Please note that this blog entry, by definition, consists of my own thoughts and opinions. It is not meant to offend anyone (although I realize that may happen anyway). It is simply meant to express my feelings toward this movie and the practices portrayed therein.
I just got home from my winter vacation two days ago. I went to work yesterday so today, I gloriously followed through on my intent to stay in my room and vegetate all day long. Well, being alone all day can take it's toll. One starts thinking self-pitying thoughts way too often--especially on yet another lonely Saturday night. So all I can say is: thank God for Netflix!
After a few episodes of different television shows, I decided to go through the movies in my Instant Queue from beginning to end. I watched "White Irish Drinkers" directed by John Gray, "Being John Malkovich" directed by Spike Jonze, and "Howl" directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. The fourth movie of the day was "The Stoning of Soraya M."
For those of you who do not know, "The Stoning of Soraya M." is a drama based on a book written by a French-Iranian journalist that tells the story of Soraya--a mother, wife, daughter, and niece--who lives in a small village in Iran. This particular part of Soraya's life takes place in 1986 when her abusive husband falsely accuses her of adultery. According to the movie, Islamic law states that if a husband accuses his wife of adultery and she cannot prove her innocence, she can be sentenced to be stoned to death.
Now, I kind of figured that this is where the movie was going before I hit the play button. What I didn't expect (although the R rating should have given me the first hint) was just how graphic the stoning scene would be and how fierce of a visceral, stomach-wrenching, hate-inducing reaction I would experience.
Talk to my friends and they will all say how taken I can get by movies. I cry at movies quite easily and I get that churning sensation in the pit of my stomach at the hero's fall moments before he stands back up again.
But this was different.
I went in to the movie trying to be aware of my personal spiritual and cultural differences but I was so negatively affected by this movie and the actions of the different characters that I surprised even myself. In the movie, Soraya has two sons and two daughters. She is accused of adultery by her husband, Ali, with the village mechanic, Hashem. Not only was there a massive injustice that took place, but the manner in which the injustice was carried out was just as heinous.
To me, trying to justify the act of stoning someone to death is simply unfathomable. However, it was explained in the movie as follows. The adulteress has brought shame not only upon her and her family, but upon the entire village and every stone that is thrown helps to regain a bit of that honor that was stolen. The actual ritual seemed to have four different components to it: the convicted criminal is buried upright in the ground up to their waist, a line is drawn in the sand behind which the stone-throwers must stand, the dishonored family members and parties of the trial get the first throws, then the rest of the willing villagers throw stones as hard as they can at the exposed part of the living person until that person is no longer living.
Each component left me seething even more than the last and I still cannot decide which (or if it was all of them together) that made me actually scream at the TV, hot tears of hate and frustration coursing down my cheeks.
Was it that Soraya was literally halfway buried alive before her punishment even began? Was it how the line in the sand made the whole thing seem like a sport? (I'll never look at a set piece in soccer the same way again.) Was it how hard and accurate Soraya's husband and 12- and 14-year-old sons threw their stones at her? Or was it how the villagers cheered at every direct hit then took their own self-righteous turns at trying to regain the honor that Soraya had so viciously stolen from them?
I honestly don't know.
What I do know is that I haven't felt this enraged in a very long time. That rage doesn't spring from simply being aware of this barbaric practice. Because, let's face it, we've all heard of stoning before and how it is still happening today. It also springs from my continual (and apparently naive) surprise at what atrocities human beings commit against one another.
So please help me pray for those souls who have justly and unjustly lost their lives to this horrific practice. Now here's the doozy and something I will personally be wrestling with: please also help me pray for those souls who are committing this atrocity. Pray that we all will stop stoning our neighbors to death.