from a 2002 PBS Frontline Report
I guess every city is a graveyard, I mean, people die as much as they live. In Colombo I just notice it more. On the way to the gym I pass the police station where a woman blew herself up. She’d been detained before she reached the Tamil politician she was targeting. A few days ago I had a meeting in Cinnamon Gardens, a few steps where Sarath Ambenpitiya was shot. Deshan’s house is at the corner where Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne was killed. I heard that the bomb blast was powerful enough that it took out the roofs for blocks including, probably, the house I was at. But I’m not really sure. I’m just going about my normal day.
One spot I’ve always noticed is the corner where Neelan Tiruchelvam was killed. I notice cause there are doves and drawings done in chalk. I never knew exactly why they were there, but I always liked passing that spot. Today Vikram Raghvan invited me to a book launch at Dr. Tiruchelvam’s house and I took the chance to actually visit the memorial.
I like it a lot. It’s peaceful. I feel like it’s the right reaction to terror – love. I think that reaction takes so much more strength than war. So much strength that it rarely happens. It seems like terrorists like the LTTE and Al Qaeda want an enemy – and too often we give them one. That is, countries that get attacked tend to add more hatred and anger to the fire. I think it’s an almost biological principle, like the Immune System
We may conceive of an arrangement where the cells of self are marked, so that they are not attacked by its own defense mechanism. But not all foreign cells may be destroyed since some must be assimilated for nourishment. Therefore, the immune system must have the capacity to detect self and some nonself. (Wikipedia)
The problem with countries is that they’re so much more stupid than the immune system. In response to Bin Laden America attacks … Saddam Hussein. That is, they mount a vague War of Terror with a lot of false positives. Today I was in Unity Plaza buying pirated software and there was this weird radio broadcast about Guantanamo. It was only in the pee-smelling corner but as I looped around I kept hearing stuff about people being denied lawyers and appeals, and about lawyers not having access to defendants or documents. It smelled like the Constitution had been peed on.
In the same way, if Sri Lanka mounts a general dragnet against Tamils (cause the LTTE systematically kills moderate Tamil leaders) then we lose. The Sri Lankan government abuses Tamil rights, sets up checkpoints, and occupies Jaffna. Awesome. We’re alienating the artists, workers, and neighbors that nourish the country.
Or, in short, countries that get attacked by terrorists often act like huge assholes in reaction (Israel as well, the Wall for example). People seem to take pride in revenge and eye-for-an-eye, like it’s their due, but that just seems to lead to more suffering. I like the Neelan memorial cause it doesn’t call for any more blood or revenge or anything. There’s a simple quote to the side that says
“We cannot glorify death whether in the battlefield or otherwise. We, on the other hand, must celebrate life, and are fiercely committed to protecting and securing the sanctity of life, which is the most fundamental value without which all other rights and freedoms become meaningless”
When I pass I think I feel something like that. I don’t feel like getting revenge or going to war. I just feel like it’s nice to live in Colombo.