Libya and Yemen – actually different places.

And to top it off, they’re 2100 miles apart.
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(Please note: This is the third map I’ve posted, because they’re all wrong in some way. Here, Palestine should be listed next to Israel, but is completely ignored. Apparently it’s really hard to find up-to-date, non-exclusionary maps of MENA online).

This week the US lost an apparently highly skilled and much-loved diplomat to the vagaries of violent extremism and a weak central government, and, possibly, the failure of the Foreign Service to adequately protect its Ambassador in the face of terrible upheaval (including “a string of assassinations [in Benghazi] as well as attacks on international missions”).

The Libyan people responded to this horrific turn of events in a genuinely moving way, many spontaneously demonstrating in support of the United States and expressing their sorrow over Ambassador Chris Stevens’s murder. Signs read “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi or Islam” and “USA: We are sorry. We are sad.” and “Sorry people of America this is not the behavior of our Islam & Prophet.”  Words of condolence and statements of grief came pouring out, from the government to journalists to folks on Twitter and Facebook — these Libyans share our loss, and they wanted to make sure we know that they have no affection for those Libyans who attacked our consulate, ostensibly in reaction to an offensive film about the Prophet Muhammad (though signs are emerging that the attack may have been planned well in advance [UPDATE 9/16/12: US Ambassador to the UN says the attacks began spontaneously; the President of Libya disagrees).

Today, on the other hand, hundreds of Yemenis stormed the embassy in the capital city of Sana’a, in reaction to that very same offensive film.

You see, it turns out that Arabs and Muslims are as many and varied as any other set of humans.

Many Libyans hold the United States in affection and high regard, because America helped them gain their freedom from a terrible tyrant. We didn’t roll in and push people aside, we helped the people already there to do what they wanted to do. Their new government is weak and (as the recent turmoil clearly indicates) not entirely well established, but Libyans can look behind and look ahead and see the potential for better — and that’s thanks to us. That’s why Libya has the highest approval rating for the United States in the Middle East and North Africa outside of Israel.

On the other hand, as Jeremy Scahill reported for The Nation in February, this is what we’ve been doing in Yemen:

[In the spring of 2011], rather than fighting AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], US-backed units—created and funded with the explicit intent to be used only for counterterrorism operations—redeployed to Sanaa to protect the collapsing regime from its own people. The US-supported units exist “mostly for the defense of the regime,” says [Abdul Ghani al Iryani, a well-connected political analyst]…. President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, acknowledged late last year that the “political tumult” has caused the US-trained units “to be focused on their positioning for internal political purposes as opposed to doing all they can against AQAP.”

…Even as demonstrations grew against the Saleh regime, US officials praised his government’s cooperation. “I can say today the counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen is better than it’s been during my whole tenure,” Brennan declared in September.

But US counterterrorism policy is extremely unpopular in Yemen….

By last summer, the Obama administration had begun construction on a secret air base on the Arabian peninsula, closer than its base in Djibouti, that could serve as a launching pad for expanded drone strikes in Yemen. The September [2011] drone strike that killed US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was reportedly launched from that new base, which analysts suspect is either in Saudi Arabia or Oman, both of which border Yemen…. The Americans have also provided real-time intelligence, obtained by drones, to Yemeni forces in [the hotly contested province of Abyan]. “It has been an active partnership. The Americans help primarily with logistics and intelligence,” [Gen. Mohammed al-Sumali] says. “Then we pound the positions with artillery or airstrikes.”

…Some of the unilateral strikes have killed their intended targets, such as the CIA attack on Awlaki. But others have killed civilians—at times, a lot of civilians. And many of these have been in Abyan and its neighboring province of Shebwa, both of which have recently seen a substantial rise of AQAP activity. President Obama’s first known authorization of a missile strike on Yemen, on December 17, 2009, killed more than forty Bedouins, many of them women and children, in the remote village of al Majala in Abyan. Another US strike, in May 2010, killed an important tribal leader and the deputy governor of Marib province, Jabir Shabwani, sparking mass anger at the United States and {then-President] Saleh’s government. “I think these airstrikes were based on false intelligence from the regime, because that is the nature of the contractor,” [opposition leader Mohammad] Qahtan charges. “The contractor wants to create more work in return for earning more money.”

