“The Unidentified Flying Objects have asked not to publish that they are here, humanity is not ready yet.”
The interview in Hebrew gained traction after parts were published in English by the Jerusalem Post on December 8.
A few nights ago, amidst extensive coverage of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a national news network abruptly mentioned that Tom Brady recently signed a contract to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I guess it was supposed to be a bright spot in yet another tension-filled day in the U.S. and the world. And who wouldn’t want to take a break from this madness? But it startled me, as it came even before news about a massive storm system that had swept in from the Pacific and was approaching the middle of the country; bringing heavy rain and strong winds – some possibly tornadic – upon tens of millions of people. I’m well aware Americans love their football and that sports usually brings people together – excluding stupidly angry parents at kids’ softball games.
In the midst of this pandemic, I could care less about Tom Brady or any other professional athlete – especially the overpaid, over-celebrated types. Like Tom Brady. The COVID-19 death toll is rising rapidly in the U.S.; gradually becoming more real and more frightening. Just as a mudslide creeps down a rain-slogged hill, picking up rocks and vegetation, the virus has been gathering unsuspecting victims – slow, but unstoppable. Here in my native northeast Texas, the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolitan area’s nearly 8 million residents have found themselves in an unexpected lockdown capsule. Not much scares Texans, native or transplant. But COVID-19 is more terrifying than the thought of the federal government snatching up our firearms, or bars and restaurants running out of beer and tequila.
With my elderly mother’s fragile health in even more jeopardy and my gym forced to shut down, I wonder if I’m fatally mistaking my usual spring allergy symptoms for that wicked Wuhan menace. And, as matters intensify, there are some aspects of American society I don’t care about right now. I don’t care …
If another wedding or funeral in either Afghanistan or Iraq is interrupted by an ISIS bomb. U.S. troops have been embedded in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, and we still haven’t been able to tame the bearded and burqa-covered savages who occupy the nation’s rocky environs. I’ve long championed the complete removal of American troops from Afghanistan; whether or not the energy titans who have insisted they remain like it or not.
If Israel and its venomous neighbors let yet another peace pact collapse. There never has been peace in the Middle East and – at the current rate – there never will be. For one thing the U.S. has been kissing Israel’s kosher ass for as long as I can remember. We’ve bequeathed literally billions of American dollars in aid to Israel, and they’ve reciprocated with little more than self-righteous angst.
To hear more about the British royal family. As I’ve noted previously, the American media harbors a fascination with the Windsors that the majority of American citizens do not. To put it in more common vernacular, we mostly don’t a shit what the British royals do. That Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, won’t adhere to some ancient, traditional Buckingham duties is about as important to the American populace as a grasshopper binging on a blade of Augustine grass.
About the plight of illegal immigrants lined up along the Mexican border. Yes, I know many of them are desperate for a new life; free of poverty and crime. But, right now, we can’t help them. I’m genuinely more concerned about the health of my mother (who was born in México in 1932) and myself than some illiterate wetback who’s either too stupid or too lazy to follow established rules and laws to enter the U.S. legally. If they can afford to pay several thousand American dollars to a coyote, or smuggler, to help them cross the Rio Grande, they can use that money to acquire the proper documentation.
About the anxiety of the transgendered. Personally, I’m almost sick of hearing gender-confused folks clamor for equal treatment, then publicly lament that no one understands their “struggles”. No, I don’t comprehend that you have trouble figuring out whether you should have indoor or outdoor genital plumbing and I don’t want to take the time and energy to do so. For years the TG community demanded to be included within the overall queer community; now they want to piggyback on the rest of us and still have their own revolving closet.
About Confederate monuments. Throughout the southeastern U.S., generations of redneck assholes have been fighting the American Civil War and – goddammit – they STILL haven’t won! They keep hollering that the conflict that took some 800,000 lives was about states’ rights, when in fact, it was about the right of said states to keep millions of Negroes enslaved like wild animals. The conservative morons who approve school text books have tried to dance around the issue by making such asinine claims that African slaves were “immigrant workers” or that slavery was actually “work for food and shelter.” If anything, these are the people I’d love to see infected with COVID-19 and die. When education and information fail to enlighten people, I view death as the only viable alternative.
About the Kardashian clan. As with the British royal family, I’m about as concerned with the Kardashian gang as I am with a bug’s ass. In fact, like with professional athletes, I don’t give a shit for the antics of overpaid, over-hyped celebrities; people who live in gilded mansions and consider limited bandwidth a problem.
