Monday, January 18, 2010


As January, the superfluous month, approaches its nadir, it seemed appropriate to memorialize Thich Quang Duc, the monk who poured gasoline on himself and set it alight, reducing himself to cinders in about ten minutes according to stunned Western journalists. Duc's self-immolation protested the anti-Buddhist policies of Vietnam's Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem, who died five months later in the withering castigation of world opinion.

My point is, this was a war of conscience for Americans. No one opposed to war in Vietnam ever forgot that photograph. Or this one, also a scene of (heh) "friendly fire," IIRC.

Now, this is really an essay about the word infidel. "Infidel!" is supposed to be a curse that flies like a black bat from the mouths of Muslim fanatics, but if so, why is an Arabic imprecation written in Latin? I would submit that we infidels cannot even hear the actual protest in that word. We translate what we think we understand into a language no one uses, and see our enemies in the mirror of our own disbelief.

Curiously, Buddhism has only one unforgiveable sin — killing the Buddha — and the weapon of choice is contempt (c.f. Madame Nhu).

Pep squad cheerleader Ann Coulter has no lock on playful aristocratic trash mouth, by the way. The genre was pioneered by such Valkyrienne stalwarts as Madame Nhu (who would happily bring gasoline to the next "monk barbecue," if there was one), Annie Chenault, the Dragon Lady, Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi — and even Mirage, the Klausian girl in Star Ocean 3 who utters some cherce battlefield one-liners of her own. Outrageous dinner conversation by bloody-minded women probably inspired the term "battleaxe," come to think of it. I'm sure somebody could write a book.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home