Author’s Note: I thought long and hard about publishing this post and how people might react to it. Especially those who read this particular blog. There are times when writing or saying what I’m about to say can be confused with being opportunistic. This, I assure you, is not one of those times. There is a message that needs to be delivered now, while people have not yet forgotten, while there is still a lesson to be learned.
I would like to start off by offering my condolences to Hikmat Kaddoura’s family and all the people who lost a friend. I hope they all find strength in this terrible time. It seems since the fatal accident, where Hikmat was hit by a car that sped off into the night, his case has been the talk of the town. Especially in west Amman where everyone seems to have known him all of a sudden by some formulaic two degrees of separation. And if the people of west Amman are talking about him, then suddenly, all the newspapers are as well. It’s the market value of a life; where supply meets demand. In this case, the authorities who are hot on the trail of the hit-and-run culprit, saw fit to leak his nationality to the press. The man is Iraqi, and has apparently fled, leaving his wife and son in the country.
Naturally, this incident means the press will continue to tell the Hikmat Kaddoura story for awhile, and people will continue to be interested and entranced by it. Over a decade ago, a similar accident occurred in Abdoun, and after marches and vigils from influential people, the main street was filled with speed bumps.
For every action there is an equal and proportionate reaction. Sometimes.
This brings me to the second point of this post, which, given the nature of this incident, I will try my best to explain with the utmost sensitivity, sincerity and honesty. Please read carefully and try to see my point before lambasting me for being anything but.
Qadourah’s death caused an outcry in the capital, with Internet chat forums filled with debates and people calling on the police to catch the motorist and impose stricter penalties for traffic violators. His schoolmates held a candlelight vigil for him at the scene of the accident the day he died.
By mid-December last year, a total of 94,257 traffic accidents had been reported in the Kingdom, killing 789 people and injuring 12,989 others. [source]
Every life is valuable and I’ve never believed that any life is more valuable than anothers’.
Orientalist thinking has always ingrained in us the idea that an Eastern life is worth less than a Western life. If 100 Arabs were massacred tomorrow, no one would ask questions. If an American life was lost, justice would be sought out. It is the type of thinking that has allowed the Palestinian situation to exist, along with Iraq along with Darfur, and in the past, Bosnia and Rwanda, to name just a few.
And these notions of an Eastern life as opposed to a Western life, does not stop merely at the water’s edge of color, race or creed. Geography also divides classes.
In Amman, there is an Eastern life and a Western life. One is worth more than the other. The latter has wealth and therefore has influence. The former has nothing. Politicians in Jordan will constantly deny these notions of “east” and “west” exist, but this is because they all live in the west end.
And so when a member of the latter dies, there is an outcry. There are debates, and inquiries and a call for stricter penalties, and justice and there are candlelight vigils and their death becomes memorialized in a way that an Eastern life could never hope to achieve.
Think about this carefully:
Last year, 789 people died from traffic accidents in Jordan.
That’s nearly 2 people, every single day.
Think about this for a moment.
Just a moment.
Everyday: 2 people.
Two people whose names are never mentioned. They are never talked about. They die known only to their families. No calls for justice, or vigils, or tighter laws, or full page condolence boxes in every newspaper, on every newsstand, or even a phone call from HM Queen Rania.
789, every year.
Right here, in this country, where you live.
And it seems that in these dire times of economic tragedies, where the gulf between the poor and rich, the East and the West, has turned in to a dark abyss, we have allowed for that gulf to direct the way we think and feel and internalize things. In this case, a life; of all things.
The ideals that govern us, the laws, the sense of justice, the right to exist and live and breathe; these ideals govern all of us, and not just some of us. If justice is sought, it should be sought for all. If laws need to be changed, then they should have been changed when the first child was hit by a car. Not just now; not just because the wealthy or influential mourn.
Every life is equal, and if we can’t honor this fundamental principle during a lifetime, then we should at least be able to honor it in death, when everyone returns to God equally.
These words I write now may, to some, seem out of place and time. But I figure the people who need to hear this the most, who need to be reminded of these underlying principles the most, are those that are reading this right now.
And with that, I offer my prayers and condolences to the Kaddoura family and every other family in Jordan that has had to endure a similar tragedy, whose names, I sadly do not know.
Author’s Note #2: If you’re going to respond to this post I should direct you to my comment that seeks to clear up a few misunderstandings. Thank you.