Divide And Conquer

The reporter didn’t correct himself, forgetting to mention that the wall that Banksy addressed actually divides Palestine from itself *not* just Israel from Palestine.

The Palestinian population and its leadership are essentially unanimous in opposing the barrier. A significant number of Palestinians have been separated from their own farmlands or their places of work or study, and many more will be separated as the barriers near Jerusalem are completed. Furthermore, because of its planned route as published by the Israeli government, the barrier is perceived as a plan to confine the Palestinian population to specific areas.They state that Palestinian institutions in Abu Dis will be prevented from providing services to residents in the East Jerusalem suburbs, and that a 10-minute walk has become a 3-hour drive in order to reach a gate, to go (if allowed) through a crowded military checkpoint, and drive back to the destination on the other side.

In any event, Banksy went to town with his unique style:


He followed up the street art with a more traditional painting of Jesus & Mary unable to get to Bethlehem because of the Israeli wall:


A Perspective On Tragedy And Hope

(originally uploaded by LeggNet)

On Dying In Virginia
The Black Iris of Jordan

I was kind of shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting in Virginia Tech that has dominated western media in the past 48 hours, especially the Internet. I tend to pay close attention to how such incidents unravel in the media and the public eye. The number 30 was splashed across home pages of the BBC and CNN for quite some time and it’s just one of those things where one cannot help but take a step back and realize how important those 30 lives were. I mean for instance 30 is the new 20 in Iraq; daily bombings and slaughters inspire at least that much.

One could easily cast this aside as another orientalist view of the world: that their lives are worth more than our lives. I mean I’m sure it plays a role, after all, a day after the shooting the “30 dead” headline was replaced with “South Korean gunman,” as if origin mattered; as if this was the opportunity the US was waiting for all along to invade North Korea (because their names sound suspiciously similar). But maybe there’s more to it.

In between hoping the gunman isn’t Arab, there is a common denominator to consider.

There’s something to be said about the storm that breaks the quiet; when tranquility is disturbed and replaced with chaos, which of course inspires fear, confusion and anger.

When you’re used to chaos, more if it is simply nothing new. One becomes accustomed to death. If I turned on the TV to hear that there were no new deaths in Occupied Palestine or Iraq or Darfur, then I would rush to the window to make sure the apocalypse wasn’t being ushered in with falling meteors from the sky.

You get used to certain things.

But then Virginia isn’t Palestine.

Virginia isn’t Iraq.

And yes, an American isn’t a Palestinian, isn’t an Iraqi. If anything, the media makes sure to remind us of that time and time again.

The irony of this I suppose is that if anyone on the face of the Earth right now knows what it means to have innocent life taken from them; to know what it feels to have that tranquility disturbed, if anyone right now knows that feeling, those people are in Iraq and Palestine.

The only difference is hope.

The US seems to have plenty of it. There is always that light at the end of the tunnel; the recovery, the moving on, the getting over the initial shock, the coming to terms with it, coming to grips with it.

Here in the Middle East, hope is as scarce as water these days (i.e. roughly half a century to be more accurate). There is no getting over the shock; there’s just not enough time to recover from loss before another comes along to replace it. There are no recovery stories here. No learning-how-to-move-on tales to be told. Yesterday is today; today is tomorrow.

Hope doesn’t live here anymore.

Maybe there should be a cultural exchange: we could teach Americans a thing or two about how to deal with the shock of loss and maybe they could teach us a thing or two about hope.

Being that they control the world supply of hope: maybe they would be kind enough to just lend us some.

Just for the weekend.

30 is 30, just as 30,000 is 30,000, just as insanity is insanity.

While I fully realize I live in a much more stable world than a majority of human beings on this earth—that the chances of me or my loved ones falling victim to random acts of violence are slim at best—I still feel the need to cling to my sense of hope.

Because for me, that sense of hope isn’t relegated solely to my circle of friends, family and neighbor’s well being—it’s continuously extending outwards to people who deal with depravity and destruction on a daily basis.

This week, it’s extended to my neighbors in Virginia.

Every other week, it seems to bounce between folks caught up in the system at home and folks caught up in the violence around the world, particularly in the Middle-East and Africa.

And I know I’m not alone.

Hopefully, Nas and his neighbors will one day receive a pause from the cycle of violence to breathe in and digest this reality.


The Pursuit of Happiness

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.31.20 PM

Lovely map, eh? The warmer colors indicate a higher degree of happiness in one’s life, while the cooler colors indicate that life for certain folk isn’t what they had expected or want moving forward.

You and I would probably take these indicators as interesting fodder while we head off to purchase another video game. What would Ethan Zuckerman do? Ethan breaks down the (un)happiness of the world (on the shoulders of the original researcher, Adrian White from the University of Leicester) by analyzing the clustering of the actual data points. From that analysis, he comes up with a few interesting deductions of his own. A brilliant read.

Ethan, please remain a geek with a bunch of free time on your hands.

How Mister Rodgers Won Over Washington

The backstory:

In 1969, Mister Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about five minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs:

What do you do with the mad that you feel?
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong
And nothing you do seems very right
What do you do?
Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you can go?
It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
Can stop, stop, stop anytime
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can
For a girl can someday be a lady
And a boy can be someday a man

The chairman of the subcommittee, John O. Pastore, was not previously familiar with Rogers’ work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.” The subsequent congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.

(via neatorama)

Remembering MLK Jr And His Ministry

martin luther king jr.

From the handling of Katrina to the Sean Bell shooting, it’s a safe bet to say that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he’d still be a busy man. Now, what if he were here and once again dipped into the part of his ministry that really scared the FBI and US government — his take on US foreign policy?

What do you think his perspective would be on the Iraq occupation? Personally speaking, I don’t think he’d acquiesce to it fitting neatly within the context of the War on Terror.

From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” a speech delivered on April 4th, 1967 at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City… with a few alterations:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Iraq. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Iraq.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Iraq, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Baghdad or to the insurgents. It is not addressed to Iran or to Syria.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Iraq. Neither is it an attempt to make the Sadr loyalists or the Sunni insurgents paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Baghdad and the insurgents, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.


Listen to the complete, original speech.