Tag Archives: crusades

Thoughts on “The Taking of Jerusalem: An Eyewitness Report” by Umberto Eco

Painting by Émile Signol

So it is no secret that I am a huge fan of Umberto Eco’s work, and this short piece is a fine example of why. It is a piece of brilliant satire intended to demonstrate the absurdity of news commentary, particularly in regard to war coverage. The piece is written from the perspective of a war correspondent covering the taking of Jerusalem during the Crusades.

Typical of a news reporter, the reporter is always looking to get into the heart of the conflict.

My informants tell me that the attack is more interesting on the northwestern front, at Herod’s Gate. I will hop on a mule and try to get to the other side of the walls. And now, back to the studio,

(Turning Back the Clock: p. 255)

The correspondent then gives a play-by-play account, reminiscent of sports commentary. I have often noted that coverage of conflicts, as well as politics, often seem like sports narrative.

From my new position I have a clear view of Godfrey of Bouillon directing the final assault from the top of a tower. The first Christians are on the top of the walls. They are Luthold and Engelbert of Tournai, I’m told, Godfrey and the others follow them, the Moors are falling under their blows, others are leaping from the walls. Herod’s Gate is down—unless it was opened by our men already inside. The men of the Christian Alliance have entered the city on foot and horseback!

(ibid: p. 256)

Toward the end of the piece, Eco makes his most important point, in my opinion. We like to believe that the end of a conflict is the end of the war; this is not true in far too many cases. Sadly, the termination of a conflict is only the beginning of a longer war, that of ideals fueled by resentment and hatred of the other faction.

A monk I spoke to this morning pointed out that this massacre amounts to a defeat. If we are to establish a Christian realm in these lands, we ought to be able to count on the acceptance of the Muslim inhabitants and the tolerance of the neighboring kingdoms. But the slaughter has raised a wall of hatred between Moors and Christians that will endure for years, perhaps centuries. The conquest of Jerusalem is not the end but the beginning—of a very long war.

(ibid: pp. 258 – 259)

We still have this war mentality that permeates so much of our culture: war on crime, war on poverty, war on hunger, war on coronavirus, on and on. Our political debates are battles, this side vs. the other. Everything is broken down to my team against yours (which team are you?). If we are to survive as a species, we need to collectively change this attitude. Us and them no longer works. It has to be we, and that will only be achieved through cooperation and support.

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The Paris Attacks: Was the Date Symbolic?

FrenchFlag

I generally try to focus my blog posts on books, poems, stories, and comics, but since the bulk of my reading over the past 10 hours has focused on the tragic events in Paris, I suppose I should share my thoughts.

First off, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of France, the victims, and their families. It pains me to think of what they must be going through.

Next, I would like to point out something that was obvious to me. This attack happened on Friday the 13th. I’m not superstitious, but I also do not believe in coincidences. It would not surprise me if the assaults were orchestrated to happen on this day for symbolic reasons.

If ISIS was behind this attack, and it seems likely that they were, we should consider that they labeled the French as infidels. During the Crusades, France sent the Knights Templar to the Holy Land to fight the Muslims. Afterwards, King Philip, fearing the power of the Templars, orchestrated the arrest and subsequent torture and execution of the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th, 1307. I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut, but the parallel gives me pause. If this was a planned and orchestrated attack, then I can only assume that the perpetrators chose a date that would hold symbolic meaning and would be easily remembered, just as the 9/11 date for the attack on the World Trade Center.

I want to close by reiterating that my thoughts and prayers are with France. My heart goes out to the people there.

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