Well, it’s February in the land of milk and Honey Boo Boo, the ruling class is ruling, the working class is barely working and the middle class, well let’s just say it was fun while it lasted. One of the more well received posts at Deconstructing Myths has been The giant and the boy who threw stones which discussed the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank. When I consider my present standard of living in relation to that of the Palestinian people who have been livin’ la vida loca of modern day concentration camp conditions for decades, it’s like that feeling you get when you walk by a homeless person on the street. The recently granted United Nations non-member observer state status is a small step toward making the Velveteen Palestinians really real. Consequently, it is within this context of in plain sight, state sanctioned oppression and human rights violations that I have discovered a correlation between the policies of the Israeli government with that of our own American handlers, er, distinguished states(wo)men. The conclusions that can be drawn lead to the uncomfortable realization that most of us have more in common with the Palestinian people than we care to admit and a sobering acceptance that their struggle is our struggle. What we do with knowledge once it is gained hopefully leads one to, as Kindergarten teachers like to say, “make a good choice“. But before any decision can be made we have to first acknowledge that the sides have already been picked on the global playground and that the games have already started without us.
There is a biblical passage that speaks of how we are limited in our ability to see ourselves fully and truthfully, “For now we see through a glass, darkly…now I know in part.” I believe the writer of this verse was alluding to a spiritual deficit as much as a physical one. It is human nature to deny and obfuscate, politicians aren’t the only ones who do it, the difference is they at least get paid for it. The whitewashing of history and myth of American exceptionalism and superiority by proxy has left many Americans disconnected and adrift because they have lost their authentic connections to their past. For many years of my younger life due to my shame and self loathing for growing up Vietnamese in a country that had waged a war with my people, I denied that I was even Vietnamese to friends and strangers alike but most of all to myself. This leads to a disassociation and identity crisis similar to those of victims of Stockholm syndrome, PTSD and other trauma based events. Because I could not face myself, I could not see anyone else through the glass and it remained dark. The truth of the American condition is the reality that until the entrenched institutions of government, media and education fully acknowledge the historical record of genocide and colonialism this country and the fortunes of its ruling class were built on, its people will continue to only see in part. Thus, we will still be unable to see ourselves in our brothers and sisters in Palestine because we prefer to cling to myths and falsehoods rather than truth and reality.
As my transformation from passive to active learner has taken place, I have had to acknowledge painful truths, namely that the government that “saved me” from an orphanage and life under Communist rule was the same governement that carpet bombed my homeland with Agent Orange and napalm manufactured by U.S corporations. As the spell of my captors was broken the next link in my evolution was actualized, like all of the pins of a tumbler lock falling into place, and I began to move from self-centeredness in my worldview to others-centeredness. Gradually, the full horrorshow began to dawn on me that if they did it to my country then they probably have done it to others also. The latter part of the verse says, “but then face to face…then shall I know even as also I am known.” Finally, I am able to see others through the glass because of the light that has been let in and can strive to interact face to face with another human being. Even though I may not have known myself before, others knew me and clearly saw the carefully constructed conceits my stunted sense of self and worldview was built upon. So now I can choose to analyze the events taking place halfway across the world based on an ability to relate to my fellow captives rather than on a perpetual state of fear and insecurity generated by my captors and designed to ensure my compliance.
I have never been to Palestine or Israel and I have not returned to Vietnam since that Army C-130 cargo plane Fedexed me to Pennsylvania and delivered one big ass care package to my adopted family’s doorstep 38 years ago. But I can imagine the olive trees in bloom and the sound of children playing tag on the streets of Tel Aviv and Hebron. I can also visualize the sight of the bulldozers rolling over someone’s childhood home in Ramallah or the buzz of the Predator drone before it delivers another DOJ white paper taped to a Lockheed Martin Hellfire missile to a family’s doorstep in Gaza. A country that claims “self-defense” when it crushes dissent in the occupied territories has resorted to knocking down tent cities erected in defiance of the continuing expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Maybe the Palestinians should have sold tickets and invited Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead and called the event Woodstock II. Hippies from around the world would have shown up making it much harder for the IDF to crack skulls and, at the same time, deal with really poor hygiene. The mainstream media might have even showed up hoping to get an exclusive interview with Wavy Gravy.
One final choice to mention is the imminent death of Ayman Sharawna and others who have been on a hunger strike for more than six months in Isreali prisons. No, Ayman is not a contestant on Survivor: Benghazi, he was rearrested after being released with other Palestinians in a prisoner swap for an Israeli soldier. I can barely go six hours without a meal so the courage of convictions these men possess is otherworldly to me. If I could guess as to one of their motivations, I would propose that their final act of protest is not merely for themselves and for one another who have they come to know fully but for the futures of their loved ones, their children and their children’s children who they will one day know again face to face. May their efforts and lives not be in vain and may we remember, we are all Palestinians and Iraqis and Libyans and…well, you get the point. Once upon a time, Martin Luther King, too, made a choice from a jail cell to tell the world “For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Peace to all readers.