Letter 2 America for May 3, 2024

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Dear America,

On recent coverage of the campus unrest regarding Palestine and Israel, I saw and heard a young co-ed fulminating on the subject most ardently.  Her passion was evident, and when she had concluded saying her piece, she finished by saying, "I am Hamas!"  That scene sums up for me the entirety of the college protest movement on this subject.  Even considering the vileness of the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas is more vile still.  The October 7 incursion into Israel in which more than 1,000 people were killed or taken hostage was an atrocity, and it was not Hamas's first venture into the realm of mindless brutality.  That young woman could have said, "I am Palestine!" and I would have found her ardor self-aggrandizing, but not inexcusable.  In fact, she could have said almost anything else and I would have accepted her zeal as sincere, heartfelt and proportionate to her passion, but lauding Hamas is like lauding Nazi brutality, or Stalinist brutality, or for relevant comparison, Israel's brutality.  If that kind of conduct is justifiable for anyone, it is justifiable for all...but it isn't either justifiable or condonable, which that adolescent failed to recognize.  It was deplorable, which leads me to the point I am trying to make; the students protesting around the world are strutting their adolescent conceit with their excessive self-indulgence.  They have failed to educate themselves about the Middle East, Israel, Palestine or Hamas.  And the comparison to the protests of the sixties, those committed by my generation, is misguided when it comes from the news media and self-serving when purported by the student movement of today.  Just to make the point, you never hear a word about Ukraine and Russia at these demonstrations, but there have been more dead bodies created in the Donbas than in Gaza, and the suffering is just as profound in its way.  And along that line, the protests of the 60's were about American participation in a bloody conflict, not someone else's.  What's more, our own young people were victims and potential victims of the Vietnam war.  It was our business because we were actual and potential victims...at least our young, conscript-able men were, and the history preceding that war made our government complicit in its advent as well.  The protesters then weren't talking about "endowments" that helped them afford prestigious institutions paid for mostly by their mommies and daddies.  They were talking about their own lives and those of people they cared about...and one another as well.  Today's protesters have nothing at stake personally, which makes their high rhetoric hollow and renders it nothing more than precocious vanity.

I was never a protester myself, though I was a candidate for the draft.  I did apply for, and I was granted, 1-A-O status; I was an official conscientious objector.  When I had been in the Peace Corps previously, I had read Thoreau's essay, "Civil Disobedience," and I accepted his premise that civil disobedience...sincere civil disobedience...is legitimate, but part of the endeavor is accepting the consequences, and there were some.  And likewise, those of my generation who suffused the nightly news in Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic National Convention for the presidential nomination, and those who went to Canada rather than be drafted so as to be sent to war as well as those who marched en masse in cities across the nation did too.  Today's students, on the other hand, have rather puled about being arrested, suspended from their privileged student billets in prestigious universities, or God forbid, spending a night in jail and suffering a fine for disturbing the peace and possibly a rebuke from an angry parent.

I would feel differently if the protests had been committed in front of the Israeli and Russian embassies in Washington or those country's consulates across the country.  I could have accepted it all if I had ever heard a protester utter a word about a two-state solution or the internecine history of the Middle East's various tribes, cultures and ethnicities, including the Jews and the Palestinians among many over the past four thousand years.  I might have joined the chorus if the issue at the fore were not just decrying the human catastrophe, but reproaching both sides as well for not learning anything over the millennia, which, had they done so, should have been sufficient to deter both sides from decrying each other's existence and working toward their opposites' extirpation from the Levant.  But that isn't how it has been.  Everyone involved has done plenty of feeling, but it seems no one has done any learning, studying or thinking.

Building figurative...or even physical...walls seems to be the modern means by which peoples coexist.  Think Berlin, our wall across the Mexican border and even the great wall of China, which is over 5,000 miles long, and in that vein I have made this suggestion.  Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about building the wall between us and Mexico.  Maybe we should be focused on building one around the Middle East, literal or figurative, so that Iran, Syria, Israel, the Palestinians, the Iraqis, etcetera won't kill all of us as they proceed to kill each other.   

Your friend,


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on May 3, 2024 1:24 PM.

Letter 2 America for April 24, 2024 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for May 23, 2024 is the next entry in this blog.

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