Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bizarre Love Triangle

The other day I commuted up to Berkeley to see my friend Tom. The last time I'd seen him was at the protest at the Jewish National Fund building in Jerusalem. Gila had introduced me to him, but we never got to really formally meet, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see what the Berkeley activist scene is like.

In the end we got some Turkish food and knafe downtown, which was fine by me! We talked about Israel and Palestine for a good three hours straight. It was the same with Khader and Danielle, I just couldn't shut up. Tom is researching for a massive report on settler states and how they justify ethnic cleansing while it happens. I found that really interesting, and made a mental note to dig up that video I have of Janice in Al Aqaba, talking about her discovery of ethnic cleansing in Australia. She told me that a guy in Germany asked her where she was from, and when she said Australia, he said, "well, you don't treat your indigenous people very well!" And she was taken aback. She didn't really know any indigenous people. And thus began a long career of community service.

The words "community service" have become so meaningless. Now it just sounds like a punishment. hmmm.

While I was on my way to see Tom I had an incredible BART journey. It began in Millbrae, which was nice and sunny and clear, then as we emerged from the tunnel, the city of San Francisco was shrouded in this post-apocolyptic fog. I'd never seen anything like it. I've seen a lot of overcast Seattle days, but this was just...eerie.

Then the BART crossed the bay and we emerged out of the fog into Oakland, and it was perfectly clear once again. I actually paid attention to Oakland this time. It looked...spiffy. The sun was setting, and bouncing off the downtown buildings in a really colorful, brilliant way.

Seeing a beautiful looking city never made me feel so sad. I tried to collect in my mind all the things people had told me about Oakland. It's a shit-hole, you're going to get shot, just...don't bother going to Oakland. Not really worth it.'re better off not going.

I thought of all the AmeriCorps volunteers at our mid-year conferences, talking about the schools they taught at in neighborhoods that had been similarly labeled. No doubt there was some truth to the labels. But New Orleans had the highest murder rate in the country, and you wouldn't think it by the looks of us. We were the proudest of all AmeriCorps groups, just beaming with the energy and light that that city gave us. 

Lafcadio Hearn said that "it's better to live in New Orleans in sackcloth and ashes then to own the entire state of Ohio." Haha, sorry Ohio...

Anyways, I'd benefited a lot from those conferences. But apparently we didn't have a group from Oakland, because all the bad things people said about it stuck on me. I was ashamed to still be surprised by this, because I'd prided myself on going to places that give other people pause. I just like to that kind of place. To find the challenges, and the inspiration, and the comforts, and share the good news. 

When my friend Nina started posting pictures on Facebook of her life in South Sudan, I had the same reaction..."wow, there are like, other foreigners, and restaurants, and a fun-looking community." She wasn't just riding around in jeeps from hut to hut, dodging bullets. How had I come to that conclusion, while being so aware of the stereotypes of Palestine, and trying so actively to show positive images?

It's been a long journey, and a lot of people never really get to draw these conclusions. I guess 25 isn't bad.

I remember thinking towards the end of my stay in the West Bank, how I considered Gaza. It was partly other people's opinions, but a lot of it was testimony and news and images, it scared me, honestly. But I have seen photographers post beautiful photos of life in Gaza, and I know a handful of people who've been there. I think I'd like it. Someday. 

That's coming to me because of the Rachel Corrie trial verdict. The judge in Haifa ruled that her death was 100% her responsibility, because she had entered a war-zone, and the IDF did a commendable job with the investigation. My friend from Jerusalem actually posted this in response to Cindy Corrie's Seattle Times Op-Ed: What Rachel Did Not Know About the ISM

I'd read it before, I've read a lot of StandWithUs stuff. This nugget in particular just epitomizes willful ignorance. If you try really, really hard to not learn anything about Rachel Corrie, even though her life and legacy and family are fairly visible, I still can't understand how they pump out that garbage.

She was a smart, compassionate human being. Or a gullible little puppet terrorist sympathizer? I feel so bad for people who don't even seem to try to err toward the former.

But it's not worth wasting too much time over those people. There are much more productive things to do.


I'm really into this song right now. It came on my Twin Shadows Pandora station while I was doing some film editing, and I got goosebumps. There's an acoustic version on YouTube, and I will learn it.

While I was driving from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara a few weeks ago, I had this yearning to accumulate a humongous repertoire of 80's acoustic covers. That could be my party trick. I have "King of Wishful Thinking." Kryie Eleison would be fun, and Man in Motion. The songs aren't that complex, but that's a lot of chords to memorize....still. A fun endeavor.