Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mad Destruction: "Cultural Cleansing"

Destroying the Past 
"Reports of the destruction of Baal Shamin temple on Sunday came less than a week after IS militants beheaded Khaled Asaad, who worked as head of antiquities in Palmyra for over 50 years. The 81-year-old scholar had been detained and interrogated by Islamists for more than a month." (, August 25, 2015). Yahoo/Getty image, Baal Shamin destruction, below.   
So ISIS terrorists,  inhumane savages, really, have used sledge hammers, power tools, assault rifles, tanks and explosives to destroy the priceless antiquities of Iraq and Syria, the cradle of civilization from which come our major religions and cultures on the planet.  They are laying ruin to mankind's shared heritage. They have destroyed ancient artifacts, temples and shrines, the architecture and archeaological sites of ancient cities, most of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, most over 3,000 years old. 

They gloat that they are killing false idols in the name of their Sunni Allah.  I think the desecrations stem more from a propaganda and political agenda, however, than a religious one.  In any case, they are heinous acts, which the terrorists film, document and share on social media, gleefully, with the intent to shock and awe the world.  They do. Like filming the hundreds of beheadings of journalists and anyone they deem "infidels," so sickening and disgusting in every way.  

Historical and human obliteration in one fell swope. It's hard to believe we live in the 21st century, and this patriachal devastation is still going on. I look at Hubble's awesome images of the endless universe and wonder: How can the universe be so grand, so large, and the minds of men so small?  We seem to learn nothing from history. We repeat the same mistakes over and over. The human propensity toward evil is never ending. The struggle against it always falls short.

Irina Bokova, the head of UNESCO, has labeled the mass destruction of ancient religious and cultural heritage sites "war crimes" and "cultural cleansing."  Yes, and to what end?  They are certainly  "an immense loss for humanity."   Yes, and who can stop it?

The latest victim is the Baal Shamin temple in Palmyra, which dates back to the early first century and is dedicated to the Phoenician god of storms and fertilizing rain.  It came a week after ISIS butchers beheaded 81-year-old Khaled Asaad, the chief of antiquities in Palmyra for over 50 years.  (, August 23, 2015)  

Khaled Asaad, an 81-year old scholar, who hurt no one, who only helped preserve humanity's heritage, tortured and beheaded. 

These tragedies follow the similar heartbreaking desecration and destruction of Christian and Shia World Heritage Sites in Mosul, Nimrud, and Hatra in neighboring Iraq. Every depraved act brings horror and outrage.  The disgust multiplies, the feelings of helplessness in the face of evil grows.  What can be done?  We're trying to bomb ISIS into oblivion, but is this the way to go?  Can you destory evil with bombs?  

ISIS is "erasing cultures from the memory of the world."   These antiquities are just bricks and sandstone and mortar, but they embody the aspirations and achievements of our past, the actions and dreams of real people in real time.  They hold countless stories that connect humankind in a great chain of being. 

The chain has been broken.  It is terribly sad to witness this rampage of destruction, this evil obliteration of our past and its defenders, with no end in sight.  
Interesting Sources:
"ISIS continues to bulldoze its way through the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria, releasing a new propaganda video showing its fighters destroying Iraq's ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in March 2015." 

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