Jebel Sahaba, El Paso, Everywhere Else

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Photo by Amitkumar indrodia on Unsplash

Jebel Sahaba, in Sudan, is the oldest known site of a massacre. The killing happened thirteen thousand years ago.

The bones of something more than sixty children, women, and men were found at the site. Most of the wounds appear to be from arrows , bows and arrows being the high-tech killing machine of the day.

Why did the massacre occur?

Was it one group killing some other group? Was it some group killing some in its own group?

Was it territorial? Was it ethnic? Was it genocide? Ethnic cleansing?

Nobody knows. All we know is that a bunch of human beings were violently murdered.

One thing that anthropology teaches us: the more widespread a human attribute, the older it is.

Religion? Old. Art? Old. Mass killing . . . old.

The justification for one group killing another group . . . the reasons . . . . They are as freighted now as they were then.

Bottom line: People kill people. Whatever the technology. Whatever the reasons. Whatever the timeframe or location.

People kill people.

What do you want to bet that Jebel Sahaba, at thirteen thousand years ago, isn’t even remotely the oldest mass murder?

It’s merely the oldest killing field that we’ve found so far. Keep digging!

As for me, I was raised in what I’ve learned to call an “honor culture.” I learned at my mother’s knee that killing is sometimes required — for the honor of the family. Still, somewhere, deep in my psyche, that message lives on.

I’ve learned over time that the messaging of my childhood is not how “we” do things nowadays in dominant US culture. Yes, I’m an old hillbilly. I’m out of touch. But the messages . . . . I’m at the extreme end, but many if not most US males have absorbed a barrage of messages about killing and vigilantism and how those can be honorable.

I’m here to witness something that you perhaps do not wish to think about yourself: Just about every one of us is capable of a Jebel Sahaba.

Nope: nothing human is foreign to any of us.

So. What’s to do?

Well . . . those archers at Jebel Sahaba . . .

Had they passed a background check? Did they have a waiting period? Were bump stocks outlawed in Sudan in their time?

Here’s one challenge: everybody involved in the US gun debate has a point. Everybody’s right. And wrong.

  1. Sure, gun laws demonstrably reduce gun violence.

Sure. And we must move government off dead center.

At Jebel Sahaba, being human was their weakness, and it’s ours still. And our greatest strength. We don’t have to do as they did.

Guess what — the wolves . . . they don’t know about the early murders of their kind.

They merely go on. Killing.

And us?

And us. That darned “we.” Maybe . . . Perhaps . . . we can do something.

We have the capacity to learn. We have the capacity to communicate and understand each other. We have the capacity to reason together.

It’s not much in the face of mass murder. But it’s our hope.

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Written by

Poet, Senior Minister at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, a Humanist congregation. Amazon author's page

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