“He does not impel his body, like other serpents, by a multiplied flexion, but advances lofty and upright. He kills the shrubs, not only by contact but by breathing on them, and splits the rocks, such power of evil is there in him.”
Pliny describing the Basilisk
Our post-modern world neglects the wisdom of the ancients, wisdom dressed in horrific images of crowned serpents, the Basilisks, or Bucentaur’s, monsters half man and half Ox, or Chimera’s, monsters with a lion’s head, the body of a goat and tail of a dragon, images of human duality, reflecting the bestial, evil nature that pulses in our veins. But these monsters strut our modern stage, “lofty and upright,” leaders of the “free” world extolling their own virtues to a cowed world and an obsequious press.
Consider our swaggering Basilisk as he admonished Putin to acknowledge “Russia’s domination of Central and Eastern Europe,” following WWII, “and its harsh occupation of the Baltic countries” when he spoke before the people of Latvia not a month ago. Consider as well how Putin held the mirror up to our crowned serpent, thus turning his venom on himself, as he acidly commented on “60 Minutes” that Bush should question his own democratic ways before looking for problems with Russia’s. Why learn from the beast that occupies Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine today to express sorrow for actions taken by the beast that ran Russia years ago? What hypocrisy. Why listen to evil incarnate that treacherously lied to America and the world, feigns ignorance of the memo that describes his duplicity made public in the UK this very month, and publicly prances across Europe proclaiming his beneficence as he brings democracy, freedom and liberty to the mid-east. What hypocrisy.
What democracy exists in Afghanistan when the installed president is a former employee of our CIA, held in place by props supported by the master puppet in Washington, doomed to an early death should he irritate the Basilisk who need only breathe upon him to destroy him. What freedom flows from Bush’s beneficence for the residents of Rafah or Fallujah; have they freedom of movement, of assembly, of religion? What liberties do the citizens of the West Bank, of Gaza, of Afghanistan or Iraq possess? Are they free of arbitrary control? Does the Wall free them or imprison them, captives in their own land? What hypocrisy. Yet our mainstream press and our clear channel radio stations bless this hypocrisy by sanctimoniously regurgitating his mantra as though it were the voice of God.
Mark how righteous our leader and his minions became when Senator Durbin brought to light the truth about torture, Bush style. How can a Senator cast aspirtions on America’s gallant military giving comfort and aid to the enemy despite the accuracy of the disclosure; attack the credibility and patriotism of the messenger, not the accuracy or truth of the source. Mount this attack in every sector of mainstream media lest the people have to grapple with the reality that our administration defies the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention against Torture. What hypocrisy.
Consider now the waddling Ox that admonished the people at Birkenau recently “to remember that the world stood silent while six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.” Listen as this Bucentaur bellows before the assembled thousands that they must “remember the victims and never forget the murderers. Don’t forget how millions of Jews were marched to their deaths while the world stood silent how the borders were closed and the Jews were herded again behind barbed-wire fences into detention camps. How so many perished.” Indeed, the world should not forget, nor should the world remain silent when this same scene slides stealthily past the guard posts and roadblocks of the IOF that stand like twin towers at the gates that incarcerate the Palestinians behind this new “barbed wire fence” that keeps them “herded” like cattle in new “detention camps,” “victims” guarded now by a new army, “not the German SS lusting for murder,” but Israeli IOF that systematically shoot innocent children directly in the head, execution style (“The New York Times Minimizes Palestinian Deaths,” Alison Weir, 4/25/05).
Indeed, we should remember the humiliation and devastation and deprivation of the Jews because no people deserve such inhumane treatment, no people. For that very reason we must remember, as Sharon so ironically commands us, the plight of the Palestinians noting as we do that he oversees a regime that denies them, the indigenous people, the land that sustained them for centuries; that he prevents humanitarian aid from reaching them even though they suffer malnutrition and disease; that he controls the erection of a heinous wall that curls like a giant snake through the ancient fields and valleys imprisoning fathers, mothers, and children like cattle; that he orchestrates the execution of his perceived enemies denying them the basic rights of people living in a civilized state, the due process of law; that he terrorizes innocent people hurling missiles from F-16s and Apache helicopters as he searches out those he would slaughter; that he demolishes homes indiscriminately forcing thousands into the streets; that he controls the lives of millions keeping them in poverty, killing thousands, wounding thousands more; but he does not ask the world to remember this genocide! No, he would rather employ a PR firm to “make over” the Israeli image. It must be, as Haaretz states, a “rebranding” of Israel so that the focus on its humiliation and destruction of the Palestinians can be forgotten (Haaretz, email@example.com, 8/5/05). How easily the Bucentaur memory forgets what it has told the world it must never forget.
