Here we go, 2009. The world has kept on spinning (so far), and, as usual, it's ignored our devices to mark time. Despite all the hope heaped upon Barack Obama, his is a job I do not envy. The problems, the very real, very deep problems he has to address, and is expected to solve are legion, and complicated, and long-term, and difficult. An historic President, history is ready to cast its eye on him with a long, hard stare. He will, of course, be remembered for being black, no doubt, yet history won't cut him an ounce of slack for that. His biggest problem is going to be his own image. He was elected as (dare I say it?) a savior. The expectation for him to rebuild the nation is, honestly, unrealistically high. There's a longer post in here about how we, the electorate, have abrogated our responsibilities and privileges as citizens of a unique government in favor of near-tyranny by funneling all of our expectations onto a single position, the Presidency. Indeed, our own Congress has abandoned its last real power these last few months, by abrogating the power of the purse. I speak of the bailout, which control over was immediately handed over to the Executive branch. That's not how it's supposed to work, at all. The stimulus promises the more of the same. Pity. I often debate my mother about the parallels between Rome and the United States. My mother, being more religious than I (well, who isn't, really?) dwells on the tiresome litany of parallels of decadence, and fraying morality. It's difficult to convey the complex issues, politically, and economically, that I feel are the real issues, and the dangerous parallels, when the debate devolves into the (admittedly, sometimes shocking) morality of the Romans, so I have to politely remind her that both Western and Eastern Roman empires were Christian when they fell. Delightful to have that historical trump card, really. I think dwelling on how we and the Romans fuck is irrelevant, largely. It's the frightening parallels between the end of the Republic and the ascension of Empire that really scares the shit out of me. Again, that's a longer post, and for another time.
The real blight on 2009 is the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Allow me to state this for the record: I am not anti-Semitic. I am not a racist. This has to be stated, because if you are an American, and criticize Israel, you are inevitably branded as anti-Semitic. Criticizing actions and politics in no way reflects personal views on a particular race, except, apparantly, if you target Israel.
I've never been a fan of Israel. I think it was a huge, guilt-driven mistake, but now that it's there, I suppose that's water under the bridge. The issues of forced relocation, disturbingly reminiscent of American treatment of Native Americans, can wait for another, more detailed post. The Western world's treatment of the Palestinians, from the get-go, which has been blatantly racist, can also wait for another time. Israel's brutal, and barbaricly disproportionate, responses which completely ignore civilian casualties (yes, yes, suicide bombers, and missle attacks target civilians: my point is the lack of any kind of moral compass on Israel's part.)
The last straw was Israel's bombing of the UN school. Oh, sure, it was an accident...several days after the event. That day, however, an Israeli military spokeperson assured us that Hamas was operating from that school, and the targeting was intentional. The school was registered with the UN, including its GPS coordinates. Israel is using weapons guided by GPS.
All of my life, I've only seen news reports from Israel's point of view, and I acknowledge that living in fear, surrounded by often unscrupulous enemies must be terrifying. Those same news reports usually tally the dead, and as I grew older I got decidedly uncomfortable with the large casualties inflicted on the Palestinian civilian population, often an order of magnitude larger than Israeli. Rolling tanks through tent villages (yes, many Palestinians are still living in tents 60 years after the creation of Israel) and indiscriminantly shooting to kill is unbelievable to me, especially considering how radically outmatched the Palestinians are.
Our communications revolution is amazing, and the night of the school bombing, films from the scene made it out into the Western press. Dead children. Dead women. A man sobbing because his entire family was killed. Despite these scenes of horrific suffering (suffering, suffering, so much in the world, and we still insist on meteing more upon each other: once in awhile I wonder if we even deserve to survive,) it somehow is each and every Palestinian's fault. They brought it upon themselves. Even if you are a hapless, unarmed Palestinian civilian, who desperatley wants to simply live your life in peace (and wouldn't mind some infrastructure, say, a grocery store, and running water instead of getting them out of the back of a UN truck) you are responsible for the terrorism against Israel, and your life is forfeit. Unreal. I meant to lay out a bit of history, and the points of incredible double standard that are levied against the Palestinians, but I'm too upset to continue right now. I'll leave it at this for now.