Friday, January 21, 2011

Viva la muerte! The ultimate oxymoron

Looking over last’s week killings in Tucson, Arizona, comes to mind the crazy cry “¡Viva la muerte!”

It dates way back to the fall of 1936, in the opening of the school year at the Universidad de Salamanca, just few weeks after the military coup against the legitimate government of the Spanish Republic generated a dreadful civil war.

Salamanca had already fallen into the hands of the rebels and, in an attempt of a fake normality, the military authority acceded to the celebration of the ceremonial school year opening. Miguel de Unamuno, the aging president of the university and an upmost figure of the culture of the first third of the XX century Spain, pronounced a very sensible speech criticising the barbarian war between brothers. He was interrupted by one of the leaders of the coup, a cantankerous figure several times wounded and handicapped, as he sported a one-eye pad, an amputated arm and a cripple leg, who shouted: “¡Viva la muerte!, ¡Abajo la inteligencia!” (Long life to death, Down with intelligence), while one of his cronies threatened to shoot the old professor.

Trying to express one’s political views by killing the opponent is not only criminal but also senseless. It is very difficult to politically convince anyone by killing his friends and family. However, political violence has a centuries old history.

It has been in the recent past that political violence has been commonly labelled as terrorism. That’s no new though: it was Viriathus, a Spanish warrior who fought the Romans in the II century b. C who was called “Terror romanorum”, Terror of the Romans.

Trying to assassinate a US congresswoman known for her positions on several critical issues was definitely an act of political violence with the rally cry of “¡Viva la muerte!”

Should the perpetrator being a member of the Muslim persuasion by all means his act would have been considered an act of terrorism. Alas!, the current situation will probably move to a more psychiatric consideration. A young white guy with a gun in his hand he is just going nuts, a crazy alienated derelict. But the shivering in the spine he has given all the surviving members of the US Congress is sheer terror. Political terror.

Considering otherwise is to give bay to those who cry “Viva la muerte!”

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