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The International Writers Magazine: Comment

A Television Anniversary
James Morford
The other night on television I saw results of Arabs killing Israelis and Israelis killing Arabs. A quick calculation and I was surprised to learn I’d been watching this for over half a century now.


How little had changed! There are, of course, aesthetic differences: tanks lowered in height and broadened in width, planes stretched and made more aerodynamic, sometimes without pilot seats. But an abandoned tank on fire or a crashed plane looks pretty much today as it did in the 1950’s. Smoking twisted metal has an ageless quality. Today’s military uniforms are different, yet there is an unmistakable similarity there as well, the armored vests and iron boots don’t appear that new. Hard to tell about the participant’s hair-cuts since, just as during the Crusades, helmets and visors cover about half the heads. But the parched terrain, the blood stained dirt, the guts strewn about, not to mention piles of rocks, all look the same. Of course the anatomies of those half-naked bodies that threw the rocks, or those that dodged them, haven’t altered. Neither has the ignorance behind the throws or the arrogance of the dodgers. In that part of the world these remain a constant, which is, needless to say, the trouble with that part of the world.   

war Today’s televised news and audio lead-ins are virtually identical to a half century ago. The wretched dog tentatively picking its way around smashed cars, and bodies crumpled next to bullet pocked walls, is still a common place.

Crying children and shrieking toothless mothers remain timeless. So do shots of howling mobs screaming defiance and politicians blaring into microphones: “This terror will be answered!” 

And it is answered. Within a few weeks, usually.

When the answer arrives the same television narrator voices over a film of the reply, more cars burning and fresh bodies replacing the ones next to the walls. Politicians standing before street mobs, and, as if having memorized texts handed down from their fathers and their father’s fathers, again chant: “The only thing the enemy understands is force! Vengeance is ours!”

And vengeance is theirs since the same scene repeats itself that next day, or week, or month. Trouble is some think vengeance is synonymous with progress. In truth, only the look-alike dogs have made any real progress, climbing to the top of a dried-up rivulet and sniffing flat terrain flanked by more bullet-holed walls. The camera shows the pooches meandering off alone. Notice how the dogs of televised war are often alone. 

Many of these reports from London airwaves, or those in New York, or Washington, and probably soon to be added Bejing, include an “analyst” from a “think tank.” These experts describe how complicated the Middle East situation is, how long it has gone on, adding, as if their audience didn’t know, that upcoming peace talks are in jeopardy. The “Road maps”, or the, “This and that Accords,” are shaky and it will take a miracle for the region to have peace again. When was that prior peace? They never say. But they all agree this current project is in trouble. Theirs is a good bet since the prospect of actual peace always is in trouble. 

All over the world anniversaries such as mine daily increase because population growth increases. More and more people live through the same televised experience. By this time the young, the middle aged, and needless to say, the old, are all inured to this process. They’ve watched it for so long it has become an accepted part of their life, like that other staple of the nightly news, the weather segment. The difference between the weather report and the Middle East report is that the old Mark Twain axiom regarding the weather has been stood on its head, not only nobody does anything about the Middle East, aside from television reporters, nobody much talks about it. The crimes, their excuses, are occurrences consumed by an indifferent world. It has become a bore, a terrible sameness-bore with a resultant lack of caring.

If they haven’t already, your children soon will consider Middle East horrors part of their daily information. This will be true for generations to come. The tentacles will encroach into the next millennium, then the one following that. On and on they will envelop, never stopping. 

But doesn’t everything have to stop? 

Not in the Middle East it doesn’t. There everything lasts forever. Regardless of physical differences, a returning time traveler would have no trouble recognizing the essence of the place. After all, it’s a shrine to what we have done, are doing, and will be doing. It’s what we are all about. If it vanished something would be amiss. Like arriving in London and finding no double-decker buses, or a New York sans crowded sidewalks, or a Paris without the Eifel Tower. War and its corollaries have crossed the symbiotic. It now blends into the territory with no definition.

Starting a long time ago a mess oozed over the Holy Land. The more people try to clean it up the worse it gets. People have to learn to accept there are no solutions. Not to accept it means the despair gets worse, the kind of despair not heard in screams that jolt you awake in the middle of the night, rather the type that you can’t vent, whimpers that stick to the back of your throat.   
© James Morford July 2010
jamesmorford at

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