This is the monster, grown fat and unmerciful with years of savagery on civilians in Lebanon and Palestine, who refuses to accept an invitation by Putin to an international conference on peace in the near east insisting that “the “Hebrew State” is against any international interference in the conflict with the Palestinians and it is indicated that only the USA can intervene with Jerusalem’s agreement.” (Guysen: Israel News 4/28/05); who controls the press in Israel and America so thoroughly that the New York Times, reporting Israeli deaths three times more than Palestinian deaths as standard practice, has remained moot on the 29 Palestinian children killed in March of this year, children “targeted in the head, neck, and chest,” a representative sample of all children killed (“The Perversions of Daniel Okrent,” Alison Weir, 4/25/05). This is the monster who prevents the world’s community of nations from acting, as it has in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Somalia to name a few, to ensure humane treatment of occupied and oppressed peoples; this is the monster who would have the world remember the Israeli peoples’ suffering but prevents the world from seeing or knowing about the suffering of the Palestinian people. What hypocrisy.
Now consider our third monster, the Chimera, who swaggers before his glass pulpit on scarlet Berber carpet, surrounded by rapt laity in his church of commerce in San Antonio, the Cornerstone Church, his lion mouth, blessed by the Beast, roaring against the Quran, icon of infidels. The first of the seven-headed beast to speak, he regales his brethren Swaggert, Baker, Robertson, Falwell, Roberts, and Hinn with proud words and blasphemies that belittle the teachings of Jesus as he makes war against the saints, forcing his congregation to bow down and worship him. How else explain a Christian minister who would bring to pass his interpretation of Biblical prophecy by coercing his brethren to give that Jewish settlers from Russia and the Diaspora can be brought to Israel to occupy illegal settlements, harass and terrorize Palestinian civilians, and murder innocent women and children? (see Hagee Ministries, Exodus II). Millions to bring millions to Israel knowing in the good Christian book that of all those brought, only 144,000 can be saved. What insidious hypocrisy to bring innocents to Israel so that the Biblical prophecy according to Hagee can be fulfilled: the world in conflagration, the Jews to Hell, the Christians raptured into heavenly bliss, and a needed handful of Jews to heaven.
Consider what this Chimera, disguised as a modern day prophet with snappy Italian silk suit holding in the goats hairy chest and bulging legs, cajoles from his flock, in carefully crafted Christian cadences, as he implores them to further the ends of Israeli settlements. He would have them extend Jesus’ hand of loving forgiveness by having their hard earned dollars support the Israeli settlers who drove up to Aziz Abdul Karim Hanani, a 70 year old shepherd, who was with his sheep on Sunday April 24, 2005, in an area near Nablus, jump from their car, attack and beat him unconscious, then abandon him in Jesus’ name! Hallelujah! Such wonders their dollars contribute to God’s cause, the impending doom of Armageddon: the Israeli breach of the cease fire over 300 times before May 2nd; the handcuffing of a 90 year old prisoner to his bed in a hospital where he died, still in handcuffs; shooting three young children running after an errant football and killing them; building new settlements in areas forbidden by the road map, more than 50,000 new homes requiring the demolition of an existing Palestinian town and the ethnic cleansing of its inhabitants; the demolishing of 90 old Arab homes to create more Israeli homes and ensure the continuation of the illegal Wall that establishes the apartheid reality of this touted but non-existent Israeli democratic state (Jeff Halper, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions); and, perhaps an act close to many Israeli hearts because it reflects the savagery of Sharon on the Jewish peoples’ conscience, the video footage of Israeli soldiers forcing a Palestinian man, Wissam Tayem, to play his violin as they made fun of him, an incident not as brutal as that of the soldier who pumped the body of a 13 year old girl full of bullets as she walked home from school or the scene of ultra-orthodox soldiers “mocking Palestinian corpses by impaling a man’s head on a pole and sticking a cigarette in his mouth.” (The Guardian, 4/29/04).
Perhaps our post-modern Chimera, dragon’s tail extending beyond the Italian silk suit, might read to his congregation from the book of Human Rights that notes, without chapter and verse, that Israel’s “disengagement plan” is a ruse and will only “facilitate Israel’s continued abrogation of its legal and moral obligations under international law, including the right of return for refugees; the derailment of the implementation of the ICJ decision regarding the Annexation Wall; and the right of self determination.”
Given the cynicism that attends a minister, and all his companions that stand in judgment on God’s modern mount, the Sinai of TV channels, the TBN that makes possible God’s blessed millionaires, we can only believe that the beast will devour its own heads with the lies of its own mouth, transforming itself into a Basilisk faced with a mirror, bringing destruction by means of its own deceit. Now that would be an apt closure to a post-modern Bible, a virtual Book of Revelations.
William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His new book, Psalms for the 21st Century, was published by Mellen Press. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU