Wrapping up the Israeli-Palestinian Issue with a New Hope

Ah! El Salvador is the blend this morning. I could get into a discussion of El Salvador, but what a digression it would be from the Middle East.

My high school class just wrapped up a long unit on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. It is probably the longest I have stayed on a topic with this group. The conflict is pivotal to the region. The issue is used as motivation or excuse for behavior by many global actors, so it is vital to understand it from the inside and out. We do that through simulations. We were supposed to migrate to a more general discussion of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf today, but the schedule switched last minute. We resorted to a Israeli-Palestinian simulation. This one took place at the brink of the 1967 War. It fizzled. I considered continuing with the simulation for the 1987 Intifada, but I felt the class was pretty much done with the topic, and I like to follow them. There are areas in which they need to grow, but when we’ve gone into a subject, and I think they have it, it’s best to follow their lead. They are all eager and grounded individuals; they don’t fizzle easily.

The class had already done a present-day simulation. We gathered from that simulation that this conflict is not ripe enough to end. It sounds counter-intuitive. After all we’ve all heard more than we care to hear about it. It seems to have gone on forever, since Biblical times. How can it not be ripe enough? It should be rotting. That is the perspective of the outsider. Inside the wounds are too still new and too raw, because re-wounding is experienced daily. New settlements continue to go up. New rockets are launched. There hasn’t been any respite. Unfortunately, it will not be this generation that changes the paradigm, as much as the Americans try to impose peace and change from the top down. It cannot happen that way.

There are brilliant streaks of light that come out of this darkness. An example is Genesis-at-the-Crossroads. Genesis was formed to bring the two sides together through art. It has since expanded to include peoples from other conflicts. Perhaps this is the road to go down. Art and music skip over the intellect. They can stir and heighten emotion, but they can also allay it. Wrapping up this unit, I plan to attend a Genesis event and give them a donation. Turn the focus to an entity that is working positively. I have to end on a high note with some possibility for our time.

The Thursday Three (a few days late! ;D)

Here are this week’s links!

1. Check out Global Initiatives, an organization that “promotes positive social change and sustainable global development through international events and media projects”: http://www.globalinitiatives.com/.

2. Youth Action for Peace (YAP) is a European-based movement which “aims for societies of peace, justice, and self determination” and encourages “dialogue in local communities through the active participation of young people.”  Visit YAP’s website: http://www.yap.org/.

3. Playing For Change is a non-profit “dedicated to connecting the world through music.”  The organization’s achievements demonstrate not only the immense power of music, but also the effects of global cooperation, sharing, and effort.  Watch PFC’s famed original music video, a rendition of “Stand By Me,” at the following website: http://www.playingforchange.com/.  (Also check out http://www.playingforchange.org/.)

Know Your Cyber-Rights

Today is World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Visit these links for more information on cyber warefare, rights, and censorship:
-http://www.amnestyusa.org/business-and-human-rights/internet-censorship/world-day-against-cyber-censorship/page.do?id=1361061
-http://staff.washington.edu/dittrich/cyberwarfare.html
-http://www.cyber-rights.org/
-http://www.youtube.com/

Celebrate and Learn in honor of International Women’s Day

March is National Women’s History Month, and March 8 marked International Women’s Day! Celebrate both by checking out some of the links listed at http://www.freewebs.com/uswhp/holidays.htm.

We also have two similarly themed events taking place in the Chicago area to share with you:

-A Discussion of the Shriver Report at Oakton Community College:
http://www.oakton.edu/calendar/events/index.php?com=detail&eID=1500

-Half The Sky, an event aiming “to help women and girls everywhere turn oppression into opportunity”:
http://www.ncm.com/Fathom/OriginalPrograms/event/Half_The_Sky.aspx?utm_source=Facebook_HTS&utm_medium=Contest&utm_campaign=HalfTheSky_FathomPage

For more, visit http://www.vivalafeminista.com/2010/03/womens-history-month-chicago-calendars.html.

Middle East Foreign Policy Organizer

This session we are working on Public Speaking, Negotiations and Foreign Policy.  For foreign policy we have come to the Middle East.  I don’t teach via lecture.  I prefer seminar style.  The class is small enough to permit me to do that.  However, without a lecture, we often aren’t on the same page.  I give them readings.  I know who preps for class and who doesn’t.  It’s fairly clear from the course pages, and when they speak.  However, even if they do the reading, it’s not comprehensive.  I don’t use a textbook.  I feel I flood them with enough reading, so I don’t want to add more.  I sometimes just want them to get the information in a quick organized fashion.  Hence, I am turning to graphic organizers.  They can read about the juicy bits on their own.  The top row is president.  The second row is events, and the third row is US foreign policy in a nutshell.

