Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dispatches from the static . . .

For almost eight years now, we have been living with a Chief Executive with a unique ability to take a "buzz-word" and pound it into unintelligibility with coarseness and a painful lack of persuasiveness. This morning, while driving, I heard him exhibit this rustic skill with the word "destabilizing." Hamas is destabilizing, Syria is destabilizing, Iran and Hezbollah are destabilizing.

Now, to be sure, the use of the emotionally potent oversimplication is nothing new. One can trace it back, in its modern context as far back as Walter Lippman. However, an enterprising intellect can travel back as far as the earliest forms of public discourse and find analogues. What strikes me most about the president's use of this technique is the utter obviousness and transparency of it. It is clear to me, with every Texas-tinged utterance of "destabilizing" I grow increasingly less convinced that either myself or the president knows exactly what it means.

Clearly the idea is that the actions of certain, um, actors, persist in disrupting the formula and execution of the status quo. This is what destabilizing means. What the destabilizing descriptor misses is the fact that the status quo is not stable to begin with. The original "destabilization" took place long ago, and the ripples have run through decades of dictatorships, covert marriages of violent convenience and the crushing of popular, democratic resistance. As we come upon the 60th anniversary of al-Nakba, let us remember that Bush does not mention the destabilizing effect of the continuous, illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Let us remember that he does not mention the destruction and needless loss of life in Iraq, and let us not forget that he does not mention a how our "partners" in the region, presumably stabilizing agents, daily jail opposition activists and close dissident publishers. The point here, boys and girls, is not draw moral equivalences, but to understand the nature of the game, and to not be deceived by the oversimplification that suggests that if only so and so would behave, the Middle East could really be a nice place to take the kids on vacation.

Pardon the poison pen. Until next time friends . . .

Friday, April 18, 2008

Seriously overdue. What can I say about Ziad Abbas? After so many talks, so many activist meetings, after so many cookies with coffee, if this sound I had heard before, I would have been shaking my fist a long time come now. I am blessed beneath his simple eloquence. Not your usual expert, but a man who has created something humble but profound, in the ashes of Deheisha Camp. Ziad’s history, both familiar and suddenly intimate, treats statistics as simply a reinforcement of a story that retains pride. Despite the checks and barriers that keep Abbas from returning home, he never intimates inimical will. The key, as well as Abbas and Ibdaa cultural center have reckoned, rests in the possibility of multimedia communication, the cheap stuff of the communication page. In fact it could prove potentially devastating.

But please, save those arguments for another hour. Take what has been given and go.

I had considered changing the thrust of this a bit. The tables are open, so let us slow ourselves to drink and put our money on the high numbers.

Of something yet to come . . .