I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of the petulant children of the Middle East. In years past, I was equally disgusted with folks in Northern Ireland, where at least I have some sort of link through heredity. But in the case of the Middle East, I have no real interest in that part of the world, no particular appreciation for their culture, and it’s not my Holy Land. So, when I get fed up with hearing about how these people cannot get along with other, there’s a part of me that just doesn’t give a damn.
During the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I gave up on watching CNN, which offered nothing but round the clock coverage from Gaza for the better part of a week. MSNBC is not much better. Here it is weeks after the election and they are still raking Mitt Romney over the coals. And forget about Fox. If I want fantasy, I figure I can always tune into the Sci-Fi channel.
Anyway, I thought CNN’s coverage of the situation was excessive. I suppose I resent how the players in that part of the world can so easily hold the rest of us hostage to their drama. I wonder, too, about the enormous focus on terrorism and its agents. I know that on one hand they pose a real danger, but on the other, aren’t we just giving them what they want more than anything: attention?
I don’t know if many others feel the same way, but I have found one, Jonathan Freedland, who wrote in the Guardian:
Israelis and Palestinians seem fated to keep bleeding, locked in a battle that drags on and on, perhaps till the end of time?
And through it all is the weariness: of those living – and dying – in the conflict most of all, but also of those drawn into it somehow. I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides and, sometimes especially, with their cheerleaders abroad.
So yes, I’m weary of those who get so much more exercised, so much more excited, by deaths in Gaza than they do by deaths in, say, Syria.”
Weariness aside, there are a few things in Freedland’s post, and other similar articles I’ve read recently, that bother me. For one thing, I wonder when people are going to get excited (not quite the right word) by deaths in Burma, Columbia, Somali, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Papua, and Tibet? All places outside the Middle East where military conflicts, or repression, are ongoing, some for decades now.
Secondly, I feel it’s easy to blame political leaders. To some extent, leaders are reflections of the people they represent. Here in the U.S., everyone hates Congress but we keep choosing the same folks to represent us. Until we change, Congress will not change. The same principle holds for the Middle East. The people need to change.
An Israeli spokesman said “We don’t hate Arabs.” I don’t believe that for a moment. These people, both Arab and Israeli, are bred to hate.
When I lived in New Orleans, I saw firsthand how prejudice against blacks was handed down through generations. It started at the dinner table or on the church steps after Sunday worship. The adults would make “coon” jokes or some other disparaging remarks about blacks, and the kids would pick up on those thoughts and feelings and adopt them. It was very natural. But I didn’t think like that. I was from the North and grew up in an environment that was supportive of the civil right movement. If I suggested to any of my friends who were born and raised in the South that they were prejudiced, they’d deny it. Their state of denial was as deep-seated as their bigotry was.
No one has to stick with negative attitudes. When a person becomes an adult and is exposed to information that dismantles prejudice, and they refuse to accept it, then hate becomes a choice. People can stop hating and stop passing hatred on to their children.
False beliefs cause some individuals to think there is a fundamental difference between themselves and others. However, the differences they see are superficial, illusory: ethnicity, religion, nationality, political affiliation, language – all are inconsequential in the larger view. Fear, too, has a role to play. People hold on to hate because they fear they have something to lose.
In Buddhism, we call this lack of understanding “ignorance.” It may take thousands of years before all people can dispel the ignorance that binds them to hate and prejudice. Understanding by a single person can help move us toward that future time. Making a choice not to hate by a single person can make a difference.
“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank, victim of the Holocaust