November 16, 2015 Leave a comment
What happened to that light-hearted look at growing old? my friends ask about this blog. It doesn’t quite seem to be light-hearted on the infrequent days I manage to post. What has happened?
Am I less happy than I was on about October 25 (the last time I really wrote a piece for this blog)? Probably not. The not-too-well-kept secret is that I’ve always had something of a struggle to have anything approaching a sunny disposition.
Somewhere about February 15 (exactly February 15) of this year I decided to begin a blog dedicated to gathering bits of news from Palestinian online news sites and publishing a little digest of some I think are interesting or important. Yes, my bias shows absolutely (. . . some I think are interesting. . .) I don’t know if anyone either in Palestine or anywhere else would agree that they are the most important things to repost.
I wish I could remember why I began that blog. One of the joys of old age: I forget more than I remember these days. I should write a light-hearted blog post about that. But there are thousands of such writings by senescent beings out there.
Perhaps I don’t remember because it was nine months ago, and the impetus for my starting the project was some little event or idea that I couldn’t ignore.
And then, for another reason I can’t quite remember, on or about October 1, I decided to go to Palestine for the third time in this century. I signed up to go on the Fall Witness Visit of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. I had been thinking about returning to East Jerusalem and the West Bank (particularly Bethlehem) for a long time, and when I discovered two old acquaintances would be on the Sabeel Visit, I decided to plunk down the money and get myself over there.
I love Palestine.
I don’t think Israel is much to brag about. French Hill is sort of like a wannabe Bushwick in Brooklyn, or a suburb of Dallas, or any other 21st-century materialistic city. That’s no wonder because it has been built mostly by Americans and others whose lives are controlled by acquiring stuff and self-centered modernity. And also, as nearly as I can figure, by Tea Party types. They might on the whole be better educated and more sophisticated than American Tea Partiers, but they think pretty much the same. Damn! Do I speak in unsupportable and unforgivable generalities, or what?
Palestine, on the other hand, is about as real and interesting a place as you can find. It’s poor and rich, old and young, liberal and conservative, political and apolitical (well, not many apolitical folks), and the Palestinians have too much invested in just trying to stay alive and keep body, mind, soul, and their society together to be interested in any Bushwick or French Hill kind of existence.
Take a young woman from Ramallah who has managed to get a job in Jerusalem. I heard this story last week in Jerusalem. I may have the cities or other specific details wrong, but the story is correct. She is a Palestinian Israeli, born in and a resident of Jerusalem, one of those folks who is caught in a no-person’s land. She made the mistake of marrying the man she loves, who happens to be from Ramallah. She moved there and soon had two sons. Then she found a job in Jerusalem that paid more than any job available in the Occupied Territories. So she now lives in Jerusalem and cannot see her husband and sons because they do not have Jerusalem residency permits. He works as a truck driver and can come to Jerusalem for work, but he has to be out of Israel by 7 PM each evening, and he cannot bring his sons into the city because they were born in the Occupied Territories.
Once in a while he manages to hide at his wife’s apartment overnight, but if he ever gets caught, that will be the end (of lots of things). She can only VERY seldom go to Ramallah because she is a resident of Jerusalem, and those privileges have been virtually taken away for all Palestinian Israelis. She wants to be with her sons. She has petitioned the government of Israel either to be allowed to go to Ramallah regularly or have her children with her in Jerusalem. The official answer? If you want to be with your children, divorce your husband.
This family struggles daily simply to keep themselves together (literally). They are not much worried that “Unique Clothing Is Taking The Fashion World By Storm.” Really, they’re not. Having dinner together this weekend and hugging each other is right at the top of their priority list.
My light-hearted writing about the pitfalls (or just falls—I did it again in Palestine; not to worry, I’ve put the cane away for the second time) of getting older really seems kinda silly at this point. It seems to me that anyone who is not depressed about the situation Palestine, in Syria, in Yemen, in Paris, in . . . has simply capitulated to a materialism that is the same in Bushwick Brooklyn or French Hill Jerusalem.
I have proposed that the second beatitude, “blessed are those who mourn,” offers an apt metaphor for depressive resistance in the age of global neoliberalism. Those who mourn, the depressed, are blessed insofar as they bear witness to the veiled oppression of today’s global hegemony. The concealment of this subjugation is made more complete by a contemporary strategy in which depression is turned into an illness, thus silencing its political importance. (Rogers-Vaughn, Bruce. “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: Depression As Political Resistance.” Pastoral Psychology 63.4 (2014): 503-522.)
One difference between Bushwick and French Hill is, of course, that the genocide in Brooklyn in the name of materialist hegemony was accomplished 400 years ago, while that in French Hill is ongoing.
“THE SEAGULL AND THE NEGATION OF NEGATION,” BY FADWA TUQAN
It crossed the horizon and cleft the darkness,
Mastering the blue, darting on wings of light―
Twisting, turning and still turning.
It knocked at my dark window, and the gasping silence quivered:
“Bird, is it good news you bring?”
It divulged its secret, yet breathed not a word,
And the seagull disappeared.
Bird, my sea-bird, I know now
That during hard times, standing in the tunnel of silence,
All things change.
The seed sprouts even within the heart of the dead,
Morning bursts forth from darkness.
I know now,
As I hear horses galloping the call of death along the shores,
That when the flood comes,
The world will be cleansed of its sorrows.
Bird, my sea-bird, rising from the depths of darkness,
God’s blessing upon you for the good news you bring.
For I know now
Something happened . . . the horizon parted and the house greeted the light of day.
About Fadwa Tuqan.
From THE PALESTINIAN WEDDING: A BILINGUAL ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY PALESTINIAN RESISTANCE POETRY. Ed. and Trans. A. M. Elmessiri. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011. Reprint from Three Continents Press, Inc., 1982. Available from Palestine Online Store.