Saturday, December 30, 2006

RIP Saddam Hussein

One of the most reviled men in recent history is now dead. His once-dignified existence has been rapidly terminated by Iraqi executioners just prior to the start of the Muslim holiday Eid and just before the end of the Gregorian calendar year. James Brown, Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussein all dead in one week. That's a helluva dead cast of characters in such a short period of time. I'm more in mourning for Mr. Brown than either of the other two folks, but I've definitely spent some time pondering the implications of the passings of all three famous gentlemen.

The death of a political leader is most certainly welcomed by people who suffered under his yoke. Saddam directly caused the deaths of upwards of one hundred thousand people, although George W. Bush could now be said to have commanded military campaigns that have resulted in even more murders. Yet, Bush's murders are not of his own countrymen, so perhaps that is more palatable for people to swallow. The club of murderous gentlemen has swelled its ranks in the past century, with the advance of arms technologies that make swift killing a facile task. The great paradox of modern life is the simultaneous development of medical technologies that prolong life and of potent weapons that are capable of cutting short an immensely high number of lives. The modern availability of guns, bombs, and the exponentially increasing population densities have led to deathly conflicts in parts of the world that never possibly could have been this violent prior to the arrival of killing tools. We now have tools that facilitate living and tools that facilitate dying.

Over time philosophers and poets have suggested that nearly omnipotent entities were dead in order to call attention to their ephemerality or incipient demise. When Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead, he meant that this was true merely due to the perception that people no longer feared him and thus his existence was not so relevant. Nas has declared the death of hip-hop due to similar causes. Folks don't lend credence to the power of hip-hop and have instead ushered in its decline. But, the question begs itself: are such proclamations indicative of the desire on the part of these proclaimers to kill or conversely to revitalize the entities that whose survival they lament.

God certainly isn't yet dead, since upwards of 90% of Americans believe in him. The deity's credit rating may have been downgraded through the years, but his existence is still honored by countless mortals. Similarly, hip-hop appears not to have disappeared, even if its quality has been degraded since its golden age in the mid-90s. Hip-hop glory has been eroded, no doubt. But as a creed and arbiter of cultural moeurs, this mammoth is far from deceased.

On the other hand, Saddam the paranoid totalitarian dictator has kicked the bucket. His New Year has been ruined by masked Iraqi executioners. Leagues of Shiites and Kurds are ecstatic. Gerald Ford is also dead and gone. As a result of this American Presidential death, we have a federal day of remembrance on Tuesday with no mail service and closed financial markets. I wonder if Iraq will honor its felled leader with a similar day of mourning and closures. All I know is that James Brown contributed more joy and funkiness to the world than either of these political clowns. His funeral procession involved four darling white horses, an ivory white carriage, and a 24-karat gold coffin. This is a man's man's world, for sure, and these dead men are being commiserated the world over. However, it's no longer just dead white men that we commemorate. I'm fairly certain that Saddam won't be resurrected anytime soon, but we can expect hip-hop to rise from the dead sometime around Easter. I got my Limewire prepped for that revival.

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