by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
On May 13, 2008, I wrote:
Saturday night I was watching as CNN covered the tragedy in Myanmar (Burma). I was well aware of the devastation caused by Nagris, the cyclone that ripped the country apart. What shocked me was the graphic nature of CNN’s report. There were bodies and bodies and more bodies–Burmese men, women, even children, dead, bloated, discolored and rotting in the Southeast Asian sun; arms and legs akimbo as if their owners had been tossed like rag dolls. I know this is what death looks like, especially when it takes place in a poor country where the people have been colonized, militarized and rocked by ethnic strife and drug trafficking. But I watched the television and couldn’t help thinking that this video desecration of the already desecrated was another example of how American culture sees brown people as somehow less human. Read more…
I am thinking about this again because of Neda Agha Soltani, the young Iranian woman who was gunned down during political protests in Tehran. According to CNN, the martyred woman’s name, which reportedly means “voice” or “calling” in Persian, has become a rallying cry for those protesting fraudulent elections in Iran. This post isn’t about how Neda’s life and death have affected her people, though. It is how her death is being used in this country that is making me uncomfortable.
Neda’s horrific death was captured on video and is all over the Web, including several high-profile blogs and You Tube. Even CNN.com has linked to the unedited video, though the news outlet ran a pixilated version on air. The video shows the young woman, clad in jeans and bright, white tennis shoes, collapsing to the ground, seconds after being shot in the heart. As her father and others attend to her, Neda’s brown eyes seem to focus momentarily on the camera before shifting, glazing. Blood begins to pour from her mouth and nose, covering her face. Her life is gone. You can see it when it goes. It is shocking. If you do not care about what is going on now in Iran, you will after seeing Neda die in the street with her father’s screams growing louder and louder.
But why does the Western world (and here I refer mostly to the dominant culture, not marginalized groups) have to see these things to be shaken from its complacency? Read the Post Must brown people be martyred for Americans to be motivated?