Ghostly Images

Stark, emblematic images from the 21st century's first decade -- the

Falling Man off the smoking Twin Towers and the Hooded Man in the

dungeons of Abu Ghraib -- remain like the specters of our sins to haunt

our increasingly virtual lives in the Fee (sic) World's twilight time.

The Falling Man in a nightmare come true, the ultimate hard choice:

burn alive or jump to certain death. Perhaps it's like the choice (if we

even have one) between strict totalitarian "order" and wild, brutal

anarchy, or between Nuke Winter and Planet Sahara: our serves-us-right

destiny, our no-one-to-blame-but-ourselves fate.

The Hooded Man is newfangled, star-spangled crucifixion: a man

anonymous and naked beneath a foul, dunce-pointed hood and skimpy

blanket cloak, teetering atop a box, wired up with hands out helplessly,

photographed just for fun by bored grunt captors acting on top-level

policy to "take the gloves off." The policy makers won't pay for their

cold, cruel inhumanities, while the tortured captive -- likely an innocent

caught in the dragnet -- will pay dearly in pain, degradation, and psychic

ruin. And this, we're made to understand, is s.o.p. in our unjust world,

where we're all complicit in the agonies of falling men and hooded men.

And here's another horrific image from the middle of the century's second

decade: the Drowned Toddler, a tiny, kid-clothed body washed up on a

foreign shore, casualty of the mass migration fleeing war-torn, dirt-poor

lands, whose frail craft didn't make it to wherever. Of course there are

so many other victims of fire, flood, war, famine, and whatever, every day,

all the time. But it's the rare images which haunt, which stand for all the

horrors we don't see, as the frantic naked girl running toward us down the

bombed road stood for the insanity of America's Vietnam War.

The Naked Girl, the Falling Man, the Hooded Man, and the Drowned

Toddler spook my image-driven mind, and tell us more about ourselves

than we may ever wish to know. But we must try to know just what these

ghastly, ghostly images mean, and know worse images are sure to come.

                                                                                                           Jon Horn