I woke up at 8am. I was falling through a dream. Falling doesn’t fill me with terror; I tend to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness. But I don’t enjoy waking up at 8am. I’m not a morning person at all. Because I am usually up until three or four a.m., I certainly didn’t feel rested. Something was bugging me.

I turned on the T.V. to a large statue of Saddam Hussein with a rope around his neck. Things were different today. Iraqis were pounding on the statue with a sledgehammer that the reporter kept calling an axe. I watched the spectacle for a couple of hours. A U.S. tow-tank pulled up and Iraqis piled on. It was certainly quite the public relations moment. I counted eight cameras watching one man trying to break a portrait of Hussein on the sidewalk nearby. Eventually, two other Iraqis joined in. Eight cameras and three civilians—the proportion just doesn’t seem right.

An American soldier, raised to the top on a crane arm (unlike the Iraqis who had been climbing up on a frayed rope), draped a flag over the face of Hussein. The reporter remarked that an audible gasp could be heard at the Pentagon. It was a curious turn of events. Footage of iconoclasm had been limited to the British rolling tanks over them in the south. This was different. The American flag, rubbed in the idol’s face, obscured it. A moment later, an Iraqi flag was hauled up and tied like a kerchief around the statue’s neck, and left to linger for a while before they hauled the statue down. It hung for a moment, and didn’t fall, at the edge of the pedestal. It was a manufactured drama.

It made me think of America by William Blake— Blake’s poem begins with a rape.

Orc, Blake’s revolutionary child, takes the shadowy female. She speaks afterward in resignation:

I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go;
Thou art the image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa;
And thou art fall’n to give me life in the regions of dark death.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions
Endur’d by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico, an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.
Oh what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & and my frost
Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by their lightnings rent;
This is eternal death: and this the torment long foretold.

[The stern Bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song: enrag’d he swung
His harp aloft sounding, then dash’d its shining frame against
A ruin’d pillar in glittering fragments; silent he turn’d away,
And wander’d down the vales of Kent in sick & and drear lamentings.
] (2:7-21)

William Blake lived in an age of revolution. He was eighteen when America rose against Britain. He was thirty-two when the fervor spread to France creating a bloodbath. Like many people in Britain, he was in favor of the American Revolution and terrified of the revolution in France. Revolution has its price.

After the head of the statue was dragged through the street, I watched the flags come out on the streets of the United States. No one seems to mention the heart-rending pain that any rape can bring. Falling is easy. Landing is hard.

8 thoughts on “Falling”

  1. I’ve seen the replay of this event on TV all day Jeff and similar thoughts had occured to me. Notice that nearly all the shots are fairly tight, all the better to give the impression that there is a crowd present. The few long shots I saw indicated there were no more than a couple of hundred people there. This is out of a population of around 5 million people. Hardly a signoificant number. One journalist was asked if he had been interbiewing Iraqi’s about their feelings about today. He said that 60% were in favour of the war and 40% were not but that all of them were very concerned about colonization by the US. The idiot who put the US flag up on Saddams statue (does every significant battle today have to end with an Iwo Jima moment – can’t we have a little originality here?) is being hailed as a hero at home but heroes don’t necessarily have to be smart. Those few minutes the flag was there before he replaced it with a pre Gulf War I Iraq flag confirmed in the minds of many Iraqi’s and the arab street in general their belief in America’s imperialism. It was a really stupid thing to do.

  2. Doug, do you know the man to call him an idiot?
    I think he was a young kid who was asked to do that. For the soldiers there it was their symbol to use in a way that made sense to them.

  3. OK Steve in that case let me rephrase it. Whoever ordered that kid to put the flag up there is an idiot. At the time I wrote that yesterday CNN was reporting it as his initiative today they are saying it was his commander. That’s irrelevant to the point I so poorly made which is that the act of putting a US flag up there was a very stupid move. I frankly don’t give a damn how symbolic it was to the troops (who shouldn’t be there in the first place) . The middle east, in particular the arab countries is a pressure cooker that this reckless action (the war) has lit a fire under. Moderate arabs who have in the past supported the US are now turning away. Placing that flag there was a message to them, intended or not, that said we’re here, this is our country now and we’ll do as we damn well pleae whether you like it or not. Really stupid.

  4. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
    there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass,
    the world is too full to talk about.
    Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
    ~ Rumi

  5. The statue

    An interesting look at the tearing down of Saddams statue in Baghdad yesterday. If his facts and suppositions are correct then my guess that there were at best a cuople of hundred people in the square was correct. It was…

  6. Doug,
    No matter what you think about the war, it isnt their choice to be there. They are risking their lives everyday for you. No questions asked. The troops didnt get together and say let’s go die for the man who is going to insult our decision to put their countrys flag up on the face of a terroist. They did not take down the Iraqi flag and hoist up their own. It’s over the face of the man who opressed them. Not against their country. Weather you agree with this war or not, support those guys…if they weren’t there…who would go? and if you are a vet…this should hit home, im a vietnam vet and when i saw my countrys flag being drapped over that asshole, i felt proud. Our boys did it again.

  7. I would like to say that i support the troops and feel sorry that they are in the Middle East(where they shouldn’t be). However, Carl Refsell, i don’t blame you for feeling proud. You’re probably like every other American who watches the mass media(CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, but what you may not know, as many Americans don’t, is that the mass media is owned by corporations. NBC is owned buy General Electric, which makes toasters, refridgerators, air conditions and the tomahawk missile, the most commonly used missile for this war at a cost of $1 Million a pop. Of course you feel proud! The mass media needs you to support the war in order to gain profit. Go to http://www.counterpunch.org/guerrin01462003.html and you can read about a photgraphers experience he had following the 3/4 marines into Baghdad. He also stated that there was an odd ratio of reporters and cameramen to actual Baghdadis. He also says that Colonel Bryan P. McCoy gave orders to the 3/4 marines to search and kill anything that gets in their way. The photographer recalls McCoy flashing a smile and saying “shame on you” to a marine you had just said, “I’ve got eight, Sir, but only five.” Meaning that he just shot eight, but only five of them died. God bless America. I feel bad for the troops because they are forced to do what they do, and i feel bad for Americans who are oblivious to the truth.

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