Words.

I’ve been in Israel for a week and my emotions are, as always when I’m here, a complete mess — a samatocha, if you will, and even if you won’t. I’m up, I’m down, I hate it, I love it, a whirlpool, constantly returning to wherever I was just a few minutes before, the very act of trying to keep up and keep steady serving to suck new flotsam and jetsam into the gyre.

And by the way, when I say “hate,” I mean it. I have had moments of such fury, such disgust, that I have burst into tears before I could even give words to the emotions. The dehumanization, the willed blindness to the suffering of millions of people, caused not by hurricane or earthquake or plague or locusts but by the decisions made, every day, by the people who are my people — it gives rise to a violence within me that I hardly recognize. A repulsion, a revulsion.

Side by side, cheek and jowl, living neither in peace nor in security, with a love, a longing, an ache in the bones, a burning desire to come home. To be a Jew among the Jews, to watch the Bougainvillea spill over fences and across lawns, to be surrounded and filled with Hebrew and the sight of hills rolling into and out of valleys and the scent of flowers I cannot even name.

I don’t know how to talk to anyone anymore.

There are words I can no longer use, conventions I can no longer pretend to subscribe to (I once subscribed, unthinking, unknowing, not realizing, to particular ways of seeing the conflict and the role that Israel has played in it and the role of individuals, whether the young soldiers or the entire social network — from parents to teachers to editors to musicians to people on the street to assumptions that lay buried between words and within whispers — that socializes children to become young soldiers. But now I don’t and once I stopped, I couldn’t pretend, either). I felt a chill fall over a conversation I had tonight when I referred to Palestinian “fighters” rather than “terrorists.” I suddenly froze myself. Any Palestinian who fights any Israeli is a terrorist, had I forgotten? Of course, of course, right. “Terrorist.”

Except: No. Some are terrorists, surely. But those who fight our soldiers? Those who act in defense of their own homes from an invading military force? These are not terrorists. I cannot lump them with the others, with the old lady killers and suicide bombers. “Fighters” — they are fighters! They deserve at least that from me. At least the right word.

I tell my children the West Bank is Palestine — when we drive through a check point, for instance, on our way out of Jerusalem, I say “now we’re entering Palestine.” When I tell them about the settlements, I say that these communities are stealing Palestinian land. I tell them that the Netanyahu government is working to undo any chance for peace. I tell them — God help me, I tell them — that Yigal Amir won.

I cannot lie to my children.

And yet, I also think about us, we Israelis, we Jews. About our right to be here.

If I believe that the Palestinian people has a right to sovereignty in their home, a nation to call their own, a share in the very Jerusalem that has served as their cultural capital for generations upon generations — well then, surely I believe in our right as well. I read my Twitter feed, I peek at the left wing blogs, and I want to kick and fight and bite and cry. Why must I hate my people, disdain our accomplishments, mentally undo our equal right to this land, in order to be a good-enough supporter of Palestinian rights? They’re right, the people who say there are those on the left who would deny Israel the right to exist. They are right, and those who would do the denying are wrong.

I tell my children: You see those wrecked old trucks on the side of the road on the way into Jerusalem? There were convoys, people trying to get food and medicine and doctors and machine parts to the isolated Jewish community in Jerusalem, and the convoys were attacked. The Jews inside them were killed. The trucks are there to remind us of that cost, of their sacrifice.

The Palestinian Arabs, I say, acted like normal people and said “Who are all these people who want to move in and take over? We won’t allow it! We’ll fight them off!” And they did, and have done, terrible things to the Jews, to the Israelis.

And the Jews-who-became-Israelis acted like normal people and said “This has always been our home and we are going to fight to make it ours again.” And they did and have done terrible things to the Palestinian Arabs. More terrible things — more bombs, more deaths, more blood. We won the war, so we’re in power, and we have, if you add it up, just look at the numbers, the sheer statistics tell you: We have done far more terrible things to them than they have done to us.

But they have done terrible things to us, too. People are scared and angry and sad and full of hate for good reason. That’s why war is such a bad idea, I tell my children: Because it makes people behave like animals to each other. It makes people forget to treat each other as humans.

