July 20th, 2010
Readers are directed to this post introducing three NY Times columns about seemingly unrelated issues. However, there is certainly a common thread to be seen. If we connect the dots between Kristoff’s views and suggestions about the Middle East with the latest local ‘star’ scandal surrounding Mel Gibson, you see a pattern emerging of huMan reasoning gone awry.
Many Americans learn their history through movies and animated Disney films about our pasts. It has led us to celebrate victories. Violent acts become crime dramas and ‘movies-of-the-week’, to be replayed over and over again. People enjoyed the sight of (attractive) heroes and heroines triumphing over evil. They were often vanquished by evil warlords but animated people could be shot, stabbed and fall off cliffs and still be reconstituted with a dash of water. Those who weren’t animated, all had medical insurance and would eventually recover from their comas.
Unfortunately, humans are not that resilient and survivors of violence (or merely violent times) often pass on little more than their traumas to future generations. Triumphant and tragic events are both remembered and oral knowledge eventually becomes archived as history. However the repetitive facts and themes contained in the history of men are transformed into mythology. Belief replaces facts and cannot easily be fought with reason. As women have only been rarely accounted for in recorded history, at least outside of mythology, I refer to the subject as huMan history – which tells a story all its own.
Most of the triumphs in historical records of one group are actually tragedies in the records of another. For some reason, success is equated with victory, meaning one can only advance at some cost to another with violence usually in evidence somewhere along the way. The error is actually one of reasoning. We regard each circle of aggression and defense as a closed chapter in group or individual histories. The allies won a war in 1942. A man was executed for killing another man. A wife left an abusive husband . None of these circles have been completed because history has been mistaken as something which is part of the past. The allies have since met the same evil occur within and between countries and executions, oddly, did not appear to deter other murders. Women return to abusive men when they realize they have no other way to raise their children without neglecting vital aspects of their health and safety regarding food, housing, supervision and medical care. Sometimes it is the mythology about two parents always being preferable to one.
HuMan history doesn’t repeat itself but merely continues. How we view history is key in many conflicts where mythology has replaced reason and is used to justify any amount of brutality. “Who did what to whom first?”, is a never ending question huMans ask one another. This first column by Kristoff, “Burrowing Through A Blockade”, attempts to remove huMan history from the equation entirely. He optimistically called for an end to memories of injustices on all sides, yet never addresses the nature of the participants involved. Change requires an alteration of more than circumstances. It calls for a huMan revolution of beliefs about the past and new ways of viewing progress as something other than winning which ensures a loser. Seeking a victory instead of a draw in which all coexist to the detriment of none is the temporary fix we are all condemned to replay. As long as only victories count, huMan history will continue as it is at present.
My posted comment was as follows:
July 4th, 2010
Dear Mr. Kristoff,
Having just read your latest piece about the Middle East, I take issue with your recommendation to “… start over again.”. This is a form of wishful thinking that perpetuates violence around the globe. People tire of repetitive cycles of egregious harm done to various groups, be it to women or entire cultures in genocidal acts. Rather than persevere through the complexities of ending such evil, everyone wants to first wipe these dirtiest of slates ‘clean’.
The problem with recognizing an entity like Hamas must begin with their own stated goals. Have you looked at their charter? I recommend you seek out a person fluent and literate in Arabic to objectively review it. You should also review the failure of the former ruling party, the PLO, to make changes to their charter stating their intentions to destroy Israel until the late 1990s. Such provisions in their charter existed even after the Oslo Accords (I and II) in the early portions of that decade.
How do you ask any nation to negotiate with others whose stated intention is your eradication? The assumption of ‘good faith’ in such negotiations is not just ‘silly’ but ‘suicidal’. The Palestinians will always be deprived of political legitimacy until a governing body dedicates itself to the transformation of that territory into a nation able to respect the standing of other, non-Islamic nations in the world community. We must not mistake the offering of relief to a beleaguered populace as offering legitimacy to its rulers.
Humans suffer under governmental mandates to pursue bad policies. The US went bankrupt pursuing war in Iraq on pretenses of weapons of mass destruction being stockpiled there. Military and civilian casualties in that effort will remain a permanent blot on our record forever, which could not be halted for many years despite protests by citizens free to speak out about the issue. Who can speak in repressive environments by voice or vote? Our July 4th celebration of our Constitution is useless if we allow any of our temporary elected leaders to violate its written provisions.
Slates, like memories, cannot be wiped clean. Slates must boast written proof of current beliefs and future intentions regarding their principles and methods for governing. Aspiring governments must acknowledge that they will be taking their place among a community of nations with diverse beliefs.
Note: A tag of feminism was added to this post since the eradication of women from much of history is symptomatic of the denial which is the basis for so much huMan misery as we see in the next two posts.