Image via The Chicagoist and Seth Brown
If you were standing on the Lake Michigan’s eastern shores late this February, on a day unusually warm and clear for that bitter month, you would have seen the Chicago skyline, distorted and strange, rising up over the far horizon. Nearly 60 miles of lake separate these two shorelines, and visibility is essentially impossible. But due to a temperature inversion that caused a bending of light and water, the skyline rose up from the depths, grotesque and squat, but still visible, in a place where it manifestly should not be.
If you were to stand in the same place today and turn your gaze southward, you might see a similar, though distinctly more frightening illusion: that of the country folding in on itself, bending at some Mason/Dixon line of the national soul, and falling forward, imposing a grim Mississippi on Michigan. It isn’t just that the two states have primaries today. It’s that the vision of one of the parties is to create a deracinated owner’s paradise, the kind found in the south, and impose it on America’s working heartland.
Yemen is a country being pulled apart and battered by several different conflicts, internal and external, some a product of its history and some the imposition of global trends. It’s a proxy war for some nations and a Petrie dish for others. It’s a country where modern violence has become, to the outside world, quotidian and expected, and where it takes a particularly horrific, or at least focused, attack to garner headlines.
Such an attack happened last Friday, in the Southern port town of Aden- once the capital of the secular and socialist south, later the hotbed for a new democratic Yemen, and now the bloody plaything for competing millenarians and indifferent governments. On Friday, at a nursing home, 16 nuns, volunteers from around the globe, were bound and executed with shots to the head.
(This was extreme enough to warrant an immediate disavowal and denunciation by Ansar al-Sharia, who said it wasn’t the way they fight. And it is true- since reforming in the last decade as AQAP, they have avoided the kind of blood-thirsty acts that alienate a local population.)
The global reaction to such a shocking crime was at once justified, but also indicative of how societies come apart at the edge of attention, until all it happens all at once.