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a watchful eye of creative complexity
Attacks in Paris happened today—terrible, hateful attacks that took many lives. It is very sad and unfortunate. I am crying. I am crying and I find it hard to stop. But it is not for Paris. I am crying for the silence—for the silence that fills the air and the internet day after day; the silence that proves to me whose lives are valued and whose lives might as well be dirt on the floor we sweep away into a garbage bin never to be seen again.
I’m so tired. Every day, the life of my people (broad usage here: all brown people, all Muslim people, etc.) does not matter. No one cares. Every day, they face violence, hatred. Every day. Some days they are able to escape, but those days seem few. Do you know what it is like to see family after family from non-Western countries die in terrorist attacks, whether it’s from groups like ISIS or countries like the U.S.A., and hear silence; then later, you witness an outpouring of sadness and an abundance of opinions and outrage when an attack hits a Western city, a city that you were told was worth seeing, that had some value?
Why do you believe that people living in your favorite tourist destination are more important than those living in the city you know nothing about? What makes you think that the other city isn’t worth seeing, that the culture is not important, or the people have no value? What exactly makes you think that it is okay if people die in other countries because you have nothing to do with it? Why do you not care about the people your own country murders? Why do you not care about the global terrorism committed by your own country?
Perhaps you think that violence in the middle east and elsewhere has been going on for so long that it doesn’t matter any more. Perhaps you think that there is nothing you can do about violence “over there” and amongst “those people.” Do you not think violence has roots? Do you think the average brown person wakes up and says, “Hey, I think today is a great day to kill some people”? You are mind-boggling. If you are American, you can do something to stop violence. The U.S. is the biggest perpetrator of violence; and this violence breeds violence from others. You can do something; you just have to care first.
When violent attacks in a western place occur, I log on to social media and see two things: 1. a barrage of prayers and solidarity hashtags and 2. racism, hatred, and threats of violence. When violent attacks in a non-western place occur, I log on to social media and see two things: 1. some of my friends expressing sadness and outrage and 2. silence from most.
Dear social media friends, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whathaveyou:
My life does not matter to you. If my life does matter to you, does it matter to you because you know me? If I lived in another country, on the other side of the world, my life would not matter to you. I believe my life would not matter to you. I would be dead in a terrorist attack and you would be okay with that. If somehow I left my home from that side of the world to find a safer, and more promising place in the West, you would still not care about me. I would be dead in a terrorist attack, and oh look, suddenly I matter to you. Oh wait, I probably live in a refugee camp because I cannot afford a place to live, so you would still not care about me. In fact, you would harm me. You would blame me for the violence I, myself, fled. You would blame me and then you would burn me. You would burn me. And you would burn me every single day after that. You would also burn my family, my friends, and anyone who looks like me. And then you would go back to not caring about me, my family, my friends, or anyone who looks like me. Or believes like me.
It hurts to know that a majority of people don’t give a crap about your life because you’re not the type of person people want to care about. They don’t even know you, so why should they?
When we cannot find empathy—when we refuse to listen, see, or understand anything outside of our own lives, there will never be justice and there will never be peace. Ever.
Expand your empathy and erase your exceptionalism.
Since January 2002, it has been twelve years since George Bush opened the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama vowed to close it as part of his presidential campaign.
“As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”
When Obama assumed office in January of 2009, he again, vowed to close it within a year:
“This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”
In a speech about national security in May 2009, Obama stated:
“instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantánamo became a symbol that helped al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”
President Obama actually signed an “executive order” to close the prison.
It is now 2014, but the prison is still open. There are still over 150 men held without charges and with no trial, victims of gross human rights violations. I wrote this little poem for President Obama, which is on the way to the White House at the moment. Will he read it? Probably not. Will he read the other letter that I mailed to him? I doubt it. Will somebody read it? Possibly.
