Back to School

Monday, August 28, 2006
Joseph Stalin is reputed to have said, "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Here then, is some weekend news on the topic.

Throughtout the US and, undoubtedly, much of the world, we are in the several weeks of Back to School time. For many millions of of students and parents this represents a time of joy or sorrow. For at least one mother and daughter it is a time of senseless tragedy:

NYC shooting spree results in 1 dead, 4 wounded...

A gunman on a cocaine-and-booze binge killed one man and wounded two others in a series of drive-by shootings in Queens, officials said Saturday...

The slain man was riding with his wife to their Long Island home after dropping their daughter off at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.

Elsewhere in the world, far away, we find Atrocity or theme park? Should The Killing Fields be preserved and to what benefit(s) for whom?

...the soaring stupa, or Buddhist reliquary, crammed with 8,985 skulls, some bearing clear evidence of death by hammers, hoes, bamboo sticks and bullets. Skeletal remains and ragged clothes lay in surrounding shallow graves. A sign next to a tree explained how executioners bashed the heads of children against its trunk...

Anlong Veng, only recently cleared of mines, is perhaps the only "living museum" of the horror. Many of its 26,000 inhabitants are Pol Pot's former fighters and officials, some of them missing limbs.

Ta Mok, a brutal military commander, lived here until his death last month. Although he was to have stood trial for atrocities, he was a hero in Anlong Veng, and people eagerly point out his humanitarian legacy - schools, clinics, a dam, a sawmill that provided free wood to the poor.

"The people all love Ta Mok," says his nephew, Cheam Ponlok.

The commander whom the Western media dubbed "the Butcher" was seen off by hundreds of mourners and chanting Buddhist monks, and his ashes placed in a tomb in a temple - the newest addition to Cambodia's genocide trail.

In the meantime yet another killing field, or rather lake, is happening in Cambodia. This time it is millions of snakes being killed to feed the crocodiles. The impact of millions of deaths - even those of snakes - surely matters. Why save so many crocodiles that all the snakes must die to feed them?

I find it difficult to wrap my brain around thoughts of the implications of wiping out snake populations to feed crocodiles. And I have no idea whether it is a good idea to preserve the evidence of the horrors of Pol Pot and other butchers. What are we to make of those who view them as heroes?

I have little trouble, however, imagining the bewildered emptiness within a mother and daughter who are even now arranging a funeral.


Buddy Larsen said...

Hey, thanks, Knuck--I was a little down this morning 'til I read your post!

Knucklehead said...

Sorry, Buddy. See if this helps.

Buddy Larsen said...

Haw--you're RIGHT--that's a laff out loud!