Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Brief Note of Renewal

There will be one or possibly even two more "Re-Membering Theology" posts before the series is finished (I actually quite like how the series is evolving and sprawling all over the place, incorporating much more than I had first anticipated). But before moving on, I just wanted to mention something that has also been on my mind a great deal recently: the atrocities in Gaza.

What is happening in the Gaza strip--what has been happening, not just for the past two weeks but for the past several decades--is wrong. It is not just wrong, it is monstrous. I cannot even feel my old familiar political angst over the issue. It's too clear-cut for angst. To suggest that the tragedy of the Holocaust and the genocide of Jewish Europeans can somehow excuse and justify a theocratic government (which is what a government is when it forces its democracy to confirm to an ethno-religious identity, as Israel's "Jewish democracy" does by driving out or exterminating the non-Jewish native population)--to suggest that this tragedy can justify such a government terrorizing an entire population... well. That sentence is so packed with anger and pain that I can't even finish it.

We must not confuse anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism (bigotry directed against Palestinians/Arabs, who are also Semitic in descent and religion, is also anti-Semitism, by the way). We must not confuse a denouncement of the Israel government with a rejection of the Jewish people. And we must not stand by and continue to allow the U.S. government to send billions of dollars in military aid to a government involved in its own little genocide. It is clear that the Israeli government does not care about the Palestinian people; it has illegally occupied land, uprooted families and destroyed livelihoods, allowed children to starve and imprisoned adults, and now it is bombarding the population ruthlessly in a pre-planned attack that needed no provocation. (In light of this abusive treatment, is it any wonder that groups like Hamas can find support? If you doubt for a moment that the average American wouldn't turn to such groups under similar circumstances, ask yourself how you justified the overthrow of not one but two foreign governments (Afghanistan and Iraq) in the aftermath of one American building destroyed on a sunny morning by people who weren't even from those countries.)

But as angry and disgusted as I am, I am also filled with hope as this new year dawns. The city of Pittsburgh is suddenly full of protest and debate. Students have gathered--indoors and sometimes in the streets--for the last several days to protest the massacre and show solidarity for Gaza and the Palestinian people. People here are talking, finally. Four or five months ago, I would never have believed that I could not only freely express my disapproval of America's blind support of Israel, but that others around me would be nodding and saying, "Yes, enough's enough." But all around me, people are watching the bodies of emaciated children and dismembered mothers carted out of the Gaza Strip, and they're wondering how long it takes for a child to waste away like that. Surely not twelve days. Certainly a forty percent civilian casualty rate is too high (when the Palestinian death toll is almost a hundred times that of Israelis). People have compared Gaza to an "open-air concentration camp"--and for once, they are not being bullied into silence by politically-correct cries of "Holocaust-denier!" and "never again!" For too long, we've allowed "never again" to mean "well, again, but not to us, to someone else this time." This is not acceptable, and people are finally waking up to that fact.

I feel a similar renewal in the Pagan community, in the wake of deo's podcast ending. Certainly not on the scale (either of tragedy or resulting discussion) as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but energizing and hope-filled nonetheless.

Out of hardship and doubt come rebirth and renewal, out of struggle comes community and perspective, and hopefully a fresh new beginning. I'm waiting for spring, in some ways vibrating with anticipation as the sleet slices through the wind outside and the streets and the trees glisten under a slick coating of ice. I am waiting for spring, waiting for the sun to climb, waiting for the warmth, waiting to feel new again. There is a struggle ahead of us. There always is. But there are also moments of gratitude and momentum, of elevation and even awe. Attending a gallery opening last night to raise money to send aid into Gaza, I overheard its organizers speaking, close to tears, about how they were running out of seating and unable to fit everyone in the modestly chosen lounge area. Sometimes it's enough to show up, to be present, to allow our presence and our engagement to manifest our care and our desire to change the world for the better. Afterwards, I walked home through the woods--each shadow highlighted and stark against the layering snow, a full moon glowing faintly among low clouds... It is winter. It is still very much winter.

But I trudge through the snow and the dark. And I didn't cry. I felt, for once, too lucky and too hopeful and too committed to cry.


  1. It's disturbing to me, that I see parallels between Israel / Gaza and the United States / Indian nations; and it disturbs me further that the United States is standing behind all of this ... I had hoped the US government would have learned how wrong this is long before now.

  2. I know what you mean. The same parallel had occurred to me, too. Right now I'm being slammed in a message forum for suggesting that Israel take some responsibility for ending their share of the violence (as though this were the equivalent of siding with Hamas). What I find disturbing is how eagerly people still eat up propaganda... in a supposed Age of Information when we have seen on a world-wide scale what pro-imperial propaganda can accomplish as long as ordinary citizens remain apathetic... well, it almost drains me of all that hope and energy I was just writing about here. Sigh.

  3. "Right now I'm being slammed in a message forum for suggesting that Israel take some responsibility for ending their share of the violence ..."

    It's always sad when people fail to remember that there are always two sides (or more) in violent conflicts. That Israel has its own blame in this madness does not make them wrong: it's that they choose to ignore that blame, that makes them wrong.

    I had already written quite a bit beyond this point, but I deleted it. When I read over it, it sounded a lot more grim than I'd intended; and the last thing I want to do is drain your hope and energy. So I will end with the dark cloud's silver lining, and say that I think one positive thing about some of the catastrophes going on in the world (climate and financial crises to name a couple) is that they are causing people to better inform themselves beyond what we've all been spoon-fed.