Is the niqab/burqa, as this New York Times reporter writes, the sort of thing you will wear (and make your female children wear: “A small girl of perhaps 7 or 8 was sitting atop a pile of humanitarian food aid boxes, clad in the black abaya and jilbab of a grown woman, but in miniature…” ) if you are a rigid, strict, fundamentalist, literalist Muslim? Actually, Mehdi Hasan makes a compelling argument that ISIS isn’t Islamic at all, but rather a cultic perversion of the faith. Plenty of others have observed that ISIS people tend to know shit about Islam and present instead as nihilists who like violence. ‘“I’m struggling to reconcile the two things, wanting to look at them as displaced people and human,” said Dareen Khalifa, an International Crisis Group analyst who has visited [a women’s detention] camp; but some of the women are “very ideological, and the atmosphere is very ripe for all sorts of indoctrination…”‘ It’s maybe the best thing about us, qua humans, that we struggle like hell to see fanatics, who unapologetically enslave, rape, and behead, as fellow humans, as sufferers, as (trying our very hardest here) confused and fragile victims…

UD remembers, thirty years ago, sweeping her eyes over images of bloated bodies on a hill in Guyana and feeling (along with a sense of witnessing inassimilable grotesquerie) almost unbearable pity for the suicidal stupidity of the Jonestown fanatics.

But ISIS is homicidal, mass homicidal, which makes the business of pitying (looking at them as displaced people and human) very much more difficult. Even those who haven’t literally killed, let’s say, but only enslaved… It’s like – well, here’s another memory. UD remembers trying hard to feel something human toward Hedda Nussbaum, who watched two children being tortured (one to death) by her partner and did nothing, and who at his trial claimed to have been afraid and herself brutalized, etc. Highly educated, an editor at Random House, a successful Manhattanite, Nussbaum asked us to believe this…

UD finds more worthwhile, in these and associated matters, to pose Ron Padgett’s question: What makes us so mean? Padgett writes a long, amusing poem, inconclusively pondering this. But having read lots of interviews with/memoirs by ISIS and other degenerates, UD is at least willing to conclude this: Sadism – watching it, taking part in it, even being the object of it – is for many people terribly, terribly, exciting.

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