Monday, May 2, 2011
I am glad I am friends with people from high school on facebook. Though I have little in common with many of them, it's a fascinating glimpse into their lives and their communities. On days like today, where the responses to Osama bin Laden's death on my newsfeed vary from "does this mean the troops can come home now?" to "violence does not beget peace, death is nothing to celebrate" to "AMERICA. FUCK YEAH!" or some variation thereof, I'm especially grateful. Because you see, most of my friends fall somewhere on the left side of the political spectrum . . . radical, progressive, liberal. Call 'em what you want, but they agree on more than they disagree on. War is bad. Be nice to gay people. Taxes should be spent on education and healthcare and taking care of the people. Recycle. Compost, even.
So, even though it's a bit shocking to see some "friends" and even family members post things celebrating the death of this figurehead as though it's some kind of victory (OUR victory? Who is this "we," anyway? Since when have we all been on the same team?), I'm glad it's there. I wouldn't know otherwise just how many people have bought into the hate machine.
I started watching President Obama's speech from last night, and had to pause it multiple times. I almost threw up a little in my mouth a few times. To be fair, I believe that the job of the POTUS is harder than you or I could imagine. We've watched that man age about a decade over less than three years. I also believe that by definition, it's a job that can cause no real change, no real progress toward peace. By running for President of the United States, a person is in essence saying that they have no problem perpetuating genocide, destruction of the earth, resource wars, etc. There is no way somebody can get to that level of politics wide-eyed enough to think that they can magically stop the injustice in the world by becoming President. In fact, they've probably already made tons of shitty decisions that negatively impact the world and its inhabitants by then, and are more than willing to keep at it.
Still. How is this man going to stare into America's eyes with a straight face and say something like, "Yay, we took out the guy responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians." SERIOUSLY. Are you fuckin' with me, right now, Obama? Do you wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares in which your hands are covered in blood? Do the souls of dead Afghani children haunt you? Do the souls of orphaned American kids come to you in your sleep . . . asking how their dead parents were supposed to pay their hospital bills after the cancer ate their bodies, the cancer that came from the oil refineries or the incinerators in their neighborhoods? Can you sleep one motherfucking wink at all, shifting this blame around, painting the murder of one human being, trained by this country to be a killer, as some kind of unifying moment, as some kind of victory?
How, Mr. President, can you bring up September 11, 2001, and talk about it as a unifying moment? How can you say that Americans came together after that? Sikh men going through the special line in airports, Middle-Eastern businesses vandalized, hate speech pouring out of the mouths of white people who still somehow think this country, this land belong to them? How can you say we were unified? Those with names and complexions like yours, Mr. Obama, discriminated against, reviled, the newest ethnic groups that were acceptable to hate.
Learning history by reading books and hearing stories and watching movies is one thing. But the history we have lived through is so much more real. It lives in our bones, in our breath. I was born in 1980 in Tehran, Iran. While my mother was pregnant with me, bombs were dropping overhead, from aircraft manned by Iraqis, but funded by the good old US of A. When I was a baby, the lights would be turned off all night, so the Iraqis couldn't find the major cities and obliterate us. I never thought these would be things I could remember on my own. I was just a child. I'd piece together bits of story from here and there, weave it all together to flesh out who I was in my earliest years. Years later, at the age of twenty-nine, I encountered my first intense Mid-Western summer thunderstorm while driving on a dark freeway somewhere between Detroit and Minneapolis. It wasn't until then that I realized my body remembered, my history could pour out of me at any moment. Tears and terror and shaking, and aching for the sounds to stop, for the lights to come on.
What is terrorism?
President Obama, can you tell me that by taking out Osama bin Laden, that the United States is ensuring that no child grows up to be a 30 year old woman barely uncovering her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Can you tell me who the terrorist is? I had it so much easier than the children now growing up in Iraq & Afghanistan and so many other parts of the world, learning that what the United States does is send people in uniform in to kill their families and destroy their homes and rape their mothers. Who is the terrorist? What is a terrorist?
Do you awaken, shaking, President Obama, from nightmares in which you are staring in the mirror, pointing a bloody finger, screaming "Terrorist! Terrorist! Terrorist!"??