I saw it this morning, at about eight. I said, “Oh… my… God.” Benazir Bhutto, long–and probably accurately–seen as the best choice for prime minister of the troubled mess that is Pakistan, was assassinated.
For good or ill, it’s the most important political assassination I remember. I’m far too young to have experienced the deaths of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, or Robert Kennedy. Too young, too, to have seen the attempts to assassinate Ronald Reagan, or Pope John Paul II.
I faintly remember the death of Diana, but I didn’t understand and didn’t worry. Britain is a much more stable state than Pakistan has ever been.
Perhaps the best reference I have, and one I was coincidently reminded of as I wiled away some down time on the internet, is September 11, 2001. And surely the analogy fails in some ways–roughly 3000 Americans compared with about 20 Pakistanis.
But the 9/11 analogy succeeds in other ways. I am, as on that Tuesday in September, waiting desperately for a comfort that almost certainly won’t come. Vainly hoping that these deaths, like all those, will be corrected. That from somewhere the universe will say “Sorry, I screwed that up. Let me undo this terrible mistake.”
But despite my desires, there’s an almost unavoidable fact that neither God nor the universe believes in taking back ugly events. The Holocaust has still happened. The Crusades have still happened. Colonialism and slavery are still present in the history of the human race. Genocides and wars still happen today. Injustice, violence, and loss seem like house guests who don’t recognize how much everyone wishes they would just leave us in peace.
Perhaps I’ve been waiting for someone to explain to me the reason for all this. But The Economist, the crutch on which I depend to make sense of the world, didn’t do it any better than the AP. The calculations of a small group of determined souls makes no more sense than they did when I first heard the news. Or when I first heard about the World Trade Center.
Assassinations are perhaps the oldest form of terrorism. And I have little doubt that breaking Bhutto’s Pakistan’s People’s Party (the country’s largest), and Pakistan nascent hope for long-term stability were exactly the aim of the assassin.
It seems that all I can hope for on this December day, two days after Christmas, as I stare out into the swirling snow, is that someday this shock and despair will be unknown throughout the world. That peace and stability will be the only realities that anyone knows. A foolish hope perhaps, but one that I’m sure is worth having.