6.04.2009

There will only be One

Today in his speech in Cairo, Obama urged Palestinian people to "choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past."  I wish he hadn't restricted this advice to the Arab world.  Nevertheless, that's some fine and memorable advice -- advice all of us might take under advisement.  A while ago, I heard a book review describing a 2007-ish French novel about a future utopian civilization (yes, utopian!--not dystopian) where everything was great: people got along with each other, the problem of scarce resources seemed to have been solved, etc.  The only hitch was, to achieve such a society, the people had been forced to stop learning history.  It seems like a fair trade to me, but then, I like to think I'm not terribly invested in the past.

Here's some prophecy I photographed in a bathroom stall last weekend:

2 comments:

Monica said...

What else do you think he should have said? I had a problem with his explicit comparison between the Holocaust and Palestinian grief. I also had a problem with his historical blunder regarding why the state of Israel exists--because of the Holocaust. The Holocaust may have intensified the urgency for the creation of a Jewish state, but it did not create the need nor the right. Both already existed. That said, I think there were a lot of positive elements to his talk as well.

Casey said...

I'm with you -- the speech felt a little "weak" to me, though I understand what he's probably thinking. But, I'm really in a "throwing-my-hands-up" phase lately... I just feel like the world is sliding down a hill on a sled that's going somewhere fast, and nothing I say is going to have any influence on the outcome. So I'm sort of loosely crossing my fingers.

But, once, a while ago, I tried to explain my mixed sympathies on the idea of theological (or ethnic) states... but the conversation is too nuanced to bother with in a blog comments section. I suppose my main two objections have to do with the idea of "location" and with the whole premise of a country that is based in racial/religious identity. But, obviously, people like Ahmadinejad are bonkers, and political Islam is at least as bad in my judgment as the politics of Israel. That is, I suppose that if I had to choose which ancient religious people have a right to the land, I'd say Jews, for obvious reasons.

I confess, however: there's nothing in me that's capable of understanding the idea of "holy land" (that's probably evidence of how deep protestantism runs in me, even if it's only residual now). So claims from both sides to that damn desert sometimes seem incorrigibly juvenile and immature from my perspective.

I'm reading about book right now called "Rome and Jerusalem," by Martin Goodman. I really like it. The more I learn about ancient Jewishness, the more I sort of raise an eyebrow at Jewishness "since then." In the classical context, Jewish identity was opposition to Rome (i.e., the big imperial power--Egypt before Rome)... in fact those early Jewish reformers who we now call "Christians" basically tried to make that the definition of Jewishness: opposing Rome (Paul, trying to say that anyone could get on board... circumcision need not be a deterrent). Nowadays, well - the definitions aren't as clear to me. And I have major hesitations about claims to politics that are based on racial inheritance (affirmative action, for example, rubs me weird). If Saxon-looking white people try to reclaim the land in southern England for the proud Saxon people, for example, based on Stonehenge and paganism and such, I'll roll my eyes really hard. So I'm trying to argue (provocatively?) that Jews ought not be a special case, even as I recognize that nobody'll ever see it that way. Maybe you could point to Native American reservations to swing me back in the other direction...?

Incidentally: there's this scene in the fourth season of Weeds, early in season four:

Talking to his grandson Shane about genocide, Lenny urges, “Genocide can happen again if we’re not vigilant.” Shane tells him that it has happened again — in Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia. Lenny scoffs, “No, no. It must never happen again to Jews. What do I give a s—- about the other places?”

That said, despite voting for him recently, I think Obama's a ruinous (but well-intentioned!) socialist and I can't wait for someone who understands economics to run against him in three years.