5/06/2006

POT-AY-TO, POT-AH-TO

So now that Zacarias Moussaoui has had his day in court, where his real victory was to force everyone, including the judge, to behave like tweenies at a schoolyard tauntfest, I am grateful mainly for the fact I will not have to waste any more time than I already have wondering if it's zac-a'-rias or zacar-i'-as. The media never reached a consensus on this, and some newspeople flip-flopped from one mention to the next.

But I have to admit I will miss the courtroom caricatures of Moussaoui that had become a part of the daily news reports. They ranged from somewhat sympathetic depictions of a thin, rather meek Moussaoui, seen in the first four sketches raising his hand like a schoolboy, doing a gay-boy circuit party dance move (the judge would not let him take off his green jumpsuit so that he could do it topless, unfortunately), and standing at a podium looking refined, to somewhat less sympathetic depictions of a supersized, fat-lipped, hook-nosed, evil Arab menace in the several that follow:

Whether Massaoui had collagen injected in his lips and rhinoplasty over the course of the trial I don't know. I didn't hear anything about it, but then they never tell, do they? I mean, look at Sharon Stone. She swears she hasn't had any work done, either.

And the great debates about 9-11 and Moussaoui's role in it are now pretty much a thing of the past, too. At least in the news. The burning questions, like this one, posed to Ollie North on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto:


In case you're having trouble reading the caption there, Cavuto's question was "Could 9/11 have been avoided if Moussaoui was tortured?" It's a question. Not a very grammatical one, but never mind.

Anyway, now the fuss is dying down. The news reports have gloated on what a great and just legal system we have that would let a man like Moussaoui live, while lingering with a certain relish at the prospect of Moussaoui "rotting" in maximum security prison with no human contact except for prison guards and lawyers (ick--hardly a worse fate imaginable, is there?), in his tiny cell 23 hours a day with maybe--MAYBE--a black and white TV for company the rest of the time. I have even seen sketches on the news of what Moussaoui will look like sitting in his little cell, all alone, forever.

All of which is supposed to be cathartic somehow, but isn't. Moussaoui is a nut, and his role in the 9-11 attacks, if indeed he played any, is still not clear, and may never be. The brilliance of the hijacker's evil deed is that in addition to wreaking a kind of violence previously unimagined in our complacency, it also robbed us of any possibility of revenging it on those directly responsible. They actively, enthusiastically took from us any possibility of that age-old symmetry of reciprocal violence we see in, say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is thus no real satisfaction, and no true catharsis in sentencing Moussaoui, who is a laughably pathetic stand-in for the hijackers, not to mention for that über of all über-bugaboos, bin Laden. So instead we fall back on musings on “what if he had been tortured” because we would like to imagine him being tortured, and flesh out fantasies of “ending his days” in “the Alcatraz of the Rockies,” because we want to imagine him dead and buried. We scribble our caricatures, warped by our impotence in the face of a worldview that refuses to recognize our reality, against which we have no revenge but the flight into fantasy.

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