How Round is A Circle?

Women and children should not be killed unless and until women and children are killed.  If women and children are killed then more women and children can be killed.  If women and children are killed then more women and children should be killed.  If women and children are killed then more women and children must be killed.

–          Wambui Mwangi, A Lamentation of Mourners

There’s been a lot of thinking around Westgate. A lot of thinking around what happened and how it continues to (not) happen. A lot of scrutiny as to what the government did (not) do. And, generally, a lot of a lot-ness going on.

A friend wrote, on a listserve:

 I can’t celebrate death; can’t see killing as victory; I’m unable to understand how neutralizing terrorists will stop future attacks; how cult-like it is when we give thanks for bloodshed; while grieving for a different kind of bloodshed.”

 It is hard not to join the cultic cries for the blood of the people who attacked the mall on that Saturday. Harder still isSavage Chickens - pressure trying to understand why we weren’t equally torn over the tana clashes, or the several strikes across Nothern Kenya; Wajir si Kenya?

What is most difficult to reconcile is how we see this as worse damage, because it has happened on our soil. As if somehow, because the deaths have happened here they are worse. And, by here, I don’t even mean in Kenya, I think about here being Nairobi. And a certain part of Nairobi. The part that the people who handle the wealth of the country go to have their coffee, and buy their diamonds. These deaths are worse than the others because, somehow, these lives bear more value. In a lamentation of mourners, Wambui Mwangi (quoting Judith Butler) writes:

Ungrievable lives are those that cannot be lost, and cannot be destroyed, because they already inhabit a lost and destroyed zone; they are, ontologically, and from the start, already lost and destroyed, which means that when they are lost and destroyed in war, nothing is destroyed.”

Barely days after the Westgate siege a blast in Wajir came to my attention. Unlike the Westgate victims, there was no paybill number for these victims. There was no national outrage, no list of victims and no concern on twitter. It could be argued that fewer people died in Wajir than in westgate and, to that, I ask, where’s the mourning for the 1500 dead of the PEV? To the over 60 dead of the Tana Delta clashes. What deaths have we resigned to the space of normal, acceptable, palatable? What deaths we have become accustomed to? Who decides what life we shall and shan’t grieve?

I think about this as I think to the amount of collateral damage that has occurred in Kismayo. Collateral damage, lives lost in a bid to protect other lives from being lost in a bid to keep more important lives running. Because life has been lost, life will be lost. I think about this as I think of our disposability. About the jubilation when suspects are gunned XKCD- Death ratesdown.  We celebrate death as if it comes with a blessing. They were suspected so they must be guilty. We don’t even bother to find out their names. Their mothers are not allowed to shed a tear for them Their sons were thieves, they deserved to die.

As if somehow a tv and a few wires are worth taking a life.

The irony in all this is that, while we mourn for the victims of the Westgate blast we tell the ICC to leave our president alone. We urge the victims of the post election violence to move past what has happened. We use death, to erase death.

Witness #95

Say their names:

Ali, Ben, Susan, Beatrice, Lucy

Say their names:

Brother, Friend, Wife, Sister, Girlfriend

Say their names:

Kiptoo, Onyango, Achieng’, Nyambura, Cheruiyot

Say their names:

missing, burned, raped, decapitated, insane

 Say their names:

scared, criminalized, hated, feared, intimidated

 Say their names:

forgotten, erased, error, error,error.

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