I cannot lie to my children.

I cannot. I will not. I will not use the words and the conventions and the assumptions and presumptions that either side would have me use. I will tell them the truth, all of it, with all of its nuances and all of its ugliness and the tiny bit of beauty and wonder that occasionally shines through.

And — and this is it, the truth, the deepest truth, the thing that keeps the gyre spinning faster and faster, creating a literal nausea that can leave me gasping — it matters not at all. It will never matter.

I can tell my children all the truth I want. I can risk the wrath of friends, the disdain of partners-in-struggle, the language and thought police that surround me and try to bind me to them — and it won’t matter.

Because if I have learned nothing else in this week in Israel, I have learned, again — I have been reminded, again, of that thing that I try to hide from myself with all my sorrow and all my advocacy and all my heart and soul and strength — that there is no hope.

None.

This government and this people — this people for whom it is more important to cling to the word “terrorist” than to consider the possibility that armed Palestinians are fighting for their home just as we once did (just as we once did, with all the ignobility and howling anger and animal instinct) — will not make peace. They will not.

I don’t know what the end will be (as the Hebrew goes), and I shudder to try to consider the possibilities. Much blood, many deaths, and the continued and constant erosion of the humanity of Israelis, Palestinians, and everyone in between.

But it will not lead to peace, nor to justice.

The words matter — personal integrity matters, parental integrity matters — but it won’t matter enough. This country is determined to march itself over the abyss, and the words I use cannot stop it.

I’m going home.

Right – so I’m off to Israel! In like /checks clock/ half an hour! Yikes!

So, obviously, I didn’t manage to post yesterday, and this won’t really be much — but I wanted to leave a few links up, in case people came here looking for my usual Israel/Palestine rantings and/or ravings. I may post from the road, and I may not. I’m more than a bit nervous that I will lose my wee little audience if I disappear for two weeks, but we’ll just have to see what the days bring.

And so!

While there, we be attending two events that I’m very pleased to be able to take part in. The first is a benefit concert for the wonderful Combatants for Peace, former combatants from both sides of the divide who work together as a mutual support group and peace advocacy organization. Here’s an article I wrote about them a few years ago: In the Mideast, Combatants for Peace, here’s an op/ed that one of their members (who I had earlier interviewed for my article) ran in The Forward after his 10 year old daughter Abir was shot to death by Israeli forces: A Plea for Peace from a Bereaved Palestinian Father. Click here for the Combatants website and here to learn more about the benefit, which will feature David Broza, Achinoam Nini (also known as Noa), Mira Awad and poet Agi Mishol. (If you’re feeling generous and have a little spare dosh to send their way, I know they could use it!)

We’ll also be attending one of the weekly protests held by Just Jerusalem in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the Palestinian part of Jerusalem. The protests have now been going on for a year and a week, and I’m very, very pleased that my family and I will finally get to stand where we belong, and demand justice for the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Click here for Just Jerusalem’s website, and here to learn about the how and why of their activities.

Of course, both Combatants for Peace and Just Jerusalem are always permalinked over there to your right, under Israel/Palestine.

And should you want to learn more about the conflict, you can always go to these earlier posts:

Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.

And finally, should you be wondering how I’m feeling about this trip, this post, Reason #12,087 that I hate the occupation, should give you a pretty good idea….

Peace out, my babies! Be good!

Hello I must be going! + A call to anti-DADT arms.

The week began with a single, solitary book review on my professional plate — and wham! By late Monday morning, it was jam-packed with a book review, plus not one, not two, not even three, but four projects for the PR firm for which I often write.

As a constantly scrambling freelancer, I’m loathe to ever say no to such offers, and as a constantly scrambling freelancer who’s about to leave her desk and the country for two weeks, I was especially happy to sock some cash away before getting on a jet plane.

But what that’s meant is that I’ve been consistently about three hours behind, every day this week, and as the jet plane looms ever larger, there comes a point at which there are no more minutes to squeeze out. Who suffers most in these circumstances? You do, dear reader, as I neglect the blog for filthy lucre and family responsibility.

