Friday, January 09, 2009

Hidden Affairs

Since my last post (Sorry about the long delay) I have been trying to get a leg up on an unassailable wall: overwhelmed and paralyzed, I have been wallowing in apathy, well, nearly. I attempted to write numerous posts, but these now line the trash, since none were adequate in expressing my misgivings. At first I attributed my malaise to the fluctuating emotions and experiences that reign during the holidays, joy/sadness, giving/receiving, and people you miss/can happily miss. I only did this, however, to avoid facing the real reason: against the backdrop of teenagers being forced into sex and the migration of suicide production from the CB radio to the Internet, I was haunted by Gaza. For many months I have been reading about the denial of aid, the Free Gaza Ship’s repeated attempts to get in, volleys fired by the navy, and even accusations by the UN. The clarity of Chomsky and Mearsheimer only made the harsh (and unsettling) reality harder to swallow.

In the reports of civilian casualties and violence I have searched for widespread condemnation, in vain. The U.S., predictably, was silent and Brown’s condemnation was a singular affair and weak compared to Miliband’s repeated blustering over Georgia. Only Barenboim provided any hope; in fact, every time I have heard about the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, in which all musicians regardless of race or social position are equal, I have been heartened. The only side benefit of the attacks is the publicity that Waltz with Bashir has received; perhaps, more people will watch films like The Band’s Visit. These results are hardly concessions for the violence and the steady repression of Gaza, but they may foster some mutual respect and understanding.

In my struggle to live with such information, I realized a few things: North Americans have little context for such issues — we are so far from Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, and The Congo and our news thinks so as well. We are much more conversant with the Cold War; thus the wide publicity for the rampant saber rattling and postulating over Russia’s attack on Georgia. In terms of Israel, we are not only plagued by the Holocaust, but also corrupted by a rationale that wends its way through quiet conversations: God wills that Israel be a geographical reincarnation of Solomon’s kingdom. Few counter that there’s very little substantive evidence, archaeological or otherwise, for attributing such lands to Solomon, or David for that matter. In effect, the argument goes, the sovereignty of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank should be compromised — at the very least, Israel should be granted its Auschwitz Borders.

Worse, however, was the feeling that the injustice somehow represented the human condition. While this notion continues to simmer below the surface of my consciousness the flipside, the arts, resuscitate me: the Fall issue of The Paris Review helped more than a little. Poems by the likes of Paul Guest started the thawing my soul, Marilynne Robinson provided a reality check, and Jean Hatzfeld helped me process the past horrors in Rwanda. In the end Barenboim’s vision may be the best, long the vision of dreamers like Lennon and Geldof. Whether it’s Beethoven or techno, which have no lyrics, or an song like Hallelujah, which transcends cultures and stands the test of time (it currently holds 3 top spots in the U.K. charts), doesn’t matter. Most important is the vision, the possibility of peace, the galvanizing effect of thousands joined hand in hand singing or humming one song until the fighting stops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey D.
First, like the new look. I have been wondering when/if you were going to be posting on Gaza. I was frankly dismayed that Canada was the most outspoken supporter of Israel's attack on Gaza. The article I read indicated that Canada was the only country in the world that blamed Hamas for the bombing of the school in Gaza. I saw a satire cartoon that showed the border crossings into Gaza looking strangely like a prison camp. It is so tragic when it is innocent civilians that pay the price. I will spend some time in the coming days to explore some of your links. Happy New Year by the way.


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