in the garden

 

Jan 2004 Journal

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Under Nelson's blind eye

Wine-befuddled Viennese are wont to extol the city's land-mark in a song listing the varied sights 'St Stephen's Tower/has looked down on since its darkest hour.' A corresponding medley of scenes which Nelson's Column has witnessed would probably start in 1883 with the 'Bloody Sunday' riot of the unemployed. It would continue with the Peace Pledge Union (PPP) meeting of 1937, at which Aldous Huxley exhorted his 70,000-strong audience not to bear arms in any future war, and end with Colin Jordan's (sparsely attended) Jew-baiting rally of 1962.

November's massive 'Stop Bush' junket combined elements of all these three events. What linked it to 'Bloody Sunday' was the red dye injected into the fountains - though fewer Iraqi civilians died during the war than were killed annually by Saddam. The link with the 1937 PPU rally was the advocacy of inaction in the face of rampant evil. The echo of the Colin Jordan meeting was weaker in terms of overt antisemitism, but, as depicted here, Uncle Sam resembled the 'Eternal Jew' of Nazi propaganda. This impression was strengthened by the burning of the Stars and Stripes, an act of blood-stirring paranoid hatred.

Though short-sighted in certain respects - world trade, ecology - the USA has been right on all life-or-death issues of the last century: two World Wars, the Cold War, Islamo-Fascism. It has, moreover, shown a capacity for radical self-transformation: co-founding US President Thomas Jefferson owned slaves - today slave-descended Colin Powell is a power in the land. The most eye-catching display of demented hatred enacted in the Square was the parody on the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. Destroying President Bush in effigy dragged into the mud the outstanding achievement of the Coalition, and obscured the one chink of light in the fog currently enveloping the Middle East. One wonders if the relatives of the 300,000 Iraqis done to death under Saddam were amused by this piece of emetic street theatre.
Richard Grunberger

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