I hope to be able to write tomorrow about the upcoming trip (to Israel, natch. Why can’t I ever pull out my passport for more relaxing climes?), but if the laundry and packing and (no doubt) errands conspire against me — well, I’ll cross that bridge when pushed onto it by my burgeoning pile of duties.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to run what amounts to a guest post, by my old Jezebel buddy Nefarious Newt (permalinked over there on the Jezebel blogroll). Newt quite rightly calls on us to stand up for our fellow Americans, and urge John McCain to stop using his influence to block the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. If you have the time and inclination, it would be most estimable of you to do as Newt asks.

Do Ask, Do Tell

It is not often this commentator ask his audience to do more than read his words and perhaps take some meaning from them for yourselves, but at this time and place, I am imploring as many of you as read this to take an action, stand up for something which is right and proper, and perhaps change the course of history.

I speak of the execrable law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a Bill Clinton-era travesty that should never have been passed, or have been hammered down after it was first enacted, but instead was allowed to flourish, thereby depraving brave men and women of the armed forces, who happened to be gay, of their right as American citizens to defend their nation.

The Congress, specifically the Senate, has spent the better part of a year stalling action on the repeal, even after affirmations from the President, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mullen. Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has consistently used his power and influence to derail all attempts at a fair hearing for the repeal of this unfathomable desecration of law. So, I am asking you, the people of America, to help him see the light, and push forward legislation to end this unwarranted and unnecessary law. You can use the following link to reach him: http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm. I urge you to take action, write Senator McCain, and tell him that he needs to end his pointless opposition to the repeal of this un-Constitutional law.

Below, is what I wrote to him:

Senator McCain:

With all due respect to your years of service to this country, first in the armed forces and now with the Federal government, I am appalled at your stance of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” When all signs point to a nation and a military ready to move forward, as they did with allowing blacks, then women, to enter military service, you stand there with the unmitigated gall to block American citizens from their Constitutionally appointed right to defend the liberty of their country. I don’t pretend to understand your motivation, though I suspect politics and self-interest play more of a role than I thought they would for a man of your stature.

While I am not an Arizonan, I am an American, and while you do not represent me directly, you do represent the government of my nation, and while I cannot vouch for the veracity of the citizens of Arizona, I can say that for me, the idea that a decorated war veteran and legislator such as yourself cannot see the implications of his position, is audacity incarnate. You would strip rights from American citizens without so much as another thought, due to some unknown defect of thought which keeps you from seeing the clear light of day. Members of the LGBT community are people first, American citizens second, and anything else third. If they choose to serve their country and are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of those who would denigrate and repudiate them and their orientation, then I consider that the highest form of moral conduct, and that, more than anything, is what our country needs right now.

I implore you — bring legislation to the floor, attached to nothing, calling for the repeal of this barbarous and execrable act called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Do it for the good of the country, do it for the good of the armed services, but also do it because it is the right and decent thing to do.

Please, let us do what we must to right an injustice: write Senator McCain.

Finally, let me just say that it’s well worth your while to read Nefarious Newt’s blog regularly — he writes with passion and compassion, and he will stir your conscience and occasionally your pride. He’s all right, the Newt is.

The truth is out there. Or possibly right here.

For reasons that I can’t quite pull together, I’ve been thinking an awful lot recently about humans and our interactions with Earth’s other creatures. Mostly I’ve been thinking about how stupid we are.

No, no, let me rephrase: Mostly I’ve been thinking about how far we have to go in actually understanding what the hell is going on.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts that have crossed my brainpan of late:

  1. We (and here I mean: society at large. Not, you know: biologists) tend to think and talk about our relationship with the animal world as if we were King of the Jungle/Forest/Serengeti. Simba is powerful and all, and maybe if left alone in a room with him, we’d be kitty kibble, but us + a gun? Why, we can’t be beat! We are, the thinking goes, the one animal that is never successfully hunted by any other species. We’re top dog, dawg!

    But what about germs? I suddenly thought the other day. OMG!

    We’re not regularly brought down by anything big — but we are constantly brought down by living creatures so teeny-tiny we literally cannot see them. Of course we’re some other creatures’ prey! All animals are! And, not to freak you out too much or anything, but: They’re talking amongst themselves.