Winning the election of 2008,
Obama is President of the United States,
Campaigning on HOPE, speaking of CHANGE,
The freedom of Gitmo prisoners waits.
No trial, no charges, the injustice quite large,
There are a lot of grievances with which to charge,
Torture and violence are only a small part,
Will 2016 serve a dishonorable discharge?
Campaigning on promises meant to be broken,
The “first black President” is only a token,
To coat the citizens’ eyes with white paint,
And subdue their anger, keeping them soft-spoken.
It’s been twelve years so you think it may have worked,
But never fear a people continually jerked,
Their government, their system, filled to the brim with lies,
We are angry and outspoken and perpetually irked.
Enough is enough, tell the truth for once,
We are sick and tired of your imperialist stunts,
Close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,
Do it right now, not in six to twelve months.
We are disgusted with this empire that’s been built,
This country will crumble with all of its guilt,
You think you can outrun what history has taught,
But every empire eventually becomes unbuilt.
There is still time to make this one right decision,
You may scoff and laugh at our protests with derision,
But your term will be over in two short years,
Closing Guantanamo Bay should be in your vision.
Write your own letter this week or this month and tell the White House how you feel about this injustice, this gigantic waste of money, this horrible system we call the government of the United States and tell President Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
I recall a day when I was showing a friend something on my laptop and he took notice of the image I chose as my wallpaper: 5.15.1948 written in a white, destructed-style font over a black background. He asked me what the date meant and I told him about al-Nakba, the Catastrophe, the day that Palestinians will never forget, when Zionist soldiers destroyed over 400 Palestinian villages and displaced three-quarters of a million Palestinians. It is the day known to some—and celebrated—as Israel’s Independence Day. My friend responded with, “You’re too political.”
I think back to various instances in my life where, in a group environment, I was labeled as the “political” person: the political employee, the political friend, the political [insert noun here].
Of course, some people assume that because one is political, s/he likes politics. Why would one constantly keep up with political events and situations if one did not enjoy doing so? Some people think that just because one is conscious of political affairs and often speaks about them, one chooses to live one’s life in such a manner simply because one’s main interest is in doing so.
Well, I hate politics. I do not enjoy reading about politics and politicians. I hate political affairs and being involved in politics. It’s not that I chose to be political, but it is simply necessary and a duty in response to the past and present and in action towards a better future.
For those who say I am too political, or label me as the political person:
I didn’t ask to be political.
Politics was forced upon me.
I didn’t ask for the Balfour Declaration or for the UN Partition Plan.
I certainly didn’t ask for the war in 1948,
nor for the war in 1967.
I didn’t ask for the displacement of my father,
or for his citizenship/stateless dilemma.
I didn’t ask to be born in a country where my people make up only a small percentage
and nobody can pronounce my name.
I didn’t ask for others to inquire about my relation to Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War.
I didn’t ask for the Oslo Accords.
I didn’t ask for the twin towers to fall, nor for the harassment that followed.
I didn’t ask for the Patriot Act, nor for the questions of allegiance.
I didn’t ask to invade countries for ‘weapons of mass destruction.’
I didn’t ask for my tax dollars to pay for the oppression of my people.
I didn’t ask for a fake Roadmap to peace.
I didn’t ask for a “Separation Barrier” to be implemented in my homeland.
I didn’t ask for extra airport security and laws that diminish rights.
I didn’t ask for war or for occupation or for racism or for statism.
I didn’t ask to be labeled a terrorist or a global threat.
I didn’t ask to be named non-existent and simply ‘invented.’
I didn’t ask for the false propaganda of mainstream media.
I didn’t ask to live amongst the brainwashed, the sheep.
I didn’t ask for intolerance and willful ignorance.
I didn’t ask.
It was given to me and I couldn’t give it back.
I didn’t ask.
I never asked to be political.
Politics was forced upon me.
I only ask for justice.
I demand it.
Plato: “Those who are too smart to engage in politics end up being governed by those who are dumber.”