Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bloody Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is known for smarmy Hallmark cards, candy, and red. Not just the sweet, saccharine red. There's also the sanguine bloody red. Turns out, there's been a lot of blood shed on February 14th:

It all started back in 250 CE (or 269, or 270, or 273...) when Saint Valentine got himself martyred. Turns out no one knows who he was, when he lived, or exactly what he did to get himself killed, but the Eastern Orthodox Church made him a saint nontheless. In 496 CE, Pope Gelasius I decided that a day for lovers should totally be on the day of some punk who got himself killed in some spectacular fashion. Then, in the 15th century, some punk named Chaucer decided it should be all about romantic love. Yeah, screw you, Chaucer. Your very special day got Hallmarked.

Folk waited for a while, and then they got bored again, and bored people love going on murderous rampages. So, in 1349, in Strasbourg, Germany, in what saner folk named the Strasbourg pogrom, over 300 Jews were killed and thousands of others expelled for really no reason.

The nastiness then shifted to the beautiful islands of Hawaii where in 1779 the explorer extraordinaire James Cook got himself killed by the natives. Possibly for trying to kidnap their king which, in retrospect, is never a good idea. Ever.

After that, the bloodiness got more and more frequent, at least what was recorded. In 1797 323 sailors were killed and some 880 wounded in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. In 1804, the First Serbian Uprising began, setting off 13 years of nastiness between the Serbs and the Ottoman Empire. In 1831, there were "immense casualties" at the Battle of Debre Abbay in Ethiopia.

(Sense a theme here...?)

In 1879, Chile touched off the War of the Pacific, in which over 21,000 poeple were killed and as many wounded fighting over a rainless desert filled with saltpeter and... bird shit. In 1920, the CCCP started the Polish-Soviet war, which ended 3 years later, with no clear victor, after taking somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000 lives.

In 1929 came perhaps the most infamous of all these events: the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Seven men, five belonging to Bugs Moran's North Side gang, were killed by the tommy-guns of four still-unidentified members of Al Capone's South Side gang.

World War II brought attrocities of a scale never seen before or since; one of those was the firebombing of Dresden which began on February 14th, 1945, and was not the Allies' finest moment. Happy Valentine's Day, Dresden. Because your city is still a center of industry, we're going to drop 7000 tons of phorphorus bombs on it, turning 90% of the city into a raging firestorm that kills 25,000 people. About 2% of the bomb force got off course and managed to drop bombs on Prague 100km away from their target.

There's been a number of assassinations and murders on this day. Finnish progressive politician Heikki Ritavuori was murdered in 1922, an event that shocked the nation. In 1979, American ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs was killed during a kidnapping attempt. In 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, which resulted in the deaths of at least 38 people. Because clearly, a blasphemous book is worth killing dozens of people, mostly innocents killed in a bombing, over. In 2004 and 2005, terrorist bombings killed 22 and 7, respectively, in Lebanon and the Phillipines. In 2008, six were killed in the NIU shooting.

Not all the blood on Valentine's day is intentional, though. In 1981, 48 died in the Stardust disaster when the eponymous nightclub caught on fire and, once again, idiotic managers had chained fire exits closed. Indian Airlines Flight 608 crashed on February 14, 1990. In 1996, a Chinese Long March launch vehicle carrying Intelsat 708 went off course and crashed into a village, killing 6 (according to the Chinese government) and possibly as many as 500. Finally, in 2004, the Russian Transvaal water park collapsed, killing 28.

However, if you're reading this, you've survived another Valentine's Day, and it's a dangerous day.


fencer_22 said...

where the heck did you find all this information and why do you have so much free time?

The EGE said...

Wikipedia, as per the links. And it only took me half an hour....