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Berg's Death a Reminder of the Precious Gift of Life

Commentary | VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

May 22, 2004|Jordi Ortega | Jordi Ortega is a journalist and filmmaker in Los Angeles.

The weekend was almost perfect. Then Sunday evening I watched the video of the beheading of the 26-year-old American, Nicholas Berg, in Iraq.

The day before, I was celebrating my 27th birthday at the beach with friends. My girlfriend was by my side. With closed eyes and under the afternoon sun, while enjoying the taste of cold beer and the breeze, I savored the news coming from afar that my brother is going to get married.

One friend, who has just become the father of a girl, mentioned the video of the killing of the young American businessman. But I continued submerged in the leisure. On Sunday we all talked about our careers, the dream of homeownership and the stock market.

The conversation about the video didn't fully hit my consciousness until that night, when I was back home. Alone, I sat in front of my computer and typed: "Nicholas Berg beheading video."

Despite the low definition of the video, it's going to be difficult to forget Berg's screams and the movements of his killer working with the knife on Berg's neck until his head is severed.

Berg's contractions and the blood slowly becoming a puddle on the floor reminded me of the times that I witnessed my grandma sacrificing turkeys and goats during my childhood trips to the south of Spain. Berg died like an animal, handcuffed, facing the ground, terrified, alone. His body was found on a road just before my birthday.

I invite everyone to watch this video. But get prepared first -- emotionally and spiritually -- because it will change you. It will unleash heavy thoughts and feelings. If you think of Berg as a human being, if you honor his death, it will be less painful to watch. It doesn't matter that the video had such minimal coverage in the traditional media. Captured on camcorder tape and spread to the world, computer after computer, this Internet video will leave a mark in the history of mass communications, politics and culture.

This minute of digital video wasn't a one-day news item. It is a powerful, one-on-one experience between you and Berg, available at any time, that is agitating consciences worldwide. Berg's assassins claimed: "Coffins will be arriving to you one after the other, slaughtered just like this." We don't have to be afraid of these words; just be aware of what is being done in the name of our countries and of each of us.

Berg's last minute of life is a message of peace that can make the viewer pass from being simply aware to really caring about the death of any human being.

The video transcends religions as it connects your soul to the world. I wonder how many people in our government have watched it.

Nick Berg will not turn 27, as I have, but he is reminding millions of people of the precious gift of life.

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