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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inaction and complicity- Sierra Leone, Israel Palestine

There have been a few instances this week in which I have thought about this topic, so I guess I'll pour it out here.

Today, I was talking about the conflict with someone and they mentioned that it would never end, so why would a Palestinian who lived here and had it pretty good want to go back home and be hassled at every turn? On the one hand, I can see that, but stepping onto someone else's shoes brings a few issues to mind. First, we are free to move wherever we want, so we generally don't think too much of moving. If someone banished you or made your life increasingly miserable in the area your family has lived for hundreds of years, moving would be giving up and giving in to injustice, not simply a choice of job or climate. I mean, why should Palestinians be the ones who had to move out because of what Hitler did. Like when not so long ago white people in this country wanted black people to move out of certain neighborhoods. It could be dangerous, but it could be necessary depending on what you want to leave your children, what you want to teach them, etc. Maybe if you stay, you can be a part of some solution or future justice served. If you move, you will be safe, but can no longer be a fact on the ground for Israel and the international community to face.

In the past, I have thought about getting more involved in activism. How far would I go? Obviously, I've only written some letters and gone to one protest, so I've made my choice- armchair activism. I have thought about what danger I could bring to my family or myself before that. What are the dangers of putting a bumper sticker on? Of going to a protest? Of standing in front of an (American made) Israeli bulldozer. Of monitoring voting in Palestinian election? Would it be selfish of me to bring harm to those I love in order to persue justice for Palestinians- whether they agree with the cause or not? Even though I'm not Palestinian myself I feel the injustice deeply for whatever reason. The fact that one party is so wrong and yet so supported and loved is mind boggling to me. My country is supposed to be all about equality and justice and I just can't see why we're always on the wrong side on this.

I also asked myself this question when worries started circulating about the government watching what you read via the library and being able to subpoena your history without your knowledge. I read a lot on politics, the Middle East and some on terrorism and Islamic extremism, so I was a little worried and thought maybe I should stay away from the library at least while Bush was in office. I finally decided if this was true and as bad as some report I heard, I'd be almost happy to serve a prison term for simply reading a book. I'd view it as military service in the draft.

This week I also listenend to a Diane Rehm Show featuring Aminatta Forna and she said something that really hit the nail on the head. I may have to read her books, but anyway... She was talking about her family's experience in Sierra Leone. Her father studied abroad and married and had kids. She was raised in Sierra Leone and told about how her family was watched and in so much danger (her father was killed in prison) because her father ran against the man who would introduce the one party state.

She said that people told her (and this is a very rough transcription):

"It's a shame your father got involved. I kept thinking how can you
say that? Surely that's what everybody should have done. And if
everybody had, this would be a completely different country."

Her new book is apparently about those people who did nothing and at what point doing nothing makes you complicit. Another interesting dilemma.

She talks with a woman whose parents she interviewed for another book. The woman gets angry about how her parents didn't do anything and her father defended himself this way:

"I had five children. How could I? I couldn't do anything else."

Interestingly, Forna's father, who died opposing dictatorship, could have defended his actions with the same words, Forna said.

I thought that was a brilliant way to illustrate the two sides of the coin in this conflict and also the Israeli Palestinian one.

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