Monday, January 29, 2007

Israel and Guatemala Part II

So I finally finished the behemoth of the book that is Arab and Jew and my impressions are that the book is too long. Towards the end, I felt like the same thing was being pounded into my head over and over: the quarrel between these two people has no solution.

I'm not here to argue about whether it does or doesn't - it's easy for me to sit here and say that yes of course there should be, that the solution merely warrants one of the two sides to be the bigger man and say "OK, we will stop, step back, and be the ones to start the solution." It's easy to say that when you aren't from either side and don't have some of the almost innate hate and violent history in your being.

So I'm not here for that. I'm here to talk about me dammit! Isn't that what a blog is all about? I'm here to talk about how what I've read affects me and what it makes me feel and think.

Here is a line from page 426 of this book:

I heard all these words: 'You are playing football like a dirty Arab,' and then later some guy would come and say, "Hashem, I'm sorry, it's just the expression we use."

I've mentioned before how some stuff in the book, mostly the wall between two peoples living in the same place, is so similar to the way things are in Guatemala. But read this line to anyone from Guatemala and they'll know exactly what's going on. Only we use the phrase "Indio," which technically means Indian but really stands for a derogatory name for the indigenous people of Guatemala.

And yeah, it sounds bad. But I'm here to tell you that, a lot of the time, it isn't. As lame as it may sound, as lame as it sounded in the line I quoted, it's just an expression. We call ourselves (whites) "indios" when we do something too extreme or violent. It's just an expression, we don't mean any harm by it.

And it seems that's the same problem going on in Israel right now. People don't see that just the formulation of such a phrase has negative beliefs inherent to them.

In case you still don't know what I'm trying to say, the closest example I can think of to it here in the states in the word "fag." Or the way some people (and here I'm guilty of it) say "That is so gay."

I had this discussion with Mindy a while ago and I was trying to explain to her that I didn't mean it in a bad way. That I'm not homophobic or anti-gay (it probably sounded the way people explain that they don't have anything against hispanics or blacks: I have a cousin who is black/hispanic), it's just my terminology. My colorful language, so to speak. And I could see her looking at me like "Are you serious?" I could feel how the words were coming out of my mouth and seeing her listen to my idiotic explanation made me realized that "wait a minute, maybe this is something I should take a closer look at."

It's weird reading something about a topic that, at first glance, is so far away from your reality only to see that you have a personal experience that allows you to see exactly what it's like in other people's shoes. Only to realize that you aren't the victim, you are the bad guy.

It's weird.

What's the solution? Well, the book has some answers in the various get togethers between Jews and Arabs, especially the young ones. They are shocked to see that not all Jews carry rifles, not all Arabs throw stones. It's simple really: try to expose reality to these people so that they can see how wrong all their preconceptions are.

I know it's very cliche and overall pukey, but there's something to it all.

I used to be scared at the idea of venturing to certain parts of the country outside the capital of Guatemala. To places where it's pretty much the Wild West. You're on your own out there. But I went on a trip a few years ago with my dad and interacting with the people of my country, with the "indios," proved a very relaxing experience. It made me see that - like the Arab people, actually - the people of Guatemala are very warm and hospitable.

Guatemala, after all, isn't as scary a place as you would think. Go and you'll find out too.


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