…The October drone strike that killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a US citizen, and his teenage cousin shocked and enraged Yemenis of all political stripes. “I firmly believe that the [military] operations implemented by the US performed a great service for Al Qaeda, because those operations gave Al Qaeda unprecedented local sympathy,” says [Abdul Rezzaq al Jamal, an independent Yemeni journalist]. The strikes “have recruited thousands.” Yemeni tribesmen, he says, share one common goal with Al Qaeda, “which is revenge against the Americans, because those who were killed are the sons of the tribesmen, and the tribesmen never, ever give up on revenge.” Even senior officials of the Saleh regime recognize the damage the strikes have caused. “People certainly resent these [US] interventions,” Qirbi, the foreign minister and a close Saleh ally, concedes.

For the United States, the most serious question that lingers over Yemen after [President] Ali Abdullah Saleh is: Did US counterterrorism policy strengthen the very threat it sought to eliminate? “It was a major fiasco,” Iryani says of the past decade of US counterterrorism policy in Yemen. “I think if we had been left alone, we would have less terrorists in Yemen than we do now.”

(Note: This is only a small portion of a truly excellent piece of reporting. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing – click here).

And just to be clear: President Saleh may have resigned last November, but his family and cronies still retain a firm grip on power — which is why Yemenis are still protesting.

So it turns out that Yemenis and Libyans are autonomous actors, human beings who respond to others in a manner that reflects their relationship with those people.

There are, of course, many, many differences between the two countries, not least Libya’s much higher level of education and much lower rate of poverty, and all the complex, domino results that such factors create in two societies that are already very different. The position of women, life expectancy, the function of tribal alliances — all of these play different roles in each country.

But one simple thing may still be said: Help a nation topple a tyrant and reclaim their own power? They’ll probably like you. Help a tyrant kill his own enemies and then allow his power base to stay in control? The people he ruled might not like you so much. To the tune of an 18% approval rating.

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On HuffPost Live about Libya.

I was very happy to be given the chance to appear on HuffPost Live again, this time to talk about the situation in Libya and the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens. To watch that, click here (and if you’re my family and only really interested in me, I start at about the six minute mark, with a reference to the statement made by Sens McCain, Lieberman and Graham).

A few quick notes on the murder of the US ambassador to Libya.

* In the wake of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other members of the embassy staff in Benghazi, it’s really, really important to note that, in the words of scholar Daniel Serwer, “It is not most Libyans who attacked the consulate in Benghazi (or the embassy in Egypt) yesterday.  It is a self-selected few.”

* Daniel Serwer’s comments are supported by Gallup Polls statistics out of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Libya has the highest approval rating for the United States in MENA, one of the highest approval rates ever recorded in the region, outside of Israel. Fifty-four percent of Libyans surveyed approved of the leadership of the US, up from 30% in 2011.

* Muslims around the world are very vocally condemning the attack, from US Congressman Keith Ellison, to American interfaith leaders, to Turkish and Syrian journalists, to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (which represents 57 different nations), on and on. Please feel free to leave more examples in the comments — while it is certainly true that the people who perpetrated this act were Muslim, and some Muslims support them, the more important truth is that they are a minority.

* Because it seems to me to be very important to stress this, a couple verses from the Qur’an, on hatred and violence:

Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune. (Qur’an 41:34-35)

Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. (Qur’an 5:32)

* As Secretary of State Clinton mentioned in her remarks this morning, “Libyans carried Chris’s body to the hospital and helped others to be rescued.” Surely they are no less Libyan than the people who did the killing. Update: Marc Lynch writes for Foreign Policy: “In short, the response from Libya  suggests a broad national rejection at both the governmental and societal level of the anti-American agitation.”

* Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham released a powerful statement about Amb. Stevens’ murder. It’s very that we on the left remember that there are people on the other side of the aisle — people with whom we may disagree more often than not — who have responded in a way in which all Americans can be proud:

Yesterday’s attack is a tragic and terrible reminder that – despite the hopes of the Arab Spring – the forces of violent extremism in the Middle East are far from defeated, and that the revolutions inspired by millions of people who dream of freedom and democracy can still be hijacked by small groups of violent extremists who are eager to kill to advance their evil ideology. 

Despite this horrific attack, we cannot give in to the temptation to believe that our support for the democratic aspirations of people in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere in the broader Middle East is naive or mistaken. We cannot resign ourselves to the false belief that the Arab Spring is doomed to be defined not by the desire for democracy and freedom that has inspired millions of people to peaceful action, but by the dark fanaticism of terrorists.

To follow this misguided path would not only be a victory for the extremists and their associates, but a betrayal of everything for which Chris Stevens and his colleagues stood and gave their lives…. (For the full statement, please click here).

* Finally, here’s the video that Amb. Stevens produced as he prepared to take on his position in Libya. It saddens me deeply that this man was stolen from America, and from the Libyan people he was so anxious to serve.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the foregoing is an excellent example of how helpful Twitter can be as news unfolds – h/t to @AdamSerwer, @NickKristof, @influxTR, @rezaaslan and others to whom I’ve linked throughout this post. 

Two brief notes: Jerusalem and Libya.

  1. I imagine I will be writing about the bombing in Jerusalem today, but not yet. I have to get through some work, and possibly more to the point, some more processing of the events. These days, a lot of my mental processing happens on Twitter — here’s my feed, if you want to see where my brain has gone thus far. If you want to see what I’ve written about the conflict in the past, you can go to the Israel/Palestine category, to your right, and here’s my take on the history of it, in general terms: Israel/Palestine: The basics.
  2. My friend and sometime blog boss, Angry Black Lady, also happens to be a Very Smart Black Lady Lawyer, and she wrote the most righteous opus on the decision to declare a No Fly Zone over Libya that I have yet to see, or will likely ever see. Almost better yet, it’s punctuated with actual humor (I know! Humor in the middle of Srs Bizness! Whoddathunk?), and the frequent acknowledgment that there is much that neither she nor anyone else can possibly know at this point. I can’t recommend it highly enough: Libya? I hardly know ya!

Whither humanity? I have no idea.

I find myself struck by the enormity of the times we’re living in.

I don’t know what will happen next, but when my grandchildren learn about the early twenty-teens, it’s clear they’ll be taught that this was a time in which humanity — turned.

Of course, there’s the ongoing upheaval in Middle East and North Africa (MENA), while here in the United States, we have the right’s astonishing over-reach on unions. In both cases, I don’t think anyone on the ground has a clear sense of the direction we’re all going, but given the sheer quantity of dynamics and cross-dynamics, both here and abroad, I believe we’re likely to wind up in some pretty unexpected places.

In terms of workers’ rights and the American electorate, I genuinely believe that this is one of those moments in which people are woken from their slumber, and the GOP’s business-led right-wing will face tremendous push-back in the coming years. You don’t try to tell Americans that teachers, cops and firefighters are our enemies — are what stand between this country and fiscal security — and expect it to fly for long.

In MENA, well, who knows? Forty-one percent of Egypt’s eligible voters (the highest turnout in history) just voted to accept constitutional changes that some credible opposition voices wanted to see rejected. Good for Egypt? Bad for Egypt? I don’t know, and I would suggest that anyone who says they know for sure has delusions of grandeur. Issandr El Amrani (who blogs at the always interesting The Arabist) wrote a really helpful piece for Time : Egypt’s Referendum: What the Nation’s Historic Vote Means, concluding “This time, even if it was far from perfect, it meant something.”

