Line in the Sand

Dear People of Gaza,

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for doing absolutely nothing in the last few months to stop your suffering.

Although I cannot feel your pain, I have seen it on the news. I’ve read that 1.5 million of you civilians endured weeks of being fired on and bombed with American-made weapons, and that 22,000 of your buildings now lie in ruins, 80% of your crops are gone, and much of your food, water, medicine, and electricity remain shut off and blockaded.

I would love to help you, being as how I am a politically attuned person, living in a country whose primary Enlightenment Value is “Liberty and Justice for All.” However, what with the flu going around this winter, my immune system is shot, and I think I’ve got a virus. So I must send my regrets.

Let us hope, as the killing of over 1,300 of your men, women, and children fades from the news, that the lobbing of occasional rockets into Israel will stop, so we can reflect on the three Israelis who died in this conflict, and their ten soldiers – at least four of whom tragically succumbed to friendly fire.

Well, I’m off to my doctor appointment. Meantime – with the knowledge that Hamas got you into all this – I send you healing vibrations.

Dear Gazans,

I hate doctors. You guys are so lucky that you have so few left. This dude had the nerve to tell me my whole problem is “psychosomatic.” I’m outraged! Well. OK. Maybe he’s right. I mean, who am I to stand up to the American Medical Association?

OK – notice, People of Gaza – how fast I just caved? There’s a Message here: Each of us likes to feel that she or he is a moral powerhouse of courage, perspicacity, and will! In fact, we rarely are.

From the co-ed who scrubs the floor of the men’s room with a toothbrush so she can enter a sorority; to the boy who joins the gang-bang to prove he’s not queer; to the occupying soldier who strip-searches “towel-heads” to demonstrate patriotism – we do stupid, sometimes unspeakable things to avoid being kicked out of a group of people we love and/or respect. I ought to know; I’ve been kicked out of just about every group there is.

So you see, my desire to take a risk as an individual is microscopic, compared to my need to feel that I am acceptable to those I love. And so, People of Gaza, deepest sympathy, but your lives are as nothing, compared to my fear of being seen as an anti-Semite.

Dear Gaza Peeps –

JOKE! I was kidding! HA HA! Please do not allow what I said in my last note to fuel more of your Islamic militancy. Maybe my fear of being called anti-Semitic is itself anti-Semitic. I can accept that. The point is, nobody bullied me into this. My refusing to see what the Israeli government is doing to you is more an act of devotion than a sin of omission.

Truth to tell, I’ve been seen at the occasional Midtown rally against the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. But I can never bear to stay. It’s better that my friends stay – my Jewish friends who resent that their Judaism is used to justify oppressing you. I envy them for being called “self-hating.” It’s much nicer than “anti-Semitic.” But there I go again with my infernal anti-Semitism…

Dear Palestinians:

Haven’t you been getting my messages? I’m sorry, but as a psychosomatic, I really must decline your relentless, unvoiced pleas for help. Please stop suffering; it’s very self-centered. Don’t you see who the real victims are? Don’t you see how brutally we Westerners have been battered by news of your dying and dismemberment? Maybe if you moved to Rwanda or Darfur or Bosnia, I could get involved. In any case, I am not accountable to you; Western Civilization has told me I don’t have to be.

But I forget: you’re not part of Western Civilization, are you? Besides the Intifada, that’s probably your greatest fault.

I know it’s hard to accept our basic precept, but try: Civilized people can enjoy a peaceful, egalitarian Democracy only after indigenous peoples (e.g., you) have been annihilated. Ask any Chippewa.

Look, People of Gaza-

Maybe if I gave you a little history lesson, you’d go away. It’s like this: for centuries, Western Civilization was infused with anti-Semitism – which remains very real today. Western Civilization, built in part on Jewish culture, went on to kill millions of Jews, whose devastated survivors arrived from Europe on your shores. No one ever deserved a homeland more than they did – unless it was you.

Or perhaps you don’t need a homeland. Perhaps, as others have suggested, you don’t really exist. Maybe we Westerners share a vast psychosomatic condition, and you Palestinians are all in our heads. In that case, People of Gaza, pity us. I’m going to go lie down, now.

SUSIE DAY can be reached at:

©  SUSIE DAY, 2008

susie day writes about prison, policing, and political activism. She’s also written political satire, a collection of which, Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power, was published in 2014. In 2020, her book, The Brother You Choose: Paul Coates and Eddie Conway Talk About Life, Politics, and The Revolution was published by Haymarket. She lives in New York City with her partner, the infamous Laura Whitehorn.