Ceasing fire

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Twenty-two days after the deadly outbreak of violence in the Middle East began between Israel and the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, a “fragile cease-fire” has finally been pronounced. Most of the Israeli troops on the ground in the Gaza Strip have left and civilians in the war-torn land are left putting the pieces back together from the path of destruction while world leaders renew peace talks. All that’s missing is a “happily ever after” and a ride on a horse-drawn carriage into the sunset and we’d have quite a nice fairytale on our hands.

Obviously, that’s not how war works. All told, over 1300 Palestinians died over the course of the conflict, many of whom were civilians – children, parents, lovers, brothers, sisters – caught in the crossfire of hatred. As men in suits head into their offices to sit around tables and discuss potential paths to peace, I have to wonder what their realistic expectations could be. I have to wonder what a solution to this age-old conflict of faith, life and devotion would look like. And frankly, I draw a blank, a reaction which, judging by the poor media coverage of the region’s past and present conflicts delivered by American mainstream sources, is not too uncommon for my compatriots.

That’s not to say that I’m going to stand by and ignore the fact that the lives of thousands of human beings have been left forever shattered by an arm of American imperialism – Israel. Hamas, obviously, is not without fault in this conflict. But when I look at the extreme one-sidedness of the death-toll and the American response (or lack thereof) to the international outcry against Israel’s continued targeting of civilian locales, I am embarrassed for my country and its continued ability to selectively ignore grave human rights violations by its allies.

No, I am not Muslim, nor am I of Middle Eastern origin. I am not a particularly politically-minded individual and I am as white as the Partridge Family. And perhaps all of this is why, despite criticism from my peers, I feel it is my duty to speak out against willful destruction of humanity. For me, it’s not a question of right vs. wrong, or Israel vs. the Palestinians or any other all-too-simple dichotomy usually summarized by The Bad Guy vs. The Good Guy. It’s simply a question a human decency and respect.

It is with all of this in mind on today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that I am cautious with my feelings of optimism accompanying the arrival of human Beacon of Change – President Barack Obama. Optimism and hope are wonderful, but what about equality and justice for all, even those who stand at odds with the status quo of decades of hit-or-miss foreign policy? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Looking for ways to help? Thanks to a friend of a friend, Ameer Kian, below is a list of Palestinian aid and relief organizations that do not have a political affiliation with Hamas or any other organization:


How much can you really “reclaim”?

I’m sure that you’ve all heard by now about Jane Fonda’s “C-bomb” droppage last week on The Today Show, during an interview with Meredith Vieira, but in case you missed it (which is highly possible.. I mean, does anyone really watch that show anymore?):

My first reaction to the news — which caused a ridiculous amount of uproar — pretty much matched Vieira’s. I rolled my eyes, apologized to the three people I was speaking with at the time and moved on. It’s not as though Fonda had slammed a glass beer bottle on the edge of a table, brandishing it toward Vieira while screaming a slew of obscenities about the female anatomy. Instead, she had referred to the name of the monologue — “Reclaiming Cunt” — that she had been asked to perform in a performance of The Vagina Monologues.

Our society has reached this bizarre point with censorship where words, phrases and ideas are only punished when they challenge hegemony. As Eve Ensler, the monologues’ author, stated in a People article: “Why is there a buzz about that when there’s no buzz about the word ‘rape’ or ‘plutonium’ or ‘clusterbomb’? … I’m always surprised that people focus on these issues, when one of three women in the world are being raped and beaten and violated.”

These issues are simply not being talked about, while at the same time, the gendering of proper behavior and etiquette for powerful women has never been more strictly policed. Fonda is just another example of this. We are inundated with news whenever Britney Spears eats a Ho-Ho, Hillary Clinton cries a tear or any other woman of influence steps out of line with the norm in some way.

Today in Wisconsin was the primary election, and as expected, Clinton was defeated soundly by Barack Obama, particularly here in Madison, where the “student voice” quickly morphed into a cultish choir chanting “change” and “hope.” Don’t get me wrong — I really like both candidates and am thankful that we as a country are fortunate enough to be able to choose between two fantastic Democratic candidates, rather than feeling stuck with . But, based on the conversations I have had in the past weeks, suffice it to say that I am skeptical about the depth of Obamaites’ knowledge on the issues. Their eyes sparkle from the excitement of a great orator with carefully crafted, brilliantly strategized appeals and imagery, though I’ve heard very little based in actual political discourse to back up the taglines. That is, unless this heinously anti-woman Facebook status message of a “friend,” posted earlier this evening, counts as discourse:

A “friend’s” Facebook status following Clinton’s loss Tuesday.

There simply seems to be no stopping the Obamamania.