And Libya? Truly: No one knows. It bears repeating: No one knows, no one knows, no one knows. The sheer cacophony of controversy surrounding the decision to declare a No Fly Zone should serve as our most powerful indicator that no one knows what the future holds in that part of MENA (though I will grant you that there are some, such as POTUS, who should surely have a better grasp on it than the vast majority of us).

I hold out real hope that the NFZ is preventing another Rwanda, but even if that proves correct — then what? Preventing slaughter doesn’t necessarily translate to the establishment of liberty and justice. Not to mention: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, and Iran. So, yeah: In ten years, we’ll all be able to see what happened in that part of the world, but right now? No one knows. (If you, like me, find yourself constantly trying to catch up on the MENA goings on, here’s a terrific interactive feature at the New York Times, “Arab World Uprisings: A Country-by-Country Look” ).

And finally: Japan.

It’s easy, and perhaps tempting, to think that the multiple disasters that have struck Japan affect only Japan — it’s population, economy, future.

But we forget: Japan is a global power-house, the third largest economy in the world. Whither Japan goes, we will all follow, to one degree or another.

If Toyota’s recovery isn’t quick, that means something for the many workers at Toyota’s American plants, and the American businesses that supply them. If Sony suffers a serious set-back, that means something for Sony’s competition, and the potential for some other firm to stake a bigger international claim. If Japan, a highly industrialized nation, proves incapable of controlling a potential nuclear disaster, that means something for the future of the world’s energy supply.

Far beyond the normal ripple effect (every action having a positive and equal reaction, every change bringing change to something else), the level of catastrophe that unfolded and continues to unfold in Japan has the potential to create enormous change across the globe.

Of course, it bears remembering that whatever happens, it actually started a while ago, on all these fronts.

If the GOP has over-reached, it’s only because it’s been reaching so far for so long that all those governors — and the Koch brothers, and Koch brother-analogues, behind them — thought they could keep going. No matter the results of the revolutions across MENA, they clearly didn’t spring up out of nowhere in January. And Japan only recently slipped behind China economically, falling from second to third place, meaning that there’s been some serious geo-economic shifting going on for awhile (one outcome I expect is that the fear-China noise will start getting much louder before the summer dawns).

But be that as it may, humanity tends to look back at certain moments, certain events, and say: “There! That’s when it all changed.” We just don’t always recognize those moments at the time.

This time? I think we can be pretty sure.

You might want to take notes — because in 30 years, some enterprising youth is going to want to ask you all about 2011.

And, as folks keep reminding us, it’s only March.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Insufficient memory.

Note: I spent last week dealing the world’s Horrible Things and though they’ve hardly abated, I’ve decided that this week, I won’t write about them. I’ll tweet, or comment elsewhere, but this space will be Horrible-free — except at the end of each post, where there will be a few links to Your Day In Horrible, should you feel the need.

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Note the second: Sooo. The day got entirely away from me, in ways so many and varied, that I wouldn’t want to begin to explain where it went. So I won’t! But I’m allowing myself the luxury of re-upping a column I wrote a few years back in the Dallas Morning News about the fact that — resist the truth as I might — I am an irredeemable birdbrain. No — you read the following (about which very little has changed in the intervening years, other than the girl’s need for a binky), and then try to think otherwise of me. I challenge you.

Insufficient memory

(It's forget-me-nots. Get it? Plus: So pretty!)

Recently, I was forced to come to the conclusion that, deny it as I have tried my whole life, I am, inarguably, an airhead.

Ok, I’m an intellectual snob, too, so let’s call me “absent-minded.” Like a professor, only without a teaching position. Or office hours.

I may approach it with humor, but it’s a truth I actually loathe. I’ve spent my life devising and maintaining systems by which to mask the fact of it (from myself primarily, I guess. The world’s probably caught on).

