Practice of beheading not limited to Islamic State

tags: ISIS, beheading

Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of "Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education," which will be published next year by Princeton University Press.

In 1623, just two years after Native Americans and Pilgrims dined together at the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrim commander Myles Standish decapitated an enemy Indian chieftain and impaled his head on a pike outside of the Plymouth fort.

That's the part we typically omit from our Thanksgiving myth, which emphasizes interracial harmony instead of violence. And we certainly don't like to remember that our forefathers practiced beheading, especially when we're faced with an enemy that still engages in it.

After two American journalists were beheaded by Islamic State fighters, President Obama vowed to dismantle the organization, and has joined with five Arab allies to launch airstrikes on Islamic State targets.

But one of our allies, Saudi Arabia, still practices beheading. So does the Free Syrian Army, whom Obama pledged to assist in its battle to unseat dictator Bashar Assad. Unlike Assad's "extremist" foes, the argument goes, the Free Syrian Army is a "moderate" force. But it still beheaded six captives in September.

Indeed, beheading is as old as human civilization itself. So it also reminds us how close we remain to savagery, which is what makes decapitation so repulsive and alluring at the same time. We don't want to behold our own brutal natures. But we also can't look away, as the millions of YouTube hits illustrate...

Read entire article at Los Angeles Times

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