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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

"Numbered among the enemies general of mankind, to be dealt with as wolves are..."

It's a standard picture in America: the family Christmas photo. Millions are snapped every year, scanned, photoshopped, emailed, inserted into Christmas cards, framed or inserted between mylar sheets in treasured photo albums.

When you have a young child, it's a little different. All right, a lot different. As a parent, you are obligated to have no less than fifteen snaps with the child(ren), making sure you get the right combination of well-dressed offspring, lighting, angle and 2-D background. By the end of the shoot, the overworked My Photographer/Sears/Penney's cameraman has delved deep into his bag of child smile-making tricks, is gyrating with props and making noises in what looks for all the world like a full-bore meltdown. But it works, and you invariably get at least two or three shots you treasure forever.

That's probably why one family Christmas photograph in particular haunts me. It will until I die. After that, God grant that every tear be wiped from my eyes.

This is the picture. If you have never seen it, the photo is of Pete, Sue Kim, and little Christine Hanson. In the photo, I can see the photographer waving the pastel teddy bear in the background ("Hey there hey there-smile!"), feel Dad's wearied but doting patience ("How many shots does this guy need?"), understand Mom's serenity ("These are going to be good!"), and, of course, share the little girl's delight ("Again!"). Every father and mother has been there--has seen and heard little Christine's laughing smile.

Here is the family's website. I "met" the Hansons via James Lileks' powerful essay, where he revealed that the entire family was murdered by bin Laden's scum on their way to Disneyland. Murdered so that some evil bastard and his equally evil followers could pursue their dream of tyranny.

On Monday, Lileks wrote about Pete, Sue Kim and Christine Hanson again in his Bleat. He had to introduce a symphony dedicated to two and a half year old Christine. It is what he does not say that packs the hardest punch. He also never actually tells you what he said. He doesn't have to:

My job today was to introduce this piece of music.

Dedicate it to Christine.

Dedicate the performance to her grandparents, who were in the audience.

Then introduce the Resurrection symphony.

You get handed these duties, these moments of honor that tremble in your hands like a soap bubble, and it’s your role to show it to everyone else, to keep your hands steady, to make sure it doesn’t shudder and vanish before its time. I went on stage, said what I had to say, didn’t lose it, then sat in a corner and listened to the piece. The composer used the Barney music, which Christine loved, which Gnat sings distractedly some days.

The Barney theme. Until Monday, I had nothing but a tooth-grinding disdain for the cloying dinosaur. More often than not, I referred to him and the related marketing empire as "the Purple Satan." You say things like that when you spend six bucks on Barney toothbrushes (my daughter dropped the first into one of the cat boxes). However, you keep buying them because you see eyes light up in wonder, and a happy little voice that says "Bah-ee!" in response to the image of some guy cavorting about in a padded lizard suit. But I think I just retired my Barneyphobia:

He'd [the composer] learned that Christine's favorite tune was the "Barney and Friends" song. So to start, he took the descending minor third from the opening of the TV show's theme song, "This Old Man," and gave it to a lonely harp, expanding it to sound a lot more like late Romanticism than TV kitsch.

He went on to incorporate the strong, hopeful sound of woodwind choirs, soaring violin lines doubled by flutes, and the solemn trumpet calls and soft, intermittent snare-drum rolls of a proud nation hobbled by grief. In closing, chimes symbolize the wind in which Christine had been traveling when she died, Schroeder said.

A young family, snuffed out on a trip to see "Mih-ee" and the rest of the Disney crew. Butchered on the way to see other people in smiling animal suits bounding about. Terrorized, then incinerated, for the greater glory of jihad.

Some sniff disdainfully when the President makes a reference to those members of Al Qaeda dispatched to the hereafter via bullets, bombs and missiles. My response? Damn straight! I hope the armed forces are sending more fanatics on their last raisin run as we speak. I hope the dwindling number of survivors are sleeping lightly, waking frequently at the sound of planes and helicopters overhead. Or waking frequently because it's too quiet. Or whispering anxiously amongst themselves about the last major sweep that nabbed their comrades or foiled yet another murderous plot.

The next time some clown carps about Guantanamo, I'll remember that the Hansons weren't offered the chance to live, given studiously correct meals, medical care and access to a minister. They were killed. Gleefully. Just like they would gleefully kill me and mine without the slightest compunction.

Lileks again:

Many of us have a small burned corner of our hearts where it’s always 9/11; it’s where we keep the stories forged in that foundry of evil and pain.

Well said. That's the part of me that remembers my fireman father running into burning buildings. The part of me that watches low-flying planes much longer than I used to. The part of me that wonders about working in one of Detroit's taller and more internationally relevant buildings, twenty miles from Metropolitan Airport. The part of me that refuses to meet my family at work.

There are indications that Al Qaeda is fatally crippled.

I disagree. Well begun, half done, not over yet.

The war will be over when the next fanatic who suggests a plan to massacre the next Hanson family is immediately riddled with gunfire by his shocked compatriots, stunned that any idiot would propose such a thing.

[Lileks symphony link via Christopher Johnson.]

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