Friday, January 23, 2009

Why, Ach Sheli?

I watched an episode of Star Trek – Enterprise yesterday in which the Vulcans, or rather, the ruling Vulcan government, had become illogically warlike, preying even on elements of their own society. The faction in question had determined that the society was flawed, intolerant, evermore warlike, and had strayed irrevocably from the logical peaceful past they had arrived at after nuclear war had almost destroyed them a couple thousand years back.

This show is old, and so I am sure there is no way that the writers thereof could have been thinking about modern Israel, but the similarities struck me as quite poignant.

I have always been sympathetic to the state, even if the inception there of, post WW II, was rather hawkish. Simply put, the things that this people had been put through in history more or less justified the means in my mind.

I have felt that way right up until the last couple of years, and now, I am not so sure. I have Israeli friends, so I believe I have not spoken out about my feelings predominantly because of that fact. I have friends in the IDF who are fighting as I write. I am sorry for that. I am sorry that their government has placed them in the middle of this.

The war perpetrated on the people of Gaza is unexplainable to me. I know that having rockets launched at you can bring one to the breaking point, but this kind of response seems so out of proportion it's mind boggling...

Today I listened to a Human Rights Watch spokesperson describe how he, first hand, had toured houses where white phosphorus rounds had been used on civilians by the IDF. Do you have any idea what that type of shell does? WP spontaneously combusts in the atmosphere when the shell explodes. It produces horrific chemical burns that will burrow through a body. If you live, the burns you have will be deep and incredibly painful. The HRW employee noted that the shell had “Melted a father and four small children” in one home he had toured, while IDF soldiers sat outside on a tank, eating potato chips. That kind of image just makes my heart ache - No one, especially good people, should grow so callous.

What has the Israeli government become? The IDF has struck marked UN safe havens, hospitals, schools, and many, many civilians. I don’t believe that the average citizen of Gaza is any more responsible for the troubles than the average Israeli citizen is responsible for persecuting Arabs. I cannot believe that both don't want, first and foremost, to live in peace.

My greatest heartache comes because it appears that the oppressed have become an oppressor of epic and terrible proportions. It is Old Testament eye for an eye logic employed in a crowded and complex 21st Century world, and no one seems able or willing to stop it.

Gandhi said that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. I am afraid that right now, in the Middle East, almost nobody can see, and the world is growing rapidly darker.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

I am a WASP, a word that I don’t see used very much anymore. It stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and that’s what I am. My genealogy is predominantly English, with Scots, Dutch, Welsh mixed in. The books entitled Atwater Genealogy and History, of which there are five or six, states therein, “David Atwater, one of the original planters of New Haven, Connecticut, came from London and settled in New Haven in 1638: All in America who bear the name of Atwater are descendants of David. None have yet been found whose lineage could not be traced to him." So there you have it. The three generations preceding John all lived and died in Royton, Lenham, county Kent, in England.

My family’s ancestors in this country probably owned slaves; there are instances where the evidence points pretty solidly to that fact, and there are instances where Atwaters were staunch abolitionists and assisted in the underground railway.

I was raised in Concord, Mass, in a liberal education system where one of the earliest inner city busing programs dropped kids from Boston’s rough areas at our little suburban schools every day. I grew up in a privileged town, yes, but was surrounded by friends who were every color of the rainbow. I thought that was the way things were supposed to be and I still feel that way today.

I am sure I have biases and prejudices, in fact I know I do, but frankly, race superiority, at least as I am able to understand and act upon it, ain’t one of them. I am of the opinion that whatever amends and restitution Black Americans and Native Americans ask for ought to be granted; there is no excuse for how they were treated, and that’s a fact. A formal apology, funding, exceptional access to the privileges of education and work, whatever it takes is fair for my mind.

So today, although I do not come from a minority experience and do not know what this day means to such people, I am proud indeed to be an American. I never, ever thought this day would come. There is much wrong with our country, and as President Obama said in his acceptance speech for the nomination, fixing it won’t get done in a year or a term. But the fact that I can today write the words ‘President Barack Obama’ is an amazing, wonderful, momentous and truly astounding thing.

I have great hope and faith in the people of this country; it has been our government that I had neither for, for many years now. My hope and faith in our government has been restored, and I wish to do what I can to make sure those sentiments are not wasted.

God bless America and the rest of the world. Let us work to make things right.