  2. Here in suburbia, we have an awful lot of two things criss-crossing our roads: squirrels, and cars. (I did see a coyote once, but I feel fairly safe in assuming that he or she was an anomaly).

    When I look out my car window and see a squirrel, I know, at least, what I’m seeing. But what do squirrels see when they see cars? Do they perceive moving vehicles as animals? Do they perceive moving vehicles as being in any way part of the tall bi-ped experience? When you and I get into a car, does the squirrel perceive us as having gotten into something — or does it perceive that something as having swallowed us?

    Honestly? I can’t tell you how bummed I am that I’ll never know.

  3. Do you remember (did you hear) that recent report that Dick Van Dyke was once rescued at sea by a pod of porpoises? No – really! Watch him tell the story to Craig Ferguson! (The story starts at about the 8:20 mark, if you’re heartless and want to skip ahead).

    Within hours of Van Dyke telling his tale, it was of course all over the web, newspapers, radio —  you name it, Western society was talking about it (probably Eastern society, too. Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang are very popular films).

    So here’s my question: Every time that a group of humans gets together to save a whale or a dolphin or a porpoise that has stranded itself on a beach — do whale newspapers write about the pod of bi-peds that saved Walter Whale? Are they stunned by our obvious intelligence and apparently gentle nature — especially given all the other news on the whale wire about pods of bi-peds who hunt sea creatures? Does whale Cute Overload feature some kind of sonar imaging of interspecies snorgaling (like this one, maybe) and do they go “aww! for predators, they can be so cute! Just don’t get too close, kids!”?

    Surely there is some understanding, when it happens, among the animals acquainted with the saved animal, of the fact that one of their number was saved by creatures with which they usually have no communication. But do they communicate that to each other, and/or others of their kind?

  4. And finally, to get to the title of the post: If we can’t understand bacteria and squirrels and whales – indeed, if we often can’t understand human beings from different cultures – indeed #2, if we not infrequently can’t understand the very humans with whom we live and build families — how on earth do we think we will ever understand intelligent life from some other planet, should we ever run across it? Why, the aliens might be standing at our elbows even now, as I type! Trying desperately to get our attention! And we’ll never know. Until we crack, like, squirrel code, or something.

So, yeah. No grand conclusions. Just a slightly closer look at what really happens In My Head. And the introduction of the notions that aliens are among us, and the germs are talking. Possibly to the aliens.

And finallyfinally, on an entirely different note, and not for nothing, but Dick Van Dyke is a national treasure. Can’t be said too often. Watch him here, giving birth to the sit-com:

PS It’s especially anthropological to watch this show after having steeped myself in Mad Men. Back when I used to watch re-runs of The Dick Van Dyke Show as a little girl, I was just looking at a pretty version of the world I lived in. It didn’t occur to me that the kitchen appliances and office equipment would some day become cultural artifacts from a by-gone era of style and dash. (Which really doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of this post, but I think that ship sailed when I embedded the YouTube link).

Good stuff: Delete delete delete.

At various intervals in my busy day, I worked on a post that I hoped to put up by 3:00, by 5:30, by 8:00, before I went to bed.

Then at about 9:30 I just trashed the whole thing.

It wasn’t that it was a terrible post — it’s just that it wasn’t a very good one, and it was likely to make a lot of people mad. I’m pretty ok with making people mad if I’m making sense and have a decent point, but if all I’m doing is whining? Well now, that’s just silly.

I will tell you this though: The title was “Jews acting like asshats.” The headline alone kept me clinging to the text for longer than I should have. You can’t tell me that’s not an awesome headline.

But a headline does not a post make, and for only (I believe) the second time in this blog’s storied history, I judged it wiser to just give up. Sometimes the best success can be found in admitting failure. Or something. I’m sure there’s an aphorism to that effect.

But then I put the second kid to bed and turned my attention to a work project that’s due tomorrow, thinking, you know, as is my responsible wont: “Well, get a jump on that, then,” and only now did it occur to me that this means I have nothing — NOTHING! — to post. Gasp! And gee. I didn’t mean for that to happen!