Mid-East Foreign Policy Organizer

Sunday Afternoon Film

Sunday afternoons are more for old films than Friday evenings. I have been thinking about this one, searching for a film, flipping through the channels. I realized need to speak from what moves me. The problem is most films don’t move me. I’m not one of those people who cries at the celluloid reunions and heartaches. I’m analytical and that is the lens I view most films through. So, finding a film that moved me should have been a reach, but it wasn’t, because when I am moved, the imprint goes deep.

The film that has that impact on me is Schindler’s List. It is probably my favorite film of all time. That is also not an easy thing to say in this day and age of Hollywood exuberance.

Of all movies I have seen, it was the one I delayed seeing the most. I didn’t see it at the theaters. I turned away from it, because I was never in the mood to be depressed. I had seen Sophie’s Choice, and that pretty much taught me slow pace and depressing is not my style. Schindler’s List sounded like it would take me down the same road, and it was LONGER and in black and white (talk about drab and drippy). I can’t stand black and white films. They are either old or pretentious in my book.

I would have made it by without ever seeing the film except for channel surfing. The downfall of many a film avoider, usually you can’t get away from a film you hate; it’ll be on what seems like every channel. In this case, I paused for a second and got sucked in. It was an evening special on , ABC, I think, commercial free. I just caught a glimpse in the camp of the women shivering and, later, the little boy in the latrine. I was drawn in, so, of course, I turned it off immediately. I suppose the “of course” does not logically follow. I am what is called a “completist.” (Yes, relatively new word. I didn’t believe it existed but it does online.) I can’t start in the middle of a series in books or on tv. I have to go to the beginning. So it was for this movie. I went out to rent it.

I could go into how wrong I was about not wanting to see it, into how moving Spielberg’s sweeping scenes were or how the black and white makes it so poignant and real to the era. I could mention how at the end, the walk of the descendants makes the tiny hairs prickle all over my body conveying that the impossible is real and worth it, inspiring more. What I want to go on about is none of that.

I’d rather look at our judgments.

You might think I’m talking about the same old judgments against a race, religion or culture. No. I just mean people in general. You don’t know who lives next to you, but you have a judgment about them. You will never know whom they are until they are tested. Let’s hope it never happens!

Usually we hear the sensational stories, the Jeffery Dahmer type stories. “He seemed so normal.” My relatives, Turks, are amazed he got away with it for so long. Wouldn’t you smell it or hear it? In Turkey you would. Someone would bash in your door before too long. No, the man could not have done what he did with that level of impunity without being in the hands off culture he was in.

What about more mundane stories? What about our judgments about the alcoholic next door? Or, the guy down the hall who has a girlfriend who keeps crying because he’s such a jerk? Meanwhile, the same guy has other women traipsing through at all hours of the day. The worst part is his wife bangs on your door when she can’t get into her own house. Usually it is because her husband has accidentally locked her out in his drunken stupor. By the way, he also is having a fling with the girl across the hall. What do you think about him?
“Jerk” is putting it mildly!

That is whom Oskar Schindler was. He was the womanizer. He was the alcoholic. He was a spendthrift. And there were many embarrassing scenes in his life. Yet, he was also one of the few who saved so many.

If he lived on my street or in my building, he would have been nothing but the best gossip. He would not be someone parents steered their children around. There’s a chance he’d even be pushed out of a community. That was the kind of guy he was until he had the chance to be something other. Until he had the chance to make a difference. How does one think of this morally? What would be the advisory tale for your children? To this day, most people wouldn’t want their kids around someone like Oskar.

We don’t know who is around us, we probably don’t even know ourselves until we are tested.

The Thursday Three (one day early! ;D)

  1. Get updates on UN activity and read world news by subscribing to UN Wire, a free e-newsletter: http://www.smartbrief.com/un_wire/index.jsp#.
  2. Test your knowledge of world capitals (or another subject!) and donate to the World Food Programme for free with the wonderful FreeRice: http://www.freerice.com/index.php?&t=15431859752&s=World%20Capitals.
  3. Poet Taylor Mali’s speech funny and insightful speech “Totally Like Whatever” challenges us to speak with conviction.  You can read the text of his speech here, watch the author perform here, watch a lip-synced version here, or watch a typographic version here.