August 8, 2013

The Razing in Cleveland of Ariel Castro's House

I’ve been looking at the Getty edit of the demolition of Ariel Castro’s house. He’s the case in Cleveland who held, raped and tortured three women for decades under the noses of everybody. (I know it’s not pc to say this — because, with the universality of media and news imagery it’s incumbent on us to bear witness — but I regret how we all get to know this guy by name.)

In any case, can you imagine the pain and embarrassment of that monumental shame on Seymour Avenue becoming ceremonial for a day? I found these photo wonderful in their dispassion, in their squarely documentary quality. I particularly like the shot above for the way it speaks to, but also feeds our culture’s- and our media’s vouyeristic tendencies. Who isn’t excited a little bit, pushing off the conscience just so, to imagine what was going on inside that attic and those walls.

At the same time, one can’t help but also take a forensic interest in the picture. I know I did, thinking at first that those two blue-like squares were windows or even video screens. Because I’m always looking for clarity in news photos, of course I ventured to find a bigger version, and a bigger version still.

Screen Shot 2013 08 08 at 10 28 43 PM

The result — unfortunately, I have to say — was to only deepen the confusion and illogic, the extra-large and the jumbo size revealing a rolling table, it’s stem wrapped in a red fabric or blanket, the top holding three Maxwell House coffee cans.

Screen Shot 2013 08 08 at 10 30 25 PM

…Three victims. Three coffee cans. I wasn’t going any further.

And then, I guess it’s obvious the house had to be demolished, right? Is that right? If it’s paradoxical to the culture’s voyeuristic or know-all/tell-all tendencies, it seems there is another strain in our culture to just erase. Erase the Paterno statue. Erase bin Laden and Al-Alwaki. Erase any culpability or accounting for the Iraq war.

Then, how do you commemorate the razing of a house of torture? Seems a balloon release (cousin of the yellow ribbon?) is as fitting as anything. That’s the courageous Michelle Knight, one of the detainees who finally flew away, third from the left.

And then there are the bureaucrats, standard bearers of the city caught not knowing. (Of course, some real editing went into this perfectly-disheveled selection.) Trapped between the obscurity of the abuse and then it’s notoriety, the awkwardness is that palpable.

Finally, the prayer circle held down the street is endearing for its fellowship. At the same time, it’s a testament to the people, in all the impoverished neighborhoods of our rich country, essentially on their own.

UPDATE: Thanks to the readership re: eyes on the Christmas tree stand. If you listen to Michelle Knight’s statement to the court from the link above, there is more irony there than any weird thing I might have imaged. Christmas was just another day … in hell.

UPDATE 2: Third look, might that be the Christmas tree itself? Maybe it’s one of those plastic ones but those sort of look like live branches. Hard to believe though — in August.

(photos: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images. caption 1: A crane demolishes the home of Ariel Castro on August 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. caption 2: Michelle Knight (L3) holds yellow balloons outside the home of Ariel Castro on August 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. Knight was abducted by Castro in 2002 and today the state of Ohio will demolish the home where she and two other women were held captive by Castro for over a decade. caption 3: Pastor Dennis Schmidt (5th L) of The Intentional Interim Ministry leads a prayer circle down the street from the home of Ariel Castro on August 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.)

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Michael Shaw
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