So in lieu of a post, I’ll give you a handful of Good Stuff to click on, should you be interested in the work of people who did not write-write-write and then delete-delete-delete.

1. Hajj for Heathens – a gorgeous, captivating, and wry-but-not-arch photo essay by Omar Chatriwala over at Boing Boing, commemorating the annual Muslim pilgrimage season, or hajj:

Every year—on exactly the same days, as far as Muslims are concerned—literally millions of people descend upon the original Mecca™ of Saudi Arabia and its surrounding holy sites in pilgrimage….

Muslims arrive from all corners of the globe (they check the secret handshake, so no point trying to get in non-believers). Women wear what they please (don’t they always?) while men don two towels, meant partly as as a way of levelling rich and poor (not so different from a locker room, smells included).

Part of the challenge—and it is meant to be a challenge—is simply getting along with so many people from so many different backgrounds….

And by the way: To any Muslim readers – Eid mubarak, a blessed holiday!

2) A Call to Arms (And Abs, Quads, Calves and Shoulders) – a delightful post about women’s bodies and women’s strength by Morning Gloria, Jezebel’s new Sunday editor and one of my favorite commenters back when I was a Jezebel commenter and she was but-a-commenter. You can find more of her amusing smartness on her tumblr, these go to 11., perma-linked on my Jezebel blogroll, to your right.

I bought a women’s fitness magazine the other day and almost every page equated fitness with losing weight. Get bikini ready in seven days! Lose 12 pounds by tomorrow by doing these three exercises! Hungry? Eat seven almonds! Fuck that.

Your body was made for so much more than being looked at, deprived of food, and enjoyed by others. Your body was made for kicking some ass.

3) This absolutely that’s-just-wrong, made-me-spit-with-horrified-laughter Cake Wrecks post. Especially for those who have ever had trouble sleeping! /a quiet cackle is heard from the blogger….

Enjoy! Perhaps the whole writing thing will work out for me tomorrow.

*******************

PS – Did you know that spell-check thinks that “asshats” isn’t a word? (The spell-check golem suggests “assets”). I protest, spell-check! Not only is “asshats” a word — it’s a fabulous word! Nothing says “asshats” like “asshats.” (Also, apparently, “golem” — not so much a word, either. What I think I’m saying here is that spell-check is anti-Semitic).

LGBT people – a revelation.

You know, I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but this here is a post for my straight readers. If you happen to be LGB and/or T, you can feel free to wander off to other parts of the Internet. Go on, you crazy kids! I’ll wait.

Ok, are they gone?

Right, then. I have something very important to share with you, my opposite-loving peeps, something I hesitate to say in public, but: The gays? They really are different.

I mean, I know we’re always all: “The gays! They’re just like us! Marriage, kids, hospital rights, yada yada!”, but I’ve come to the unavoidable conclusion — and I’m pretty sure that science is going to back me on this, in the fullness of time — that they really are, just: Different.

“Why, whatever can you mean?” you ask. “Different how?”

Well, I’ll tell you: They’re waaaaaay better than us, straight people. That’s how.

“But Emily!” you protest. “I am a delightful straight person, and a stand-up member of society! I protest! How came you to such conclusions?”

I’ll tell you how came I.

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about the kind of bullshit that LGBT people have to put up with on any given day in this world — from Carl “I don’t want [our children] to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option” Paladino, to U- “We will hang you if you’re gay” -ganda. From Jim “gay people shouldn’t be teaching our kids” DeMint, to Thomas S. I’m a university professor but “I decry attempts to legitimize [homosexual] addictions and compulsions” Hilton. From cruel anti-lesbian behavior in a Mississippi school system, to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. From DOMA to DADT. Man oh man. Everywhere LGBT people turn, they are being told that they are not only worth less, but worthless. Worse than worthless: Disgusting, a danger to society, deserving of state-sanctioned murder.

And yet, in spite of all that, most LGBT folks (and I don’t have numbers to back this, but I think I’m safe in saying “most”) don’t turn into raving lunatics! Or murderous monsters!

Indeed, it has been my impression that most LGBT people (especially those who are able to be out and have the love and respect they deserve) are perfectly reasonable people! I mean, sure, some of them are asshats, but who amongst us isn’t?

