Sunday, July 16, 2006

On choosing sides

In a nutshell: I don't care who's killing whom over what. People should not be killing each other.

Recent events in the Middle East have nudged my normally cheerful wife into a funk. Sometimes she's cranky, too, but she attributes this to my asking her how she's doing before the coffee is even made. I should know better, I suppose. But anyway, even before this latest game of "let's bomb the crap out of each other!" she seemed a lot more supportive of the Palestinians than of the Israelis.

Now, my wife is quite Christian and I'm (at least culturally) Jewish. So, as you might imagine, we have a lot of interesting discussions even when people aren't bombing the crap out of each other. As a (cultural) Jew I feel a great deal of pressure to side with Israel, no matter who the other party happens to be. Do I think Israel ought to remain a country? Sure. Do I think Israel is always right? No. Some might say this makes me a bad Jew. I say it's just awfully arbitrary to decide it's okay for Group A to attack Group B, but not for B to attack A.

I have heard pro-Israel folks describe Palestinians as terrorists, and I have heard pro-Palestinian folks describe Israelis as state-sponsored terrorists. Okay. If you are going to go out and bomb some civilians or their infrastructure just to say "Hey, what's up? We don't like you and hope you all die. Have a nice day!" then what does it matter who sponsors the weapons? It's still bombing the crap out of people. And bombing the crap out of people is not cool.

When I was in the third grade, the district was in the process of moving all the elementary students from the old historic Chancellor Street schoolhouse to the newly renovated (read: bigger, more accessible, uglier) Goodnoe Elementary. That year there were six third-grade classes--four at Goodnoe, and two at Chancellor Street--and we were assigned based on where we lived, rather than the usual luck of the draw. School-age territoriality being what it is, Mrs. Hintenlang's class occupied one half of the Chancellor Street cafeteria, and Mrs. Parent's class took the other. We knew food fights were strictly prohibited, so we tried to intimidate our peers by proclaiming in our outdoor voices, "We're gonna bomb Mrs. Parent's class back to the Stone Age!" None of us really knew what this meant, bombing back to the Stone Age, but it sounded fairly ominous... and besides, we knew that Mrs. Hintenlang's class was inherently superior to Mrs. Parent's class anyway.

Mrs. Hintenlang's classroom and Mrs. Parent's classroom were actually a single huge classroom with an accordion divider down the middle. Mrs. Hintenlang's side was slightly bigger, so we hosted the grade-wide activities, like the ghost stories at Halloween. This one kid in our class, who eventually got sent to military school, used that event to show off his machismo. He positioned himself out of sight of the teachers and passed his finger back and forth through a candle flame, grinning like a madman. We all knew he was completely bonkers and that it was only a matter of time before he was expelled to military school. But he got special dispensation because he was One of Us. If Mrs. Parent's class had a problem with him, any of the rest of us, or our turf, we would just bomb them back to the Stone Age, and don't say we didn't warn you.

All the bombing-the-crap-out-of-people that's going on now in the Middle East reminds me of the (completely arbitrary) Hintenlang-Parent rivalry. Only this time, people are being bombed back to the Stone Age. On both sides. And that, as previously stated, is not cool.

I don't choose sides because I don't think either is less reprehensible than the other. My grandmother doesn't seem to want to choose sides, either, and this makes me feel good because she's been around a lot longer than I have. My grandmother says that people need to realize that they don't get to decide who gets the land and who doesn't, who lives and who dies, who's right and who's wrong. All of this, she says, is up to G-d. And if people succeed in destroying everything, then maybe G-d will just find another planet, plunk down another Adam and Eve, and hope the outcome is better.

In the meantime, though, this madness has got to stop.

1 comment:

CWBK said...

I am so with you on this one, SWGB! ...and I have also been in something of a funk like Heather has been, too. The part that pulls at my heartstrings the most are the people who are just trying to live their day-to-day lives and happen to get a missle in their backyard, just because some wackos like fire and don't like the kids in the other class. I just wish we were talking about smoke bombs and bandaids and not missles and casualties. It makes me just sick.

And I think you are a great (cultural) Jew because you are thinking about the issue and not just going with what history has dictated. Wish we were in the same city so we could get together over coffee and chat about it!! I MISS YOU GUYS!!