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American Responsibility and Palestine
Something about Palestine is an ego trip for a white girl. You have delusions of grandeur, that you will arrive on the scene and the Palestinians will have parades and cry "Peace! Oh, yes, peace at last." You fee you can keep people safe because you are an American with Inalienable Rights, that Nobody can do Anything to you, that people will listen to you because you are a Westerner with access to powerful and rich people. You come here half expecting that you will end the occupation single-handedly. You believe soldiers will listen to you, will obey your orders because, after all, you have paid for their guns and jeeps and military-issued boxer briefs.
Some of the Palestinians believe this, too, that you have magic keys, a mystical power to open checkpoints and minds and stop bulldozers from destroying their homes. They ask you "Please talk to them." They ask you this while holding their babies, they ask you to explain to the men with guns that they are sick and cannot wait in line in the hot sun. They ask you to bring medicine from America, to help them build factories, to talk to George Bush and tell him how much they are suffering. They ask you to speak to the American people, all 200 million of them, to tell them to stop sending tax money to the American government, who is sending the money to the Israeli government, who is sending the money to Palestinians in care packages of bullets and rockets and monster bulldozers.
And you become sick with guilt because you know it is your responsibility to help with these things, because you know it is being done in your name and with your money, but mostly it is your responsibility because you try to be a good human being and when people are suffering you believe this is wrong and you want it to stop. You know that if you were a Palestinian–and there’s really no rhyme or reason as to why you weren’t born in Palestine, nothing special you did to deserve to be born in America–you would wish that people cared enough about you to stop this horrible thing being done to you.
The longer you are in Palestine, the more you learn, the more you see, you realize that there is actually very little you can do. You are mostly alone here, and there are 200 million people back in America and they feel bad about the stuff that you tell them, but not bad enough to take direct action to stop the killings, stop the wall, stop home demolitions. It will take thousands of people to do this, thousands of people to rebuild Palestine, thousands of people to stop the governments of America and Israel who are slowly killing the Palestinians. Surely out of 200 million, there are a couple thousand who have the time and resources to help you fix this problem. But they are not here. There are only 10 Americans here. You want to get pissed at people. You want to say "Why are you making me do this alone? Why am I the only one fixing our mistakes? Why aren’t you here, too?"
In the same instant, you forgive them, because you know it’s hard, when you have families and bills and when you are trying to find your own happiness, too. You forgive them and you decide not to judge them because you are not God, and you know that you are no saint. Because you know that when you leave this place you will be secretly glad to return to the quiet streets and the endless water and the malls full of cold air and shoes.
My friends and family and homies, the world is seriously sick right now, and the American government has not only proved themselve to be incapable of fixing things, they have also proved that they are the instigators of the sickness. We have a war in Afghanistan, a war in Iraq, we pushed for and financially supported the war in Lebanon, we support the Occupation of Palestine, and there is talk of war with Iran and North Korea. Please email back if you disagree.
We can’t sit back and allow them to do what they want with our tax dollars and our power, because they are abusing it and they are killing people, and meanwhile our own education system has gone to shit, millions of people don’t have health insurance, everyone is working two jobs just to get by, New Orleans is still a pile of rubble….it goes on and on. We have to take things into our own hands. We have to start working on the world’s problems–and the problems within our own country– as if they are are our own problems. It’s the only way things will change. We have to be brave enough to say "This is not who we want to be anymore. This is not the way we want the world to be anymore." No one is going to do it for you. I repeat–if you are unhappy with the conditions of the world, the conditions of your country and your life, you have to do something about it personally, because no one is going to do it for you.
End sermon. Things seem really bad right now, but at the same time I feel a current of change moving through our people. I think you all are tired of this militaristic, war-driven, corporate-controlled society we live then. I think you all know that there is a better way to live. I think you ready for it to happen, and I trust the day is approaching when you will feel you have the power to make it happen, when we stand strong together and take back our country.
My humble advice? Start small. Start with yourself–examine your job, your lifestyle, the things you buy–investigate how your own actions impact the world at large. Read independent media. Go to a lecture that sounds crazy and progressive and radical, and see what you think. Don’t just give your money away to charity–this is still expecting other people to do the work for you. Roll up your sleeves, dig in, do volunteer work, educate yourself on political candidates, call your congressman when you’re pissed off. Participate in government–this is what democracy is. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
I don’t know anything, I’m not an authority on anything, but I know we can’t go on living the way we are, the world cannot sustain it. I know most people are unhappy, and we need to do something about that.
MAGAN WILES is an actress who teaches Theater of the Oppressed to young people through the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma in Saint Louis, Missouri. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org