The LGBT community has provided this country with Barney Frank, Dan Choi, Rachel Maddow, Ellen, and Neil Patrick Harris — and who wouldn’t want to go to dinner with any (or all! Can I pick all?) of them? Amanda Simpson, a transgender woman who used to be a test pilot for Raytheon Missile Systems, was chosen by President Obama to serve her country as a senior technical adviser to the Commerce Department, and Joel Burns, an out gay Ft. Worth City Councilman, recently gave one of the most moving political speeches I have ever seen, in memory of gay teen suicide victims, and in support of other LGBT teens who may be considering taking the same path — children, after all, who need the support of all of this country’s adults.

No, I’m sorry fellow straight people, if you can live through, and with, that level of shit and emerge a Barney, a Rachel, or an NPH? You are just made of sterner, more formidable, better stuff.

Or, I suppose it’s possible that LGBT people don’t necessarily have anything that we straights don’t have, too. I mean, we’re all just as God made us, right? Maybe it’s just that when you live through, and with, that level of shit, you find yourself having to access your courage, your grace, your good humor a little more often than most. Perhaps they’re not born better than the other 90% of us — perhaps they’re strong enough to make themselves better.

Maybe we in the straight community should start taking notes. Because frankly, a lot of us have been acting like douche-bags.

The loss of strangers – Veterans Day, 2010

Two humbling facts crept into my consciousness this morning. The first came as I listened to NPR and heard the reading of a fallen US soldier’s letter — I assumed, from the lyrical tone, that the letter-writer was from an earlier age. I assumed he had been killed in the Second World War. Upon learning that Second Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd, 22, had been killed in Iraq in 2004, I realized with a shock: I don’t think of these wars, our wars, at all when I consider Veterans Day.

I think of those wars that were long ago, those wars that meant “veterans” when I was a girl, up to Vietnam — not these wars, these wars that are churning out veterans and casualties on a daily basis, and have been for more than nine years.

The second fact (which is no doubt to blame, at least in part, for the first) is that I don’t know a single American soldier.

My country is fighting two wars, in which more than 5,700 Americans have been killed, from among the tens of thousands of young men and women we have sent into the cauldron, and I don’t know a one. There is something fundamentally wrong with that.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a social structure that is predicated on the fact that some go to war, and some never go near it. It is altogether too easy for me to forget about these wars, about our generation’s veterans, when my entire life is spent so far from anyone who pays the price. I don’t blame myself for the structure of society and the result it’s had in my life, but now that I’ve noticed it, I wonder if I might need to find a way to bridge the gap.

When America reached the milestone 4,000th death in 2008, I wrote something from my heart about Illinois’s fallen and submitted it to the Chicago Tribune. I was pleased and proud that it ran, but very disappointed that they had to cut it down considerably. I wanted to pay tribute, and I felt that the requirements of space meant that tribute wasn’t adequately paid.

As such, in honor of the fallen from my home state, I’ve decided to run the piece today as I originally wrote it.

May their memories be for a blessing.

The loss of strangers

As of this writing, 141 servicemen and women from Illinois are confirmed to have died in the course of the Iraq War.

They came from big cities, mall-strewn suburbs, and places I’ve never heard of: Patoka, Gays, Blandinsville, Mahomet. More than 90 of Illinois’s casualties were 25 or younger when they died; thirteen were still teenagers. They were all, every last one of them, strangers to me, but they died in my name.

I don’t know how to truly honor them, any of these people who died so far from home, not the ones from Illinois, nor the 3,859 others. So I find pictures online and look at their faces, at least a few, and try to register the facts. Try to give them that, at least.

I’m pulled in by certain names, the occasional goofy grin, people who seem, somehow, familiar. Navy Petty Officer Regina Clark, 43 when she was killed, originally from Colona, mother of a teenage son; Sean Maher, a Marine from Grayslake, not much older than Clark’s son when he died at 19, two days before he was supposed to go home.

John Olson, 21, from Elk Grove Village, looks as if he’s trying on his father’s hat; Christopher Sisson, 20, might have once hung out at the North Riverside Mall. Illinois’ first casualty, Ryan Anthony Beaupre, was killed on the third day of the war. In his picture, the 30 year old Marine smiles as if on vacation.

