe to be reserved for the movies.
If you had time and opportunity to video record your final moments on Earth, would you imagine yourself stoically and spiritually calm, or would you be stumbling and, perhaps, asking someone nearby, “What did I do to you?”. Odds are you really don’t want it recorded for the whole world to see.