Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Desiderata: a poem for all times

I was preparing to write a New Year's blog when a friend forwarded this poem to us. Nothing I can say today could be better stated than this grace and truth filled poem. Titled Desiderata, it was was written about 80 years ago by Max Ehrmann. Let'a all take these words and go fearlessly and peacefully into 2009!

Desiderata: Latin for "Things to be Desired."

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Have the Israeli's Learned Nothing?

As I read the headlines in today’s news I found my anger levels rising. I was reading a report about the Gaza attacks. It stated that 280 Palestinians had been killed and hundreds injured in retaliation for 7 deaths caused by the Palestinians with home-made devices over a two year period. In one Gaza house five young sisters were killed.  In another, six family members including four children killed while eating breakfast. And the atrocities continue.

Not surprisingly, shock is is the most common reaction from around the world, from Jews, Christians and Arabs over this brutal and horrific “retaliation”. The Israelis have been reminded from all quarters that they are keeping their Arab brothers in the same kind of conditions the Jews themselves were exposed to at the hand of the Nazis in WWII. This call to reality seems to have little impact.

How much more must the Arab world endure in favor of support to the state of Israel? For me there is no question that this entire issue has to be re-thought. This is a challenge when so little truthful information reaches the world’s ears. Case in point - Israel allowed just two UN workers to enter Gaza today to survey the damage. Meanwhile, I received file after file of photos sent from Arab sites. Not pretty. And it wasn’t much prettier before the latest violence.

Three Christmas’, Hanukkah's and Haj’s ago I was working in Israel for one month on a video project. We stayed in the homes of Jews and Palestinians. It was one of the most profound times of my life as one perception after another was torn apart by the reality that lay before us. One newfound truth was that the new city of Jerusalem (as opposed to the walled ancient city at the interior of the metropolitan area) was much like any American city in that the primary focus of Hanukkah was not religious rites, rather holiday sales at the Jerusalem Mall. That’s when I learned that 60% of the Israeli population were agnostic. This was told to us by our Jewish hosts. My belief that Israel was created for purposes of religious freedom was blown.

Belief number two - Palestinians are a bomb tossing, violent and unsophisticated people. That’s what I had seen and read in American publications.

As we walked through the gate at The Wall into the Palestinian city of Ramallah, my entire body burst into tears. I had no idea the Palestinian people were living as caged animals and treated in such an inhumane way. People who were kind, soft spoken and generous to us and each other had endured this treatment for several decades. All of the Palestinian men we met had been in and out of Israeli jails, some beginning at the age of 5. For what? For throwing stones at tanks that razed their homes and at soldiers who rounded up, and, in some cases, killed their loved ones. It’s like a fish barrel with Israeli guns trained on the Palestinians all the time.

Our American host had told of us of an earlier visit to Ramallah when Israelis in military garb opened fire on people on the street for no apparent reason. The Arabs simply said, “This is normal.” Our host was nearly shot in one of the events. The next day we caught a young Israeli soldier high above the Damascus gate entrance to the Old City pretending to shoot his real machine gun into the crowd of Arabs below who were shopping and going about their day - like a child with a new toy gun. He ducked when he realized he had been seen.

And the ugliness of the terrain. The Palestinians are great lovers of beauty, in architecture, art, rug making and so forth. One way to demoralize those who love beauty is to deny access to it. Toward this end, the Israelis uprooted the trees, more than a million of them, in the Palestinian territories and took them to Israeli land, leaving behind the most desolate of landscapes. Bulldozed and bullet-ridden homes with not a living thing in site. I have seen poverty and lack in third world countries over the last 3 decades, but I have never seen anything as unconscionable as this. And they have no right to protest and fight for their rights, their lives?

I think the world is finally on to this one. How long must everyone else pay for what happened to the Jews 60+ years ago? Of all people. You would think that WWII would at least have taught that to inflict inhumane suffering on a people simply because of their race is completely unacceptable. Now the Israelis are among the world’s worst perpetrators. It’s hard remain silent over this one any longer. Let the Anti Defamation League come after us all, we must all speak our truth now because the people behind barbed wire need our help.

Meanwhile, it’s been whispered behind the scenes from some of our interviewees with inside connections to the Pentagon and beyond that the goal is to start another World War. The economy is doomed and this is the classic solution - war. But, every war needs a trigger point. Is that what we’re looking at? I hope for all our sakes it isn’t.