BootsnAll Travel Network

Gaza, Iraq, and Americans go shopping

Over the American Thanksgiving weekend there has been news: another cease-fire in Gaza, after a sixty-eight-year-old suicide-bomber martyred herself and gave new meaning to the world’s image of grandmotherly. I deplore her attempt to do harm to others, but I respect her nerve. Suicide-bombers, whatever they may be, are not cowards. A BBC news reporter observes that Palestinian women are “taking a more active role” in the conflict. Every time I see the news, I cry. More deaths by the minute in Iraq: parades of people beat their chests in grief, holding coffins aloft against a background of bombed-out buildings and burnt-out cars. Starvation and rape in Darfur, former Russian KGB-man murdered by radioactive material smaller than a sesame seed, more tension in Beirut, quick-stop adoptions of malnourished children in Ethiopia. But lest we despair, there is football, the Macy’s parade, the national dog show. Through it all, Americans celebrate the national day of thanks-giving by shopping and worshipping their gods: one woman who waited in line for thirty-two hours kisses her Playstation 3, sobs for joy, and whispers, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, God, for letting me get my Playstation 3.” A young man who camped for two days on the sidewalk next to an electronic discount store tells the news camera, “It was worth missing Thanksgiving dinner. I got a plasma TV for 50% off!” In a bizarre twist of cultural juxtaposition, a major network plays the movie Family Man, in which viewers are manipulated to “feel good” when a brilliant, promising man and woman sacrifice education, culture, material wealth, exciting careers, and the power to create authentic lives for a conventional life in New Jersey, complete with 2-story house, mini-van, bowling, cocktail parties, and two children: this film interrupted by ads for a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals to help people sleep, calm their “restless legs,” and overcome depression and plaque in their arteries. We are exhorted subliminally to be like everybody else, turn off our minds, go bowling, get drunk, sing karaoke, buy new toys, and take drugs. This afternoon I went to the park and walked off my grief, listening to the rustle of squirrels in fallen leaves, the whirr of insects in the grass, the movement of clouds against the clear blue sky. A line from Whitman which I taught on Monday surfaced in my mind as I walked: “demented with the mania of owning things.” What is the anti-dote to this mania?

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One response to “Gaza, Iraq, and Americans go shopping”

  1. Bill Baar says:

    Suicide-bombers, whatever they may be, are not cowards.

    The people who command suicide-bombers are the cowards.

  2. admin says:

    Yes, Bill. And all those who command others to go out and kill. All of them. Peace cannot be made by violent means.

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