Becoming Expendable

The very first time I read the first few pages of Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, I knew it was a novel that would stick with me for a long time. It was early on, when Tayo is being cajoled by his 'brother' Rocky to accept and rejoice in killing a Japanese soldier. 

“Rocky made him look at the corpse and said, “Tayo, this is a Jap! This is a Jap uniform!” And then he rolled the body over with his boot and said, “Look, Tayo, look at the face,” and that was when Tayo started screaming because it wasn’t a Jap, it was Josiah, eyes shrinking back into the skull and all their shining black light glazed over by death." ~Ceremony

Tayo doesn't see a Japanese soldier, he doesn't see an enemy that he can wantonly kill and disregard. Instead, he sees his Uncle Josiah. The reasons why it is Josiah and not another becomes more clear over the course of the novel, but Tayo's inherit inability to disregard killing, even in a war, hooked me from the start. 

How easily we dismiss cruelty and death when we cannot see our relations in others. We make bodies expendable by creating distance, by marking them as something rather than someone. Tayo, so completely unable to do so that he is driven mad, hooked me from the start. I recognize it's extreme and not likely a view shared by others, but Silko's protagonist in this novel remains to me a Christ-like figure, at least in his total discomfort with exiling any being from the commandment against killing.