Uday Singh. Twenty-one when he died, an Indian national. He enlisted while living with an aunt in Lake Forest, shared a name with one of Saddam Hussein’s despicable sons, and became a US citizen only upon death. Singh was the first Sikh to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and one of his last emails home read: “You guys have fun while I go save the whole world. P.S. Pray for me.”

Pray for me.

I  pray for him and for all the fallen soldiers, for all the living soldiers, for the families, for all of us in this country, for the Iraqis who also mourn their children. I have always opposed this war, but whatever I may think of the people who sent our men and women into Iraq’s unbearable heat, I know that those who went, did so for me. For me and my children, from a belief that it is right to offer your body as a sacrifice for the country you call home – even if it has not yet given you a passport.

I know that for many soldiers, the military offers an escape; for some, it’s the only way to make a living; others are answering family expectations, or social pressure. Many oppose the war; many support it whole-heartedly. Some do bad things; most, I suspect, just try to get through their days in one piece, with one heart.

But in death, I cannot sort them from each other. I cannot call this one my brother, that one my foe; the war they fought has in some way sanctified them, brought them to a place I cannot reach. I can only look into their faces and thank them, look into eyes that can no longer look back, and ask forgiveness.

 

Source: Arlington National Cemetery Website http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/

 

 

Quick 2nd post.

Jezebel tells me there’s a new hashtag making the rounds in the Twitterverse, #ihadanabortion. I would really encourage pro-choice women who want to weigh in with their abortion experience to do so. I’m convinced it’s vital for us to be as open and honest as we can about our own experiences, both to encourage a healthier debate, and to help dissipate the shame and fear that cloud so many women’s lives as they make their own choice (or look back on a choice already made).

Here’s a post I put up about a year ago on the topic, I’ve had an abortion, in which I quote Jeffrey Toobin quoting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the topic:

…as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights “center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Every diminishment of that right diminishes women.

On Israel and the endless slap in America’s face.

I often feel that I am absolutely out of words on Israel/Palestine. Out. Finished. Done. The well is dry, and the bucket has a hole.

But sweet baby Moses in the bulrushes, if Israel/Palestine doesn’t keep doing the same ol’ do, forcing me to search around in my bag for a little more verbiage. Woe, as they say, is me.

Of course, woe is them. Woe to the people who are constantly living in that absolutely solvable insanity, an insanity that no one has the stomach to solve. The stomach, the fortitude, the valor, the dash, the enterprise — nobody has it, apparently.

With this latest slap in the American Administration’s face (or, as it’s known in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: This latest incident of stealing land from people who have no home), I find myself almost punch-drunk with the ridiculousness of it all. Since about 1995, Israel has done nothing but piss in America’s cornflakes. And yet America seems pretty ok with that!

What does Israel have on us? Did it give America a wedgie once? Does it have pictures of America at an orgy? Has it squirreled away far-reaching evidence of American involvement in extra-judicial deaths and cocaine-fueled jungle battles? What?

Because honestly: Why on earth is the world’s lone remaining superpower continuing to accept blatant abrogation of international agreements to which both it and Israel have affixed their names? Everything from the UN Declaration on Human Rights, to the Oslo Accords, to the Road Map to Peace, to the Condoleezza Rice-brokered border crossing agreement of November 2005 — Israel pitches a fit, demands concession after concession, condition after condition, and then, without so much as a by your leave, does whatever the hell it wants.

Let’s take a gander at these documents, shall we?

Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 (1948):

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The Oslo Accords (“Declaration of Principles”), Annex IV (1993):

The economic development programme for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will consist of the following elements:
(1) A Social Rehabilitation Programme, including a Housing and Construction Programme
(2) A Small and Medium Business Development Plan
(3) An Infrastructure Development Programme (water, electricity, transportation and communications, etc)
(4) A Human Resources Plan
(5) Other programmes

Road Map to Peace, “Settlements” (2003):

  • GOI [Government of Israel] immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.
  • Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

Border Crossing Agreement of November 2005:

Israel will allow 150 truckloads bound for all markets to pass through Karni each day by the year’s end, when a new freight scanner is scheduled to be up and running there. The number of daily truckloads would increase to 400 by the end of 2006.

