July 31, 2006

Imagine

The world is in crisis. There is no denying that. This morning, I was rocking my daughter to sleep listening to the My Two Hands by Ben Harper & Jack Johnson and I started to cry. I am no uber-macho man, but I am also not some crybaby. I could no longer keep it in. My daughter was born on the 8th of July, and the war in Lebanon started on the 12th, ever since I have been an emotional mess. One second I am beyond happy and the next I am miserable. I feel like we are losing control of what it is we are here to do. I am using the pronoun we on purpose. I think the more we think in the we, one humanity, the closer we will come to some kind of easing of our collective pain.

I couldn’t sleep last night, surprisingly not because my daughter was up, but because I was saturated with the news of Lebanon, Qana to be specific. So I got up to read some Blogs. I found one written by a woman I have been sparring with on the Israel issue. She had written an exhaustive account about the right for Israel to exist. My first reaction after reading the whole thing, was so what? So these people were promised by God (one I don’t even believe in by the way) to this land and now they murder for it. I found myself wanting to refute many of the points she had made. I wanted to cite references about the scars of French colonialism on the region, the creation of Lebanon as a Christian outpost, the division of Syria, the concept of a Pan-Arabia, and how that has been made impossible by both Israel and the Untied States, and so on, when I realized that none of these arguments matter. These types of arguments focus on the wrong things. We could go back and forth forever, sure the Jews deserve to live in a homeland, sure the Arabs deserve not to be treated like animals, but as soon the arguments become dichotomous, and we see each other as us and them, we have lost the battle. We have to find a way to bring the human race back together. However, naïve, childish, or idealistically that may sound. There are no Jews or Arabs. There is only us. You cannot murder your own blood. Until we can see this, we will not have peace.

I grew up singing along to songs like John Lennon’s Imagine. The idea of imagining no countries, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too, imagine all the people living life in peace, makes sense to me. It has since I was seven. But somewhere along the way, the cynicism and jaded worldview has made me feel that thinking in this way is naïve or idealistic. Me and people like me are categorized as bleeding hearts and dreamers. But as soon as we give up our childish hopes and dreams for peace, then we are doomed to be led by our own rage and hatred. Peace is only possible through love. Love for ourselves, our neighbors, and most importantly the love for our enemies. I am starting to finally learn that love, true love, and in turn peace, can only be possible when we discard the concept of blame.True justice only comes about when we eradicate sides. Once we stop blaming the “other” we will realize that anything that harms our neighbors, in turn harms us. We will have no choice but to be just when we love others as we love ourselves. We have allowed our synagogues, mosques, and churches to teach us that each tribe is the chosen one. But I refuse to let that simplistic vision of god become a barrier to true peace. The more I have traveled and lived amongst other cultures, the more I see that we have more in common than differences.

Sitting in the dark room with my little girl this morning, holding back my tears, I realized that maybe I need to go back to my ideals. Working with the International Socialist Organization in New York a few years ago, I found that people on the far left often lose face of the humanity involved in our fight for justice. We have to remember why we argue and debate. We have to remind ourselves of the beauty we are fighting for. Politics has a way of calcifying our emotions and making us hunker down for battle. I have lost myself in arguing for a side too many times. Last night as I watched the events in Qana something in me snapped; I felt such anger and hatred toward Israel. How could people commit these crimes, I kept asking myself? And later when I read the post about the right for Israel to exist my rage continued.

I had made the mistake of thinking that one side was right. The point, I think, I am trying to make through this meandering post, is that the impetus for conflict is thinking that there are two opposing sides, and if we believe this to be true, we will see that the road to peace is unifying the two sides. The path to peace will show us that we truly are one. And no amount of choosing sides, dishing out blame, or moral superiority will bring about peace, until we see the traits of our enemies in ourselves.

This is not easy. Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that every few weeks, I will write a post similar to this in different words, because I am trying to come to terms with my anger. But I honestly think this is the only way. Love your enemy, simple as that.

This is the song I was listening this morning at four am, as the rain hit the windows, and the orange light bounced off Kaia’s face:

Two Hands

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I'm going to make it a brighter place
With my own two hands
I'm going to make it a safer place
With my own two hands
I'm going to help the human race
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can hold you
With my own two hands
I can comfort you
With my own two hands
But you've got to use
Use your own two hands
Use your own
Use your own two hands
With our own
With our own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands

This song, My Two Hands, is by Ben Harper and can be found on his album Diamonds on the Inside or sung as a slower version duet with Jack Johnson on the Curious George Soundtrack.

9 comments:

  1. I've tried six different times to post a response, and keep getting interrupted by my job. Clients keep calling, can you imagine?

