Archive for the 'War' Category

Arabic Numerals

Are Arabic numerals the last gasp of a once proud people?

Smelling victory in the air, Hamas and their brethren were on the verge of defeating the Israeli minions.  Not by military might, but by the weight of public opinion.  Tossing mindless rockets, some less lethal that those shot in the air on the Fourth of July, the Palestinians threw themselves on the funeral pyre and almost welcomed the more sophisticated weapons of killing that descended upon them.

The number of dead Palestinians, many of them wide-eyed beautiful children put in harm’s way, swung the pendulum toward a resolution of the awful conflict that had made the world grimace and cry for what has seemed like eons.  No matter the actual numbers slain.  No matter if most were combatants.  All that mattered were the damning photos and genuinely tearful stories generated by the all too willing media.

Jews all over, sensing the need to protect Israel began to fill the web-way with counterbalancing and often untrue stories.  Stories that sometimes demeaned Arabs.  As though this would somehow turn world opinion. Stories that are ineffective at best and obnoxious at worst.

Even I, a Jew, found myself uttering things like “Are the Israelis crazy. The whole world is turning against them.  They look like monsters.  Every anti-Semite is smiling.  Settle for God’s sake.  You can’t win by increasing the body count.”

But as the scenario dragged on and repeated itself, an odd thing happened.  Cease fires, too numerous to count even with Arabic numerals, were started and then violated.  It seemed to go something like this.  Hamas and the Israelis agree to a temporary cease-fire.  Hours before the cease-fire is to end, Hamas sends rockets into Israel and hits nothing.  Israel retaliates in spades and hits everything.  No matter, world opinion is on our side, Hamas says.  We can do this all day.

But the world begins to yawn, lose interest and move on.  And the world says “Is Hamas crazy?  Settle already.  I’ve got other things to worry about.”

Snatching defeat from victory.  Maintaining the status quo.  The current mini-war will eventually end.  Hamas will claim victory by the virtue of still standing erect.  The Palestinians will reward Hamas with continued support.  Israel will go back to enlarging the settlements and giving world opinion the finger.  And the anti-Semites will smile.

And we will look at Arabic numerals and say “there was a once proud people.”  And we’ll wonder when our turn will come.

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War is hell!

A week ago Sweetie and I shlepped downtown for the 4:30 movie at the Ojai Playhouse.  I love going to the Playhouse.  Since its extensive renovation, my only complaint is that some guy usually opens the men’s room door into my back as I stand in front of the urinal.  Progress sometimes occurs in small steps.

The movie, Afghan Star, chronicled the adventures of five everyday Afghans as they competed for the title “best new singer in Afghanistan.”  Three young men and two young, vibrant women made it to the finals, having been winnowed from hundreds of sometimes comical, sometimes pathetic contestants.  A home-grown TV station sponsored the contest. Votes were cast at each stage of the competition by anyone with a cellphone and a desire to be counted.

The entire country seemed to be caught up in the excitement.  Befitting the political mess in Afghanistan, there was ample opportunity to cajole, threaten and cheat in order to make your favorite singer a winner.  People were glued to TV sets, placards were everywhere, handouts extolling your favorite singer’s virtues littered the landscape.  It was exciting, meaningful, happy.

The camera also captured the sorry state of the country, focusing on bullet holes in what once were attractive buildings, dirty street urchins making a living by recharging car batteries used to power TV sets equipped with home-made antennas and, sadly, the continuing less-than-second-class status of women.  Death seemed to be lurking around every corner.

Yet there was a certain hope that permeated the film.  A hope that things could be different, better.  Flashing back to 1980, a video of an Afghan dance hall highlighted men and women in daring western dress, swinging to rock music, smoking, drinking and looking as happy as our kids did.  Much has changed since then.

I watched and found myself thinking about the war and our part in it.  I thought back to my tirades about the war in Iraq.  How we should have never been there.  How we needed to get out now.  How our then-president had cheated us, let us down, been out of touch with reality.  How I was elated when Obama took over.  How I hoped that we’d all come home.  How it wasn’t our war.  How I hadn’t given much thought to his belief that it was Afghanistan where we were really needed.

Now it’s Obama’s turn in the box and I’m torn.  Why do we need to be there?  The place is a hell hole.  The government is run by crooks.  The country is divided among egotistical warlords.  Religion is taking its toll on human freedoms.  The Taliban are everywhere.  Money needed here at home is being pissed away without meaningful improvement in Afghan lives.  And, worst of all, our kids are being killed along with the poor, unfortunate Afghans.

But then there’s the hope, the possibility of an Afghan Star.


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