I’ve tried everything from calendars with copious notes, to lists on the door, to (and I mean this literally) keeping a running total in my head of the things I left the house with, so that I don’t leave anything behind. It can become a bit of a mess if I leave the house with something that was intended to be left behind. Like, you know, the dry cleaning.

And yet, in spite of these efforts, I am always forgetting things – objects, plans, dates. Thank God, I have yet to forget people, but my (two) children know I may forget their names. When my son was three years old, if I posed the question “What would Mommy do if she could take her head off?” he would say: “Lose it.”

I will say that, at the very least, this forgetfulness has granted me a deep faith in people. I’ve left my backpack in a cab in Istanbul, my camera in a store in Tel Aviv, and (my personal favorite) my sister-in-law’s pearls in a taxi in Washington, DC. Around the world, people have consistently saved me from myself and returned these items to me, often going out of their way to do so. The kindness of strangers, indeed.

On a recent morning, a stranger – a county official with whom I had an appointment in order to appeal my property taxes, a date you might think I’d want to keep – called to ask where I was. Not to reprimand me for blowing her off, but to suggest with a smile in her voice that perhaps I should make my way down to her offices.

Then, on the way there, I drove nine blocks the wrong direction, because, after living in my town for more than seven years – five of which were spent three blocks up from the address to which I was headed on the same street – I got confused about where the north/south demarcation starts on our grid.

As I started to compose the “I’m so sorry for being even later” in my head, I heard myself thinking “I don’t want to seem so disorganized,” and it hit me: I am. I am just that disorganized.

Anyone who has ever: had her babysitter look for her wallet so that she can get on a plane; left that same wallet at home on her way to a store 40 minutes away; forgotten her debit card in the hands of the gas station attendant, is a complete space-cadet. Bona fide.

When I got pregnant with my son seven years ago, having just moved to a new place, new friends kindly chalked my muddle-headedness up to pregnancy, and then to post-partum, and then to exhaustion. And then a second pregnancy. With two kids running around the house, they now say, who can remember anything? You lose a piece of your brain with each placenta.

I’m happy to leave them their delusions, and I will certainly concede that all of those things have not helped. I will even admit, with some genuine pride, that when it comes to the kids, I’m mostly on top of who needs what and has to go where (even if I don’t, as I say, reliably remember what we’ve called them). It’s my own stuff that goes missing.

Seriously, I take some comfort from that. Because there are days when it feels like all of this means that really, underneath my carefully constructed façade, I’m out of control. One misplaced piece of paper from the unraveling of my entire life.

But if I can keep it together for my children – old What’s-Their-Names – I figure that will have to be enough. Just admit the truth, accept who you are, and move on. I can make it without my coat; my daughter, on the other hand, would be lost without her binky.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago. As far as she can remember.

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Your Day in Horrible:

  1. Bradley Burston at HaAretz wrote a heartbreaking column about the uses to which the horrific murder of children have been put in the last week in Israel: “[M]ost of us, on both sides, are people who, despite everything – despite their grief and their rage and their one-sided, blind-eye narrative and their truly unjust history and the guaranteed injustice of any possible solution – actually want the same thing: a future for their children in an independent country living alongside and at peace with the people who are now their enemy. For every child. Both sides. For every child.”
  2. Bullets Stall Youthful Push for Arab Spring – “The Arab Spring is not necessarily over,” writes the New York Times [which will soon be behind a paywall, not that I’m bitter], “but it has run up against dictators willing to use lethal force to preserve their power.”
  3. OH! And another thing the GOP apparently hates (in addition to: workers, women, the Special Olympics, puppies, and the earth itself): Parks. “This week, in an unreleased portion of [Gov] Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.”

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Don’t ever make me go back there! Unless you carry me.

I spent all of last week writing/thinking/emoting about terrible things and while the Awful has hardly abated, I’ve decided that this week, I won’t write about it. I’ll tweet, I may well comment elsewhere, but this space will be largely Awful-free — except at the end of each post, where I will provide a few links to Your Day In Horrible, should you feel the need.