    When I lived in Israel, we used to long for the time we'd be able to visit some of the sights in Syria, and Jordan, Lebanon, and Iran. In my capacity as a travel agent, I've been to places most Americans never see. I've had experiences beyond my wildest dreams, and the thing I can tell you is this: we are all connected.

    Jews and Arabs in particular are very connected. Observant Jews and Arabs share the same dietary laws; we're nomadic people. We're tribal at core.

    Did you grow up in Iran, or in the US? Have you lived in the Middle East, where the sunlight has an ethereal quality? I loved my time in Israel, it was exotic for me; I was quite young, 20, and it was my first time out of the States. I had friends who were Egyptian; friends who were Palestinian who worked in the north. I had friends who were Moroccan. It was incredible.

    But here's the deal: while we are all connected, we currently have people in high office who see only differences. Criminals, who divide and place fear in people. So it is essential for those who want peace to act for it, to demand it, and to speak openly about truths.

    My post was a very shortened version of the history of Israel. History is always presented in a subjective form, I've never seen one that isn't. I think, what you tend to miss about me, is that while I love Israel, I do NOT love the actions of the Knesset and the IDF. Right now, they are no different than Hezbollah, or the militants in Hamas.

    How did these people who choose hatred rise to power, in the USA, in the Middle East - and I mean ALL the Middle East? How did hatred become the rule of the day?

    We need to work toward a lasting peace, and focus our energy on the Criminal In Chief, George Bush.

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  2. bz- between you and divajood- i don't get anything done :) i think that what you are both doing is so important. diva's love for israel is not blinded by nationalism. bz's journey back to the roots of beliefs is unfolding before my eyes. both of you are taking my on my own journey- and i know that it is helpful to me to make up my own mind on how to combat these forces that would break our world irrevocably. perhaps idealism and naivete are what's needed in today's world because so many of our citizens don't have the luxury of feeling them. much of our world is hungry, sick, despairing and we have the power to help them. we have to take it. doesn't have to be by violent means- but the power of our collective idealism can change things. take a look at the sufferagist movement or the civil rights movement or the peace corps. why were they successful? idealism and naivete. thanks to you both.

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  3. No kidding, BZ. I'm not writing Israel a blank check but do you really just turn a blind eye to the fact that HEZBOLLAH USES HUMAN SHIELDS while Israel does no such thing? There's even talk now that Qana might have been manufactured by Hezbollah.

    It's tragic people have had to die as a result of this conflict but if Israel doesn't push back, they're gone. Hezbollah is the one hurting Lebanon at this point because they refuse to surrender when it was their militaristic, terrorism that sparked this conflict in the first place.

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  4. The tit-for-tat between the two could (and possibly will) go on forever. Killing the enemy will NEVER bring peace. Loving them will. I know how simple that sounds. But I believe it's the only solution for this or ANY crisis. Maybe it is impossible at this point. But there is no way for either side to "win" by killing more people than the other side. It just won't work.

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  5. I can't imagine what it would be like to hold a tiny baby in today's world and wonder what her world will be like when she grows up. I would cry too.

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  6. Dave,

    Good to have you back, but I am not sure if you got the point of this post. Try focusing on some lines like these:

    These types of arguments focus on the wrong things. We could go back and forth forever, sure the Jews deserve to live in a homeland, sure the Arabs deserve not to be treated like animals, but as soon the arguments become dichotomous, and we see each other as us and them, we have lost the battle.

    I am starting to finally learn that love, true love, and in turn peace, can only be possible when we discard the concept of blame.True justice only comes about when we eradicate sides. Once we stop blaming the “other” we will realize that anything that harms our neighbors, in turn harms us. We will have no choice but to be just when we love others as we love ourselves.

    I had made the mistake of thinking that one side was right. The point, I think, I am trying to make through this meandering post, is that the impetus for conflict is thinking that there are two opposing sides, and if we believe this to be true, we will see that the road to peace is unifying the two sides. The path to peace will show us that we truly are one. And no amount of choosing sides, dishing out blame, or moral superiority will bring about peace, until we see the traits of our enemies in ourselves.

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  7. I think the issue is that here, is lots of people don’t chose to think there is a diffrens between ideologues. And when they do they don’t blame they side that deliberately targets civilians.
    That play nothing it to there thought. Tell you believe that there is a good and a bad force in the world then you will continue to feel lost about it all.

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  8. Perhaps I should proofread my post first.

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  9. I appreciated this post because I am very disturbd by the currents events between Lebanon and Israel. I am ashamed that people can feel justified in taking innocent lives out of a love for any carvoed out image of a God. Why can't they see the hypocrisy?? That is why dreamers must continue to exist. But how do we get into office? Too much pot smoking, most of do inhale and then fess up about it.....But there is gotta be a way. I just don't know what it is?

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