SALINAS,Ca: I heard the news on the radio with a sinking feeling bordering on nausea.
It was the news about Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq by the latest incarnation of fascists that brave World War II veterans such as my father, Richard, thought they had exterminated a half century ago.
The horror I felt was akin to when I was a kid and first saw King Kong — the scene where Kong's face appears in the New York hotel window, lustily looking at Fray Wray. But, besides that horror, I felt a bile-spewing sense of utter anger and rage.
On the tail end of a 400 mile drive, as I went north on 101, I still had an unceasing sense of sickness and pain...and for a while I couldn't figure out why.
Then, suddenly, it dawned on me. I knew.
I realized I truly grieved for an idealistic 26-year-old who had to experience such indescribable horror in the last minutes of his all-too-short life; grief for all the young kids for whom I perform (I'm a ventriloquist this week performing at the Salinas County Fair) who must constantly live under a growing physical threat in a mega-violent world where they'll have to make stark choices for decades in a life-death battle to wipe out murderers wrapping themselves in religion; plus grief as I heard shameless, self-serving posturing from both sides of the U.S. the political spectrum, not missing a solitary beat in their unrelenting attempt to score points to elect "their" man to the White House..
911 was devastating. Daniel Pearl's death was sickening and haunting. Yet, Berg's seems somehow sadder, more shocking and more sickening than Pearl's death because the last few weeks of his life were filled with such frustration, anxiety, horror and pain.
There are lots of news stories about Nick Berg, a supporter of the war who had gone to Iraq to try and do some work for the Iraqis and for his company. In a nutshell: first he was arrested by the Iraqi police. FBI agents told his parents he was in jail. By April 5 his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, claiming that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq. Clearly, the parents were frantic in trying to get their son out of there and, by all accounts, he wanted to leave by then, too.