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All told, I’m pretty happy to be an adult.

We get to vote, drive, and keep our own hours, more or less, not to mention that the pay is better.

I remember (I mean: really, really remember, visuals and the whole thing) being a four year old, being ooh-ed and ahh-ed over by a group of third or fourth graders, and just thinking “Can you not see the book in my hands? I want to read.”

I never wanted to be cute. I wanted to be taken seriously. Which is, let’s face it, kind of tall order for a tow-headed girl who is, in fact, totally cute and, moreover, the youngest of three children. I wasn’t taken seriously nearly anywhere, and if I tried to demand it? Well, wasn’t that just the cutest thing! (Which goes a long way toward explaining how I deal with my own, undeniably adorable children, but that’s another post all together).

So mostly I like being an adult because adulthood is a prerequisite, in most circles, to being taken seriously.

However. And yet. Regardless (and even irregardless, if irregardless were a word): There are a few pieces of childhood that I really I miss. Not the sorts of things that we’re told to miss by cultural gatekeepers who appear to forget what childhood actually is, once they’re out of it themselves, but other stuff, stuff that comes largely from being kind of new to the world, kind of fresh out of the box.

Such as:

  1. Pre-birthday excitement. These days, about every other year, my birthday is more irritant than celebration. It falls in September, after a nearly endless round of summer birthdays (the husband, the daughter, and the son — all of them — plus lots of other family). In a perfect world, a week before my birthday, the husband would inform me that all and sundry have come together, made a plan, I need not worry my pretty head, and — oh hey! He just got a surprise bonus, and he’ll be using it to shower me with fabulous gifts! Which is, frankly, kind of what happens when you’re a kid. Someone else makes great plans, and then you get showered with gifts. What’s not to love about that? Who wouldn’t miss that? Today, on the other hand, I know exactly what we can and can’t afford — and “fabulous gifts” tend to be the latter.
  2. The absolute certainty that if I have chosen to take up an activity, I will be awesome at it. Late 1970s skateboarding, anyone? As but one example. When I asked for a skateboard, and got it — dude. I was going to whale! When I got a smidge of style and bought a few particularly attractive items — I was going to be my school’s fashion plate! A bit earlier, when I decided that I was going to work with the blind — I was going to be my generation’s Annie Sullivan! The realization that, in fact, none of that would happen was slow in coming, and arrived hand-in-hand with the understanding that perhaps I didn’t really enjoy the skateboard very much, nor was I all that interested in Braille, and while being a fashion plate might be fun, being lower middle class in a patently wealthy community was going to serve an understandable barrier. Which is to say, it’s not like this knowledge shattered me or anything. But that kind of confidence is fun when you feel it — and there are days when having access to it now would, it must be said, be an altogether delightful thing.
  3. Being carried places. The husband (who is quite genuinely as adorable as his kids) has offered to do this for me. But I’m not particularly small, and he’s not particularly large, and anyway, to be carried as a child is — arms wrapped around, head drooped, nose against the warm scent of a beloved and trusted neck — he would have to be, what, nine feet tall? Something like that, surely. And that would be a most inconvenient height differential for almost any other purpose, not least, furniture buying. But I do wish that he could stretch now and then, magically grow big enough to take me in his arms, carry me upstairs, lay me gently on the bed, and pull the sheets up. He does sometimes pull the sheets up for me, and tuck me in. And it makes me smile, and burrow into my pillow, and tell him I love him. For I do. He is, after all, one of the best perks of adulthood I’ve found to date.

