This is how staggeringly pointless the killing in Iraq is getting: shepherds in the rural western Baghdad neighborhood of Gazalea have recently been murdered, according to locals, for failing to diaper their goats. Apparently the sexual tension is so high in regions where Sheikhs take a draconian view of Shariah law, that they feel the sight of naked goats poses an unacceptable temptation. They blame the goats.My first reaction was "John Ashcroft's in charge." I know it seems like a strange connection, but let me elaborate.
I’ve spent nearly a year here, on more than a dozen visits since the early days of the war, and that seemed about as preposterous as Iraq could get until I heard about the grocery store in east Baghdad. The grocer and three others were shot to death and the store was firebombed because he suggestively arranged his vegetables.
I didn’t believe it at first. Firebombings of liquor stores are common, and I figured there must’ve been one next door. But an Iraqi colleague explained matter-of-factly that Shiite clerics had recently distributed a flyer directing groceries how to display their food.
Standing up a celery stalk near a couple of tomatoes in a way that might – to the profoundly repressed – suggest an aroused male, is now a capital offense.
One of the signal events of the Ashcroft tenure was his decision to drape a sheet over the nude statue of justice. This action was cause for much amusement, but the real truth of the matter is this: The attorney general of the United States couldn't walk past a statue without becoming aroused. Oh, maybe not aroused to full attention, so to speak, but at least thinkin' 'bout it. I come from a Christian tradition very similar to Ashcroft. I've spent many an hour listening to authority figures lecture girls and women about how they should dress. This always raised a question in my mind. Let's say a woman dresses really, really provocatively. You know, dress cut up to here, down to there, showcasing the merchandise, you know what I'm sayin'. Isn't it within my power to turn my attention away? I once heard Barbara Coloroso say that in the Talmud, it is no sin to go naked, but it is a sin to look. I like that concept. What I look at and think about is my responsibility.
The more I listened to these lectures and observed the rules they produced, the more I realized that the men making them were obsessed with sex. A woman could cut a hole in the middle of a 16'x16' tarp and put her head through it. They would still find a way to brand her a harlot, because they couldn't put sex, or at least the thought of having sex with her, out of their minds.
Which brings us back to John Ashcroft. There's only one reason to drape the statue of justice, and that's because you can't walk past it without thinking about how sweet it would be to bend justice over your podium and do her.
Which brings us back to Gazalea. I guarantee you that if you scratch one of the sheikhs who made this decree, you'll find a goat-humper. And I don't even want to know what his neighbor is thinking about the stew.
Update: Lance Mannion has a post that deals with much the same issue here. His is better written and more comprehensive.