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.

Palestinian women grieve for a killed family member. (Getty Images)
Palestinian women grieve for a killed family member. (Getty Images)

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:

Breathe me

It’s been a while since I last wrote on this blog, and the two-week hiatus has left with me with far too many thoughts to condense into an entry that’s even remotely cohesive, though I will try my best.

Valentine’s Day was this past Thursday, and as I celebrated my singledom with a group of friends that evening, I took a step back and looked around. Despite the fact that the pub was packed to capacity with patrons busy smiling, laughing and sipping Long Island Iced Teas, a closer look into many eyes revealed a different story: Fear, apprehension, desperation, loneliness. It seems as though no one knows who to turn to when they most need help; how to break through the walls of self-interest and idol worship — who will provide the next hug, compliment, kiss, orgasm. We are Americans; always left wanting more and better, because this is what we have grown up to value. What we don’t see, however, is that interpersonal consumerism is one of the strongest isolating and deprecating forces imaginable. When can we all just be happy being you and me?

My thoughts this week have also been with the victims of senseless violence at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., and E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, Calif. In case you missed these stories, on Tuesday, February 12, Lawrence King, an openly gay 15-year-old, was shot in the head by a classmate in Oxnard. Because he wore “feminine accessories” and makeup. Later this past week, on Thursday (the day of St. Valentine himself), five students were gunned down while many others were wounded by a shooter who attacked a lecture hall on the NIU campus.

To me, perhaps the most chilling part of the NIU tragedy is this quotation from the university’s public safety chief Donald Grady: “There were no red flags … It’s unlikely that anyone would ever have the ability to stop an incident like this from beginning.” In other words, to sum it up, “these things happen.” Complacency could not be any further removed from the route to social change.

This entry is dedicated to the memory of Larry King and the victims in DeKalb. Even acknowledging the tragedy of these shootings, however, I can’t ignore those who are dying every day in far-away areas of Africa and the Middle East as political unrest continues to result in violence in places such as Kenya, Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan and Palestine. In Kenya, 1000 people have died and 300,000 have lost their homes in the fallout from a disputed election this past December, with peace-making talks stagnating. In the continued Darfur genocide, experts estimate that 200,000 people have died, while 3.5 million have been displaced from their homes.

Lawrence King died Thursday when he was removed from life support, after being shot by a classmate Tuesday.

A photo of Lawrence King lays among flowers and gifts in his memorial.

Maybe one day we can overcome hate and injustice, but it probably won’t be anytime soon. In the meantime, care for each other and care for yourself. Volunteer. Fight for equality. And enjoy the below tunes, loosely based around the themes of love, friendship and happiness.

Download: Sia ‘Breathe Me’
Download: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’
Download: Pnau ‘Come Together’