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Your Day In Horrible:

  1. The battle over workers’ rights – Michigan edition.”In Michigan,” Talking Points Memo tells us, “new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has just passed a bill through the legislature to allow state-appointed financial managers to void municipalities’ union contracts.”
  2. U.S. Calls Radiation ‘Extremely High’ and Urges Deeper Caution in Japan. “The chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” we learn in the New York Times, “gave a significantly bleaker appraisal of the threat posed by Japan’s nuclear crisis than the Japanese government, saying on Wednesday that the damage at one crippled reactor was much more serious than Japanese officials had acknowledged and advising Americans to evacuate a wider area around the plant than the perimeter established by Japan.”
  3. Curfew follows deadly Bahrain crackdown. Al-Jazeera reports (and provides a suitably distressing, brief round-up video): “At least six people are reported dead and hundreds injured after security forces in Bahrain drove out pro-democracy protesters from the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama. A 12-hour curfew came into force at 4pm in areas of the city including the roundabout, the Bahrain Financial Harbour, and several other buildings which have recently been targets of protests. By then, most of the area had been cleared after troops backed by tanks and helicopters stormed the site – the focal point of weeks-long anti-government protests in the tiny kingdom – early on Wednesday, an Al Jazeera correspondent said.”
  4. Libya: Red Cross pulls out of Benghazi, fearing attack. “The organisation said it feared an attack by forces loyal to the country’s leader Col Muammar Gaddafi may be imminent,” the BBC reports. “Government forces say they have captured Ajdabiya, the last town before Benghazi, but the rebels deny this.”

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

The perils of kindness.

Last night, sitting at my desk, trying to write a book review, I finally just burst into tears.

The book deals with Israel/Palestine, and the many brave and noble people attempting to find a path to true peace and genuine justice, and it comes on the heels of two other books that dealt with what amounts to the same subject matter — and last night’s book and the earlier two came at either end of days and days in which I was dealing quite intensely, in my writing and in my heart, with the topic of rape (a couple of times on this blog, on and on at Twitter, and elsewhere across the wilds and in the corners of the blogosphere), while all the while, people living across a swath of the world that holds a place very deep in my soul are being shot at from their own fighter jets and by their own police forces. And the public employees in some quarters of this country — teachers, for God’s sake! — find themselves faced with the possibility of losing their freedom to ever collectively organize again. And at some point I discovered that a (male) blogger had accused me (specifically) and other women bloggers of “raping” Lara Logan by choosing to use the story of her assault as a reason to write about rape. And then an earthquake in New Zealand….

What finally reduced me to tears was a good friend being kind.

In this case, the good friend happens to be a truly, genuinely lovely person who has spent his life telling the truth about Israel/Palestine, and the one clear thought I could get to (as I read his completely unrelated email and cried) was: How can the world still suck so hard, when there are such beautiful people in it?

I’m tired. I’m tired of the world sucking and of beautiful people dedicating themselves and their lives and all too often their deaths to trying to heal a world that still sucks. I’m tired of the ever-peeling layers of suckage — after all, just under “pro-democracy protests turn violent in the Middle East,” you’ll find “well-founded fears of chaos,” “well-founded fears of military takeover,” and “well-founded fears of economic collapse and further human suffering.” Under which, of course, you will also find “Lara Logan was brutally assaulted and more than 80% of Egyptian woman complain of constant harassment and women are raped everywhere, anyway.” Under which you will find… many other things that I cannot bear to think about right now.

It matters not that I’m tired. Not really. Despair and exhaustion are luxuries, and I already live in the lap of luxury.

But I confess that I have found it easier to not know over much about about Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, or Wisconsin and Indiana over the past 24-48 hours (oh, and Ohio. Where apparently someone decided it would be a good idea to lock the people out of their own statehouse) — or even of New Zealand, where, after all, it’s not the sucky people, it’s the sucky tectonic plates we have to thank for the wave of grief and sorrow now washing over a nation. It feels wrong to admit this. I confess that, too.

I’m going to the J Street Conference this weekend, and I think that will have to count as my good deed for the next week. Me being tired doesn’t matter — but me crying doesn’t help.  I think it’ll be helpful to go hang out in a room full of compulsive do-gooders for a couple of days.