October 13, 2003

A Rootin' Tootin' Wedding

The way I figure it, the cultural differences between the Islamic world and the West can be summed up by the way the two cultures observe weddings.

In the West, it used to be customary to throw rice at the newlyweds as a symbolic way of ensuring fertility. However, that practice has been curtailed as of late following the discovery that birds, after eating the rice, swelled up and died as the rice expanded in their stomachs. Oops. Sorry Tweety.

Instead, Western weddings nowadays usually acknowledge the bride and groom through the blowing of bubbles or, in an attempt to apologize to the birds of the world, the throwing of birdseed.

In many Islamic nations, on the other hand, it's customary to celebrate weddings by shooting guns into the air. They do this because. . . well, I have no idea why they do this. I imagine the tradition started something like this:

GUEST #1: I'm so extremely happy for the bride and groom right now, I can't resist hoisting my AK-47 and firing random rounds into the air!

GUEST #2: What are you doing bringing an AK-47 to a wedding?

GUEST #1: *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!*

GUEST #3: What is he doing? What's the matter with him? Somebody make him stop!

GUEST #2: Do you think I'm crazy? The guy's armed, and apparently stocked enough with ammo to be able to waste it shooting it into the air!

GUEST #3: Good point. Come to think of it, I'd rather join him than try to stop him. I'm going to run home quick and get my gun.

GUEST #2: Yeah, me too.

GUESTS #1, #2, #3: *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!* *Bang!*

And so the custom began. However, every time I see footage of celebrations being perplexingly augmented by gunfire, I'm forced to wonder where all those bullets go. What goes up must come down and all that. They have to go SOMEWHERE. Where?

Now we know.

Thanks to an Oct. 13, Reuters news report out of Belgrade, we learn that a two-seater sports plane on an unauthorized joyride was apparently shot down by mistake when it flew over a Serbian wedding party where guests were firing guns into the air, local media reported Sunday.

This type of thing would never happen with bubbles, or birdseed, or even rice. During Western weddings, you can be relatively certain the festivities won't bring down an aircraft cruising overhead.

"I heard shots from a wedding party which was very close to the crash site. Then I saw the plane in flames. It was shot in the left wing," witness Zoran Vukadinovic told reporters.

Yep, the pieces seem to fit, don't they? Let's see, you have gunfire, you have a plane in flames, apparently shot in the left wing. Hmmmmm. Elementary, my dear Watson, as Sherlock Holmes might say. Just for the record, I think that "Zoran" is a super-cool name.

"A few moments later, while attempting a crash landing, it was caught in overhead power cables," he said.

Man, that plane just couldn't catch a break.

Local media said neither of the men held a pilot's license.

Oh, so it's THEIR fault they were shot down over a wedding?

Firing guns into the air at weddings and other celebrations is common in Serbia.

Just a thought, but maybe it's time it becomes LESS common. There's a lot of non-lethal birdseed and bubbles in the world today. Come on, Serbia. Join us.

UPDATE: And, when you're wrong, you'd best admit, such as I'm about to do here. Mitch Berg points out Not to intrude, but Serbia is predominantly Eastern Orthodox, not Moslem. Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo are Moslem - but that's not where this happened, is it?

Followed by Michael Snider: Good for Mitch.

He's right, of course. Serbs are predominantly orthodox (I've been in Belgrade during the New Year when pop-corn gun fire sounds all over the place at midnight, then a larger bang -- my buddy looks over at me and says, "grenade"). Croats are predominantly Catholic, Kosovo's people are predominantly Muslim but the territory still sits within Serbia's borders (hence Slobo's desire to get rid of them all back in 1998), Bosnians can be Bosnian-Serbs, Bosnia-Croats or Bosnian-Muslims -- the ethnic mix is, or was, about 1/3 each (oh, forgot, there are also Croatian-Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia, bulldozed in 1995, and Croatian Muslims from near the B/H border to the south.) Then there are the Slovenians, which are mostly Catholic but pretty homogeneous insofar as there are fewer Slovenian-Croats and Slovenian-Serbs, which is why when they seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991 (they were the first to declare independence) there were fewer cultural and territorial points of conflict.

This particular incident took place in central Serbia, far from any Muslim population (although the proximity of Muslims to Serbs with guns usually results in a great deal more gunfire, but that's for another time). Basically, Serbs rarely need a reason to shoot off a weapon.

What is it with me and eating crow this week? It's been a steady diet, let me tell you.

Posted by Ryan at October 13, 2003 02:08 PM
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