The Glair - Hanging Hussein
I don’t know if any of you have ever seen a man (or woman or child for that matter) hang, or seen the results of a hanging. I have.
I don’t mean the kind of modern hanging, which at one time, not so long ago, was a semi-regular method of execution, where weights or other devices were used to quickly snap the neck of the person being hanged.
I mean a real “Hanging.” The kind where a fella twists and turns and convulses and chokes and ropes and ligatures slowly strangle him and crush his throat and esophagus as gravity pulls him down, down, down, and in terror and panic, fighting for breath he assures his own doom through slow torment by way of twitching and thrashing about, which only tightens the grip. You don’t see that much anymore, and modern men and women, especially in the insulated West, where most do all they can to even avoid the thought of killing and death like a bad commute or a trip to Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, flee the impulse like sheep scattered by a lightning bolt in a summer storm.
I mean a real “Hanging.” The word is far more than just a metaphorical impulse and it describes far more than the mere technical notification of being suspended in air by the neck until dead, dead…dead.
Hanging, for those familiar with the practice or for those who have seen the result gives a glimpse of something that those who die by particular and violent means come to understand, and if unlucky enough to see it through to the end, fully comprehend in the execution.
To Hang is to hang in the air, t'is true, but it is also to “Hang between Worlds,” suspended in a state which can best be described as “neither, here, nor there.” To hang in the air, by a slender cord or rope of ultimate destruction, but temporal disposition, fighting desperately to preserve one’s own place in this world while awaiting, by slow strangulation and tortuous twist of your own personal Gordian Knot, your entry into another.
I’d like to describe all of the horrors I’ve both seen and imagined by way of this particular form of dispatch, but some things are best the preserve of the few, and reserved for the few. In addition some things can never be understood unless first empirically received or transmitted by direct, personal experience, and therefore expositions upon a kind remain mere descriptions of the imagination of the receptive party. Those who already know need no description, they have experienced or seen it, those who will never know will never know and imagination, though a beautifully deceptive method of intellectual apprehension conveys no more real truth in the practice than does a film or video game about life convey any of the truer nuances of Real Life to those who have actually already dared to live. Data is not Experience, information is not Truth. In the modern world even such a thought seems heretical and to the wisest of those who pretend wisdom in this age that is no doubt as close to Truth as they are capable of making discovery, but to the truly Wise the apprehension of truth is found in experience, not knowledge. You know, you truly know, because you have done, because you have seen, because you have experienced, because you were, or are, there.
Such is the truth, the one inescapable and real Truth, Saddam is about to enjoy. He will hang between worlds, and for a few brief moments of human condemnation and furious, internal self-doubt he will anticipate his doom, hang suspended between worlds, one of which is anxious to view his departure, and thereby spit him out, and the other which may just be equally anxious in patient reception, so as to eat him when he arrives. He will hang, and time will seem to stop for him, and he will die, and be torn from a body that has seen its certain and fair share of doubt, desperation, final torment, and God only knows, plentiful corruption.
Do I personally wish him eternal doom and destruction, that he go wailing and screaming like an old, tortured, chemically gassed woman who has lived just long enough to see her children and grandchildren annihilated by the whims of a tyrannical and evil dictator? Not really, because that is not my business to either judge or conduct. What Saddam’s final, and perhaps even ultimate disposition may be, that is a matter, as the saying goes, far above my pay-grade. I have personal theories of what may await him, but in the end that is not my affair, nor do I think my opinion would add much wisdom or justice in deciding the case one way or another. I am after all only a man, not God, and the entire universe can be awfully glad of that. To tell you the truth so am I, I don’t even want the job anymore than I deserve the job of deciding more permanent matters regarding the soul of Hussein, assuming he either possesses one, or that it has not already been consumed by a sort of internal contagion of psychological and pathological self-rot.
But I am a man, and as a man, in this world, I can see real Justice and Truth, in and for this world, in letting Saddam swing. Who knows I may one day be shocked to discover that I run across Saddam in Heaven and he may laugh at my surprised and shocked declaration of… “How in hell did you make it here man!?” To which I guess he can justifiably reply, “You don’t make those decisions pal, and God is wiser than you.” And God knows He certainly is, no argument there. But I won’t be surprised if after this world I never run across mention of the fella again, and in any case, I won’t exactly be holding my breath. Least ways not nearly as long as Saddam will soon be attempting the same trick. Good luck then old man…you’re gonna need it. You don’t strike me as much of a magician. Or escape artist.
The point of the whole matter is that what is to come in the next few hours or days is out of my hands, and so I leave those affairs to others, in this world and elsewhere. But as for this world, this moment in time, as for what passes as Justice and Truth in this world, there is a certain and undeniably poetic irony that Saddam is to swing, to haul, to twist in the wind, to choke, struggle, suffocate, to strangle, to have his breath and voice crushed, to “hang between worlds.”
Will Saddam be allowed to hang, slowly, painfully, tortuously, philosophically, or will the Iraqi execution authorities weight his body so that his neck snaps cleanly and he dies quickly before he splatters his pants with his very last shit and before his prison pantaloons are soiled with his piss of the last of this world? Will his body, mind, and ghost hang for long moments of inescapable reflection upon his past life and his current fate as he twists on the tangles of the noose at his neck? Or will his spirit be suddenly and violently torn from his corpse to shriek off like some damned and lonely banshee, wailing about the injustice of the injustice of it all? Who can say? Not me, I imagine. I’m not going to bother to imagine it anyway; the point is I know it is coming. I’ll let Death work out all the details. He’s got a lot more experience than I do in these matters, and I trust him to do the thing right. So I can expend my imagination in better pursuits, like imaging that the people who need to get the message of this hanging will do just that. But they won’t. Least ways, not until it is too late for them as well.
And I have no illusions that as soon as Saddam is dispatched and sent packing from this corner of the kosmos that the world will re-begin again, or that the New Year will suddenly sprout reformation in Iraqi insurgents or spawn genius and wisdom in Islamic terrorists the world over, anymore than a good hanging often reforms would be criminals when they see one of their own pitched up high. Everyone deludes himself or herself, until their moment is near, that they are special, that they alone will escape. None ever do in the end, but most people don’t think much about the end, they are too consumed with the brilliance of what they believe about themselves in the now. And I have no illusions that by the execution of this tired, weak, stripped, pathetic little man that the rest of the world will have gotten a good instruction in the fate of relying upon fate as a shield of personal invulnerability and individual invincibility. That tyrants the globe over will change, that they will go about the rest of their lives having learned a good moral lesson and so this event will never again have to be repeated. There will be new tyrants, new dictators, new terrorists, new criminals, and new evils for new ages. New Evils even for this current, and just to be honest, rather juvenile Age. C’est la Vie.
But at this moment, at this time, for this world, in this way, in a sort of collective, metaphysical fashion, they will all hang together. And they should hang together, because sooner or later, if they remain as they are, they will all surely hang separately.
Just give it a little time.
You’ll see what I mean.
© JWG, Jr. 2006
Article on Execution
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