In his article in Sunday's New York Times, Damien Cave discussed the evolution of the hunger strike. I'm guessing the article was prompted by Saddam Hussein's personal 19-day hunger strike, which ended last week with a meal of beef, rice, bread, fruit, and a coke-- Ahhh. Carl's Jr. will be teaming up with a Kebab Hut (not affiliated with Pizza Hut) In Iraq to offer this strike-ending meal as the $6 Evil Dictator Burger.
All that food seems like a pretty elaborate meal. You know every one of those 19 days he was thinking about what he would eat when he finished the strike.
"Man, I'm looking pretty good. Maybe I should wane off this whole fasting thing with a salad or something with flaxseed. Hey guard, can I get a Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad up in this piece?"
"Damn. OK, hook a brother up with that Beef Combo."
Gandhi's first meal after each of his 17 hunger strikes was Orange Juice. God dammit Gandhi, live a little!
But the point of the article was to highlight that the hunger strike today is not the powerful political protest tool it once was. I'll eat to that.
Hussein would never be allowed to die on his own terms, particularly by a hunger strike. How embarrassing for the world justice system if the press release of his death was accompanied by a picture of him standing next to his fat pants. Anna Nicole Smith, Jared the Subway guy, and Saddam. It's not gonna happen. So during his hunger strike he was hospitalized, hooked up to an IV, and fed through tubes in his nose. In keeping with the Geneva Convention, however, chips and salsa were not on the menu. I found a rarely discussed clause that reads:
"You will eat so that you will live. You will live so that we can kill you. But we will kill you humanely with no crunchy snack foods forced through your nose. We, the nations of the world, have standards--and also, a great selection of soups."
I learned about this hidden gem ironically enough through Donovan McNabb's mother.
But it was an interesting article. It talked a bit about the beginnings of hunger strikes and how they actually did draw attention and in some cases, force-feeding to "prevent the spectacle of death." And that, "the force-feeding was as shocking as the starving." Well, I should think so. It's awkward to watch adults feed each other. Public displays of affection through giving each other food is bad enough. But watching one adult try to shove oatmeal down another adult's throat while they are pressing their lips tightly shut and shaking their head side to side is just embarrassing to witness.
Cave didn't hit upon it in his article, but it was during those early public force-feeding demonstrations that the "Airplane" and "Choo-Choo" techniques were first employed. So anytime you see a parent using one of those to get their kid to eat mashed peas, know that it is tied to brutal protest silencing tactics. Here comes the airplane, indeed.
But I think the true reason the hunger strike as lost it's shock power is that it has become mainstream. Blame Hollywood for "striking" daily to bring attention to a woman's right to wear size 18 months jeans. A hunger strike isn't a political statement in LA. It's Tuesday.