Thoughts by a Weary Traveller in an Airport Terminal in a Little-Bit-Fascist Country

Today I’m off to Ireland. I was meant to leave yesterday, but my flight was delayed and… well today I’m off to Ireland. Yesterday was an interesting experience though, spending so much time at the airport (five hours?), and not actually getting anywhere. One of the reasons it took so long is that when they told me to leave, I had to pass through Canadian customs. So technically yesterday I entered and left the United States, all without stepping outside of Toronto.

Travelling to, or in this case travelling through, the United states, is always an opportunity to raise a few eyelids. Sitting here in the terminal at Newark airport, everything looks about normal. However the drone of CNN in the background discussing the “Boston Bombing” reminds me I’m in a fascist country. Just a little bit fascist, mind you, a kind of Germany 1931.

I make an effort when I’m travelling to look people in the eye, to engage with them on a human level whether it’s at a shop or an airport desk. Probably more so than when I’m in Toronto, actually. I’ve been told customs officials refuse to engage in any human level interaction, but in my experience that’s not true. We were heavily delayed (waited about 2 hours) on the tarmac before take-off to Newark today. But everyone’s mood seemed good, and I had a very informative and friendly discussion with the staff, who were happy to explain that the delay was caused by federal government’s cuts to the air traffic control system.  Continue reading “Thoughts by a Weary Traveller in an Airport Terminal in a Little-Bit-Fascist Country”

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This is Not a Post about Boston

This is not a post about Boston. This is not even a post, as I can barely bring myself to write about all the mourning that is demanded by 90 dead in Iraq in 3 days, 5 killed by drones in Afghanistan. And thinking about the last ten years of Occupation, and the million dead. A million. And the Nation weeps for 3. So I can’t write a post about Boston, but I can do something much better, because Asam Ahmad has written the perfect poem. 

I no longer know

how to grieve

“innocent” American victims

 

I can’t remember how

to bear my head down low

and wring my hands and nod

in agreement yes,

this was a horrific act of violence,

yes, of course, violence is never okay

 

I can no longer bear

the violence of these

ritualized gestures,

the violence

of this language of mourning

reserved only for the upstanding

Citizens of Empire;

lives vaunted

and cherished,

infinitely more valuable

than the hundreds of thousands

of brown bodies that now litter

the Middle East because America

was too hurt

or too angry

or too traumatized

to see beyond its own

misty haze of grief

 

There is too much pain in this world

and I’m afraid

I no longer remember

 

how to grieve

The Otherness of Martyrs

Last night I was speaking with Palestinian friend who grew up as a citizen of Israel, when I was viscerally overcome by the recognition of the gap that divides Palestinians living in Israel from green card Palestinians in the West Bank.

This friend went to a mixed university – Jews and Palestinians together. They were even friends with Jews – only left wing ones who refused to serve in the army. But in their classes would be zionists, soldiers getting their call on their cellphone to serve in the war against Gaza. Also in their classes were zionist students serving as spies on Palestinian professors, who would report things said in class to their political leaders, so that retribution could be threatened against any teacher who dared to speak against Israel.

But what was surprising to me, what was overwhelming, was not the thousand forms of regulation and oppression that Israel subjects its “Arab citizens” to, but the massive gap, the wall of silence, the effective class divide between someone growing up with the relative privilege of Israeli citizenship, and other Palestinians living not so many kilometers away, on the other side of the wall, in refugee camps and poor neighbourhoods. I was struck by the way this friend spoke about the poor Palestinian kids who got killed, even admitting they see them as “others”. And I couldn’t believe it when they told me that they didn’t know anyone who had been killed by the occupation. That they had been fairly “neutral” prior to the second intifada. That the focus growing up was on individual success and starting a family, not on any form of political activity. I was also heartened by talk that these were prejudices of the “old generation”, and that the youth are trying to shed these ideas and reach out to the “other”.

Continue reading “The Otherness of Martyrs”

Syria: The Sovereignty of the Revolution Lives in the Bodies of the People in Struggle

Syria. Uttered in Arabic, we hear Sou-ree-ah. What is the meaning of this word today? Its utterance produces shivers, sighs, perhaps sparks of hope along with the horror. And of course fights. There is alive in the 2.0 world of print/blog media a war of words concerning Syria – is it a revolution? is it still a revolution? what about the islamists? what about Assad’s nominal anti-imperialist stances? What about resistance against American hegemony? What about American funding of the rebellion? It might be said that it does not matter so much what is said on blogs in the West about Syria, that the revolution or rebellion continues regardless of what we think about it. But there is a universal human obligation to try to understand those things to which one is connected. And a still more universal obligation to pay witness to suffering, and to those who stand up against oppression. There is something to be learned from every rebellion, every revolution, because there is a truth in the physical manifestation of standing up against injustice. Not because this standing necessarily leads to justice, but because it opens a door, a way towards justice. Because without sacrifice, there is no justice.

Continue reading “Syria: The Sovereignty of the Revolution Lives in the Bodies of the People in Struggle”