Sunday, August 14, 2005

History

Is written by all of us.

Pay attention, folks. Some things that I have been watching since I was 11 are taking place right now. As an American, I yearn for the world to embrace our American Dream of freedom coupled with justice. I believe with my deepest faith, that such is the most important pursuit of humankind. As a Southerner, I feel the call of partisanism and self determination, a love of home above all things and an attachment to the land into which my roots are buried. Steeped as I am in Irish ancestry, those rebel instincts become more pronounced. As a Christian, I am drawn to my sisters and brothers of the Books, and I wonder why the sibling faiths of the West must fight each other so brutally. As a Catholic I try to understand the deepest meanings of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the need to give such as well as recieve. As a Historian, or one who fancies himself such, I look at the world with a certain sentiment, and I wonder what I will live through that will later be written about in history books.

I will always remember the Giants of my childhood: Reagan, Thatcher, Gorbachev and John Paul II. I will think often of those who did not stand as tall: Rabin, Mandela, Yeltsin, Clinton, O'Connor. And I remember so many events, usually the bad things, sometimes the good, burned into my memory as if by hot irons: The Challenger falling from the sky, and how you could see it from Georgia; the man in Tiannenmen Square; the Berlin Wall falling like Jericho; Oklahoma City; Mogadishu; Rwanda; our planes over Sarajevo and Belgrade; watching Columbine from the Creswell Hall lobby; September 11th, and how I recieved the news by David Terhune's phone call, and how we had to drive into town to watch the news at the Tate Center.

History is written while we watch, and today something else happened. It could be huge, it could just be a footnote. I've been thinking about it for as long as I can remember. Come of it good or ill, its going down right now. Don't miss it, just realize its there. One day, you may want to tell your kids that you remember when Israel pulled out of Gaza. And just like that, the world was changed.

It is articles like these that I read Newsweek. It is long, so I pulled some of the more important quotes, and shall give my commentary.

The vast majority of Israelis don't want trouble. They live comfortable lives in a modern industrial state, and enjoy the benefits of a vibrant economy that is growing at a healthy rate of 4 percent. The country's coastal high-tech corridor is flush with venture capital. After a four-year Palestinian uprising, Western tourists have begun to return. Even under threat from the occasional suicide bomber, Tel Aviv's outdoor cafes are packed full this summer.

During a summer marked by tumult and protest, it is easy to forget these other Israelis, soaking up the sun on the beaches of Tel Aviv, guiding strollers through the cypress-lined avenues of West Jerusalem. They don't want to guard Jewish outposts in Gaza or Hebron. They seek a democratic nation that is stable and wealthy, modern and, perhaps above all, "normal."

Keret's short stories are filled with antiheroes. There are no brave Maccabees, no swashbuckling warriors. Instead, his sketches dramatize the mundane details of daily life. "When you wake up in the morning," he says, "before you've had your first cup of coffee, what you think about is not, Why isn't there a Palestinian state? You say, 'Why doesn't my girlfriend love me?' Or 'I hope somebody didn't steal my car.' "

Almost 40 years of military occupation have soured many Israelis on the dream of Greater Israel anyway; they're aware that what is a "dream" for Israelis has been a nightmare for Palestinians. Dovish Israelis are morally exhausted by the occupation, and embarrassed. "I feel that we have done the most terrible things [by building settlements]," says author A. B. Yehoshua. Does he feel any sense of loss—even a twinge—over surrendering Gaza? "On the contrary," he says. "I feel relief."

Sounds pretty reasonable, unfortunately, we've also got these guys:

Fundamentalist passions, on the other hand, are persistent. And it takes only a few fanatics to ignite them. The Camp David accords in the 1970s produced Rabbi Meir Kahane and his band of extremists. The assassination of Rabin followed 1993's Oslo accords. This summer, a televised video of black-clad Jewish radicals issuing a pulsa denura (Aramaic for "lashes of fire")—a kabbalistic "death curse" directed at Sharon—transfixed Israeli audiences. ("When does it take effect?" Sharon reportedly cracked.)

But that's the case everywhere. Keep this in mind, however: if reasonable people ran the world, we'd be better off. Some folks, those who become fundamentalists for any faith or belief, will always try to keep us from enjoying the beach. Those individuals will always try to keep us from our outdoor cafes. Those individuals will always try to divide and conquer those of us who just want to pay rent, grab a beer or coffee, and maybe raise a coupla kids before we go.

We've got those fundamentalists here too, they just use TV instead of guns. I thank God for that, but the message is the same. I always wonder how long it will be before the next Oklahoma City.

I don't like seeing this wave of fundamentalism that is sweeping/has swept the globe, especially in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To me, we seem to be moving backwards. We seem to think the Dark Ages are something to aspire to. I'm usually the guy who says to folks "there has always been strife," "there have always been crazies." There have. It just seems to me that recently, we've broken down on our Pax Americana consensus: education is a good thing, laws are good things, jobs are good things.

Faith is something to aspire to, absolutism is not.

Just in case any of y'all have forgotten why that is, let me toss y'all a little historical reminder from our Grandparents' time. This is what can happen when ideology becomes the most important deciding factor in how you behave. Never forget history. Never forget where we've come from. We do not want to walk back down that path.

2 comments:

Meredith said...

That was a good post.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Thank you, email it to all yo' frens.