In the midst of today’s ISIS-beheading-of-a-Westerner of the month breaking story involving the most recent victim of religious global violence, Abdul-Rahman Kassig (formerly known as “Peter” before his conversion to Islam), I found the video purporting to show Kassig’s beheading. It was typically slick, and those who put the video together proved their adroitness with video assembly. The music and slow, dreadful build-up interlaced with footage of bombings and rifle assaults and other desert scenes of mayhem were cleverly edited in gruesome hi-def detail while the normal bleak, exotic and restive Middle Eastern music fatally lumbered in the background. The final video production comes short of portraying the executioner soldiers as transient Hollywood extras collecting a SAG paycheck by posing a few minutes on the big screen.
Forget the fact that the most gruesome scene of the short movie was the beheading of about 15 prisoners clad in black deathwear.
Oddly, Kassig’s murder was not one of those portrayed. Intelligence officials are puzzled that the scene which shows Kassig’s decapitated and bloody head is unusually crude (in a cinematographic manner, that is), unlike the quality with which the rest of the beheadings were produced. Conjecture is that perhaps something went wrong during the execution of Kassig. Perhaps there was a struggle; or maybe the ISIS soldiers were scared off by combatant military actions prompted by the United States or its allies. In any case, there is a general perception that the failure of ISIS to portray Kassig’s beheading on video is indicative of problems or failure on their part.
As atrocious and horrible as the beheadings were to watch, one of the most unsettling horrors of the video occurred moments before the executioners put the blades to the prisoner’s necks. The segment begins as the prisoners are marched in front of the camera in a single file. Each prisoner appears to be assigned one executioner. A partner unto death. There is that personalized death treatment. One can only wonder where these men were in the moments before they were roused to their feet. Ordered to maintain the prone hunched-over walk, the prisoners faces seem buried in the shadows of the folds of their dark clothing.
There is something morbidly terrifying about being assigned your own executioner, the one mortal being who will slice your neck open and remove your head from its bodily, life-sustaining planter. Everything about this is pure terror. When considering an adversary, if you feel the slightest fear of him, you’re already at a strategic disadvantage. The Muslim’s have the fear on their side. Much of the inflammatory anti-Muslim hyperbole voiced in the United States among the Conservatariat is thinly veiled reflective fear.
But the worst part happens when, accompanied by your personal executioner’s firm clench on the rags you will die in, you lastly must march by the Wooden Box of Knives.
That is the best description of it. It is a wooden box of apparent sturdy construction and it contains numerous military caliber knives whose mission it is to free you from the imprisoned world you’ve been confined to for the past few months or years. You march by this box, you and your executioner. Just as your executioner is assigned the task of killing you, each one of those knives in the box is randomly assigned the task of cleaving the sanctity of your neck’s integrity into two with such ferocity that they eventually will separate your body from head. The knives, poised in that box. One of them has your name, but which, we don’t know. That randomness of it all is the most frightening and horrible thing to behold.
This parade of death mocks your sense of free will, for you are as sure as dead now. The random and disarrayed nature of the knife intended for you is not measured until you are on death’s doorstep. This is the ultimate tool of destruction, destruction of the psyche and hope.
It’s the Wooden Box of Knives. Where sure death awaits behind the tragic door of puzzled unspecific fate.