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The Killing of Jean Charles de Menezes

To Die by Mistake


There are various ways of dying by mistake. All of them against one’s own will. Not so long ago I believed that we could also die by mistake as a result of our own will. For example, committing suicide when all is not yet lost. Something like killing ourselves when we are in the process of an incurable disease, that has been wrongly diagnosed by a doctor. Killing ourselves from a complete lack of hope, when all the possibilities have not yet been tried. Later on, I considered that this would be properly speaking a killing of oneself by mistake. So I reaffirm that all ways of killing by mistake are done against ones own will.

One could even say, if you would allow me to go into the matter a little more deeply, that there are more cruel and less cruel ways of dying by mistake. And among the less cruel, I would include the mistaken idea of the word fatherland. For example, a Latin or a European fighting under the North-American flag in Iraq. And when least expected the vehicle he/she is traveling in explodes. Or again, in another way, to have been photographed for the last time beside Bush moments before dying. That is what I call dying by mistake, but in a less cruel manner, for it is quick and with a calculated risk. Or again, in a more innocent manner, to mistake the avenue, the restaurant, the hotel, the country, and to be thrown, unexpectedly, into a war zone, bullets flying around, or in the way of an extraordinary gigantic wave. That is also to die by mistake, in a tragic manner, as all deaths are, but even so, they allow for a ranking, in a way less crude and cruel.

Of the hardest and most terrifying ways, we can think of the convicted, of the mistakenly condemned, of the miserable who make up part of the normal criminal class, and as such await death in a corridor. But even these, up to the last moment, expect a last minute clarification, an indult, a merciful salvation, before the priest or the pastor comes to fulfill the role of sending him/her to the heaven of execution. That is why we conclude that few deaths of those who die by mistake are as cruel and despicable as that of being hunted like a dog. Like a dog, did I say? Hunted like a fox would be more like it. Surrounded, knocked down, immobilised and glassy eyed to see the flash and the light of the bullet a fraction of a second before it smashes into and destroys the brain.

The Brazilian, the dog, the fox, this hybrid animal, with no defined species or pedigree, by name Jean Charles de Menezes died thus by mistake, put down with eight bullets. Such a vile and cruel death on a dog, a fox, or even on a rabbit would be proof of perversion and cruelty. And on a human? Excuse me Blair, excuse me Bush, excuse me terrified English subjects, what is it when perpetrated on a creature that is a human being? Even though it be natural in a country of samba and exotic good-in-bed mulattos, and for tourism; even so, and in spite of it, do you think that this subordinate deserved to die like a mad dog in London?

There was nothing national, nothing nationalistic, you understand. Far be it from us to think of demanding, I mean, complaining, sorry, we want to say, to plea in a whisper, humbly for Brazilians to be treated in a different manner. Because you see, the first news that was broadcast was that an Asiatic had been killed. Ah, well, if it is an Asiatic, the world will not tremble, all the blue-eyed nationalists, those from the West, gave a sigh of relief. They had said that because the eyes of the dead terrorist were of the slit type, brownish, which are the first signs of a second class, unimportant exotic world, way over there in the East. Later, surprise!, they realised that the boiling pot of Brazilian mixtures also exports slit-eyed, Chinese-like, American indigenous-like bombs. Then, shit! They saw on the floor of the underground that inert bundle, previously happy, that had drummed out samba and smiled for the family photos, for Mammy, I got on in Europe. They saw that the thing now with no brain was not even a terrorist. Sorry! What a pity, ladies, dogs and gentlemen!

It hadn’t anything to do with nationalism, though. We all know that the English do not treat their dogs like that. There is no nation in the world where people have more love for their pet dogs, pups, every single one. What is so great about going for a walk with their best friends pulling them on the end of a lease through the streets of London? So much love, say the wicked, so much affection dedicated to a fellow creature. No, English people do not treat their dogs that way. If there is a license to kill, to shoot at the heads of beings that move, that order is certainly not directed to dogs. It is directed to something of a much lower and obnoxious order, inferior, much more inferior to dogs, though it may walk (simulates walking), speak (simulates speaking), think (simulates thinking) and smile (simulates smiling). A thing that terror refers to as terrorism. Ah, well, if that is the case, then its OK. Terrorism against Terror, or Terror against Terrorism. The order of the concepts is still uncertain.

But one thing is certain, one thing is clear, crystal clear, objectively so, and without any shadow of a doubt and that is that the terrorist has a face. The terrorist belongs to a race. The terrorist has a nationality. The terrorist has a belief, a language, class and region. The head most worthy of being destroyed by bullets has already been determined. We, the people of the Third World, are the terrorists. We Muslims are the terrorists. We Asiatics are the terrorists. We negroes, half-casts, latins and the like are the terrorists. Terrorists are all those who were not born with the identifiable characteristics of the mass of dogs and hooligans. Our skulls are the target, and the darker they are the more likely to be the target, the mark, the end. Our skull is Jean Charles de Menezes.

When I read the report of a witness to the assassination of Jean Charles, who had seen the eyes of the man immobilised on the ground, by the photos

"If you look at the photos, his eyes seem to be small, but when I saw his face for only a second, because it was all so quick, his eyes were quite, quite open. He seemed very, very scared" When I saw that report, I felt as if I had got a punch on the stomach. The small eyes that opened wide with fright, with a pistol pointed at his head, were mine, ours, our children’s, our brothers’ and sisters’, all non-British peoples’. The Asiatic eyes of all us terrorists.

URARIANO MOTA is a Brazilian journalist. He can be reached at: urarianoms@uol.com.br

(Translation: Michael Mc Laughlin)