None of that happened. None of it. (For a particularly stark picture of just what Israel thinks of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, go take a look at the UN’s figures on life in Gaza today). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And yes, should anyone ask, I am fully aware the Palestinians haven’t been angels, either. But you know what? We Israelis are still the ones with the tanks, the functioning government and economy, and the superpower best friend. With great power (and yes, we’re the powerful party here, not the eternal victims) comes great responsibility — and with massive failure to live up to great responsibility comes massive misery.

As an Israeli, I long to see my country live in peace and security. I long to see all that energy that Israel currently puts toward hatred and fear re-directed toward creativity and growth. In the most selfish terms imaginable: I long for it to be a county in which I would want to live again.

But as an American, I grow weary of my word meaning nothing, my government’s commitments meaningless, my nation’s promises little more than ashes. I grow weary of my tax dollars going endlessly to support not one but two hopeless projects: Israel itself (which will eventually be broken by its refusal to bend) and the peace process (forget how much it cost to send Obama to Asia — how much have we spent on shuttles to Jerusalem?). And yes – I grow weary of being slapped in the face, over and over and over again.

If the Obama Administration really, genuinely values the words its various members keep mouthing about the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people, the urgent need for an authentic peace, and the importance such a peace holds for both Israeli and American security needs — then it needs to step up.

It needs to step up, and step on toes, and risk the wrath of certain quarters of the Israeli and American Jewish public, and stop rolling over every.single.time the Israeli government does everything it can to doom any remaining scrap of hope for a durable peace with the Palestinians. The Administration needs to demand action, and there have to be consequences to inaction.

Heartwarming words do not feed children, or heal wounds, or provide shelter. They do not provide the human and national rights they purport to support. They are just words.

And Israel has already shown how little respect is has for words.

Israel, settlments, & the Administration – tell them what you think.

I have income-earning, committed-to work today, work that is both time-consuming and demanding, so this is just a placeholder post, asking that if you support a two-state peace in Israel/Palestine, you call your President, your Secretary of State and your representatives in Congress and tell them that.

From HaAretz: The U.S. State Department said it was “disappointed” after it learned Monday that 1,300 Jewish homes had been approved for construction beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem. Later in the day, it emerged that Israel had also approved second plan to build 800 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

“Disappointed” ain’t gonna cut it. There have got to be real-world consequences for Israel’s actions (beyond the obvious-to-some-but-not-to-Israel fact that the Jewish State is ruining its own future with this destructive behavior) — the Obama Administration has got to be the first Administration since James Baker to call Israel to account.

Here’s the gist of what I said when I made my calls a little while ago:

I’m an Israeli-American, and I fully support the Administration’s stated goals for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. I really want to encourage the President/Secretary/Congressman/Senator to do everything he/she can do to advance the peace process — Israel’s decision to keep building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank not only strikes me as the death knell to the prospects for a negotiated peace, but also a real slap in the face to this Administration. It’s well past time that my American government hold my Israeli government to account.

If you’re not Israeli, obviously, you cut out that part! But if you’re Jewish, say that very, very clearly. If you’re neither Jewish nor Israeli but just really believe in a two-state peace, you might say “as a supporter of Israel” (if you’re comfortable with that) or “an American who wants to see Israel live in real security.”

I’m hoping to come back later an write a real post, but in the meantime, please call:

  1. White House: (202) 456-1111
  2. State Department: (202) 647- 6575 (don’t call the main switchboard – they’ll transfer you to a series of options none of which allow you to leave a message [though the operators think they do!])
  3. Congress: (202) 224- 3121 (ask for your Senators and Representative by name, or look up their direct lines here http://www.senate.gov/ and here http://www.house.gov/ )

PS – A wee reminder: Israel actually committed itself to halting settlement construction, contingent on no Palestinian tit-for-tat, in an international agreement backed by the United States in 2003. Remember the Road Map? Yeah, the Road Map. Good times.

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