Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Still Life with Drag Queen

I need to snap out of this blogless malaise. One of the first rules of blogging is that your blogs don't have to seem interesting...blogs are interesting because they are intimate and spontaneous, sublimely mundane. But I let myself get lazy about blogging with the handy excuse "but I don't have anything to say." Don't fool yourself, Marlénè, you have an opinion on every topic under the sun, including but not limited to topics about which you actually know nothing whatsoever.

Yesterday morning, Grandmother and I were discussing (and by "discuss," I mean that she asked me stupid but sincere questions, I tried to not call her stupid and also not blast her with the full force of my cynicism, and then she comes to an entirely illogical conclusion that is not based on our conversation)...discussing the Situation between Israel and Palestine. Grandmother's quite pertinent if simplistic question was "Well, who does the West Bank belong to?" Rather than get all grammatical at her and correct her dangling participle (Grandmother was an English Major too, a million years ago when 'proper English' was something to be desired, and people still believed that "ain't" isn't a word), and rather than going forte voce into my belief that Nationalism is one of the worst evils currently plaguing the human race and that the West Bank doesn't in fact belong to anybody except the people living on it and buried under it, being only a piece of useless land that doesn't actually mean anything and has no oil beneath (hence the lack of effective US involvement in the fray), I simply said "That's what they're fighting about...they both think it belongs to them." (Again a badly ingrammatical sentence...funny how spoken English is so much sloppier, and yet at the same time so much more efficiently communicative, than written English).

It made me think, though, about how silly people are. I mean, what difference does it make if the West Bank is in Palestine or in Israel? What difference does any of it make? The borders of the Middle East are forever shifting as the sands of the deserts that cover most of it. ("Middle East" is a phrase I loathe, incidentally...the region encompassing Israel and Palestine is actually Asia Minor, or in Eurocentric geography "the Near East"; but for some reason people can't think the word "Asia" without connecting it immediately to China, Japan, Korea, and all those yellow-folk countries...but sweeties, everything from Turkey to the Phillipines, from Siberia to Saudi Arabia, is on the continent of, the word "Middle East," if you are referring to Asia as "The East," would have to be assigned to India and the countries to the right and left of it, as that is the middle of Asia...but to return to my discussion of Asia Minor's borders...) The tribes of these areas have been at war with each other since the dawn of time. In the Bible, it seems that the Hebrews were forever at war with somebody or other, either being conquered by the Babylonians or the Egyptians, being persecuted by the Romans, or just squabbling with their near neighbors. And Israel is not the only one...I think it's due to the dry heat, but there has never been a time in the known history of the world that the peoples of that region were not at war with each other in one way or another.

The other question that Grandmother posited was "Who decided where the borders of Israel are?" She is remembering the fact that Israel, as a physically bordered nation, did not exist before World War II (Judea was the name of the place in Roman times, not Israel). I don't remember enough of my modern history to be sure, but I do believe that modern Israel was created by Europeans, carved from various other modern Nations to surround the Holy City of Jerusalem (a City, by the bye, which has been the subject of wars since the Fall of Rome, being held Holy and unshareable by Jews, Christians, and Moslems alike). I doubt very much if Palestine (a Moslem nation, I think) was consulted when the nation of Israel was created and filled with Jews from every corner of the globe. At the end of World War II, the "Middle East" was still considered backward, nomadic-tribal, and subject to colonization (as it has been since the days of Cyrus the Great [580-529 BC]).

So why all the fuss? Why the tanks and the bombs and the death and destruction? I wish I knew. It's one of those things I've never understood, this rabid thirst for territory, this suicidal love of Nation. It makes no sense to me. I mean, I feel that I am part of the nation in which I live...I am a citizen with certain rights, I am culturally influenced and linguistically traceable to the USA. But I don't feel any particular love or attachment to my country as a just is. But I suppose that is the complacency of the unconquered. I mean, it's very easy to be sure of one's borders when one is a superpower surrounded by water and less-powerful countries. The idea of a foreign government taking over the US is laughable in the extreme...I mean, only Mexico and Canada could spill over onto us, and why would they want to? We can be destroyed, surely...but we could never be conquered. Just as the Northern Tribes never really conquered Rome...they could only destroy it.

But that kind of military superiority is a necessary luxury, the freedom we enjoy is the freedom to criticize our own government and express dissatisfaction with our Nation. I mean, the best part of being an American is the ability to sneer at America. You can't do that in most countries, especially countries that are at war with each times of war, Treason is a much touchier subject...and in nations that are perpetually at war, Treason is anything anybody says it is. And Religion is another subject that is easy to pooh-pooh in a rich and secure country. They say there are no Atheists in foxholes, and I suppose if your whole country was a foxhole it would give one's religion a more sonorous note. And only in a place of security can one sit around and question Religion.

Which of course brings me to the artificial nationalism and whipped-puppy loyalty that is being recommended for our use since the September 11 attacks. I keep hearing people say, "In light of recent events we should be showing national unity, and not criticizing our government." (Another hated phrase "In Light of Recent Events," the use of which I am please to note is on the wane.) Sorry, darlings, but if you can't criticize the government, you might as well not be American. That's the whole point of the US. And I, for one, absolutely loathe our current government, but since I don't see a solution for the problem (being based in the merest facts of democracy vs human nature), I don't do anything about it except sneer. I can call the President a Blinking Idiot because I am an American. Stand up in the middle of Palestine and call Arafat a Disgusting War-Mongering Old Fuck, and see where you end up.

Well, anyhow...all of this is neither here nor there. I am willfully ignorant of world affairs for the most part...when I start learning a lot about something, I start getting emotionally involved in the thing I'm learning. Then I get angry about things I cannot control, and that just gives me indigestion. So instead I just turn to the Comics page and let the world find its own path to oblivion while I work the crossword puzzle. I'm much happier for it.

To take the taste of all the above pedanticism out of your mouth, I offer the following:

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