Thursday, February 8, 2007

I'm going to hurt you, Father

...for I have sinned.

This is Old News. I felt the desire to post something today, but I couldn't think of anything interesting. So I went back into my "archive," as it were, and pulled out something that I didn't get around to posting when I'd actually written it. I added to it, and did some editing, and here it is.
I was reading "Vertigo," by Christopher Hitchens, on Slate when I came across the following confusing passage:
"But, as with Beirut, it is unlikely that anything will stop the confessional violence as long as either side thinks there is anything to be gained from it."
At first, I thought that the use of the word "confessional" was just a strange substitution for the term "sectarian." After all, both terms have religious connotations, and perhaps Slate's editors felt that "the s-word" is becoming a little long in the tooth, with all that Americans have been hearing and reading it recently. The definition of confessional that I was familiar with dealt with a weird little box that one finds in Catholic churches, and/or to the process of admission of wrongdoing (or wrongthinking) and the subsequent assignment of penance that takes place within. Clearly, there was a meaning to the term that I wasn't hip to. So, I looked it up.
Confessional: Adjective. 1) of, relating to, or being a confession - especially of faith. 2) of, relating to, or being intimately autobiographical.
Violence as autobiography wasn't particularly intuitive, either, so that wasn't much help. I still didn't understand the context. So I figured that I'd drop down a level, and looked up "confession." And found, in part, "a formal statement of religious beliefs." The light bulb flared into sudden brilliance.

To be honest, I wasn't completely enlightened by the realization. The idea that Shiites have undertaken a campaign of sectarian clensing in the capital of Iraq, not out of religious ambition or even obligation, but as a religious proclamation struck me as nothing short of utterly bizzare. But, I'm sure that we're all aware of the segment of Western society (many of them American evangelopatriots) that views Islam as a creed harboring (if not actively demanding) a bloodlust that would make a Tyrannasaur sick to its apex-predator stomach. For them, the idea that violence is how Moslems intentionally and formally express not only their religion, but their religiosity would make perfect sense. I haven't read enough of Christopher Hitchens to know if he is a member of said segment, but even if he isn't, what would otherwise simply be an odd turn of phrase becomes instead a very precise way of conveying the intended point.

The more I think about it, the more this new understanding makes sense to me. There are so many ways in which violence, in Iraq or here in the United States (or anywhere else, for that matter), can be understood to be both meduim AND message that the use of the term "confessional" becomes strikingly appropriate. It's hard for me to relate to, mainly because the idea of using violence simply to convey a message seems to at once go too far, and not far enough. Therefore, the idea that violence could actually BE the message is foreign to me. I can't even provide a sensible example, other than to say that the clich├ęd "random acts of violence and senseless brutality" - that is, the the violent episodes that we don't understand, may, in fact, be the very point that they're attempting to convey.

1 comment:

Wizza said...

This comment has nothing to do with your post, but rather the comment you left on my page. Didn't think anyone would actually read all the way through let alone leave a comment. Everything you said makes sense and somewhere in this coconut of mine I know it all. But sometimes it's easier to blame someone else for one's own insecurities or frustrations. Thanks for writing, Aaron :-)