Whether or not Oprah Winfrey can eat bread. For more than thirty years I’ve heard the former talk show host bemoan her struggles with weight and body imagery. Here’s some body imagery for you: I have an uncircumcised penis and hair covering my butt and my chest. Does anyone genuinely care? No! And I don’t give a flying fuck if Oprah can eat an entire loaf of unleavened bread in one sitting without feeling guilty. Her wagon loads of chicken fat (emblematic of her butt cheeks) failed to impress me; instead, just making me laugh. I recall, during her 2009 visit to the Dallas area, Oprah waddled onto a stage at the Texas State Fair clad in jeans and a cowboy hat (trying to look so…you know, Texan). My mother glared at the TV screen and uttered, “God, I didn’t realize how fat she is until now…seeing her in those jeans. You know, fat gals have no business wearing jeans.” Thus remember, despite her self-aggrandizing proclamations, Oprah doesn’t really care if you like bread, or if you can distinguish real mashed potatoes from processed cauliflower. She just cares if you buy her magazines. Which might not be a bad idea right now. Toilet paper has been in short supply lately.
Now, dear readers, please tell us what you care about most (or least) in these critical times. I fully believe in the power of the pen and the keyboard, and as bloggers and writers, we are obliged to keep the unbridled truth – and the hand sanitizer – in motion.
“It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s alive!”
As the United States slowly recuperates from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans are suddenly beset with a very real horror show: the rise of militants in Iraq, as well as the collapse of the Iraqi government. Most of us keep smacking ourselves across the face; trying to wake up from what can only be deemed a nightmare. No – a night terror. This can’t be happening. There must be some kind of misunderstanding. The media has it all wrong.
No, they don’t. It is happening. And, we’re all wide awake.
I wish that the brewing fiasco is – at best – a really cruel, heartless joke. But, it’s simply not. The blatant reality is that radical Iraqi insurgents have risen from the crypt of hate and anger to launch an assault on that nation’s fragile government and hapless military. They’ve already taken over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. It’s surely only a matter of time before they attack Baghdad.
President Obama, who campaigned in 2008 partly on the promise to end the war in Iraq, says another round of military intervention is not likely. But, almost in the same breath, he added, “We have enormous interests there.”
What happened to the good old days, when a president would say stupid crap, but still really believe it with all his heart? Many of us disagreed with George W. Bush, but at least we knew where he stood on an issue. Along with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Bush hoodwinked much of the nation into believing Iraq had a role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and was secretly building a nuclear arsenal. In the twisted logic that only a draft-dodging right-wing lunatic could manufacture, Bush forced the U.S. to switch its attention abruptly from Afghanistan to Iraq. Most of us level-headed folks saw the ruse clearly and still didn’t mind being labeled terrorists. We knew it was a lie. But, Bush was a puppet president for corporate oil interests (in much the same way Warren G. Harding was), so I don’t blame him completely.
But, with nearly 4,500 U.S. dead in Iraq alone – not to forget those who died from their injuries or suicide once back home – we’re faced with a bizarre quandary: sending troops back into Iraq to thwart what observers have ominously deemed the “threshold of civil war.”
Trick question: what’s the difference between the threshold of civil war in Iraq and a total conflict?
The difference is in terminology only. Hearing military and political “experts” trying to define the two concepts is like saying there’s a difference between azure and blue. I knew a guy in college who got upset when people said he was Italian. He preferred the term “Sicilian.” Oh, of course! Silly me! And, just so you’ll know, I’m not Latino. I’m Hispanic! ¿Entiendes?
The U.S. put itself into a quixotic situation with Iraq more than three decades ago when it began funding its war with Iran. That came to an abrupt end in 1988, when Saddam Hussein launched a genocidal chemical attack on Kurdistan. The U.S. also placed itself in a quagmire with Afghanistan when it supported mujahideen rebels in their valiant fight against the former Soviet Union – and then forgot about the Afghan people. One nation doesn’t make a promise of that magnitude to another nation without owning up to it.
If, by some wretched chance, we do send our military back into Iraq, here’s what I’d like to see happen:
It’s only fair all of the above should occur, as the U.S. roars back into Iraq like a repo man going after a late-model BMW for the third time. But, I also think it’s only fair I should be rich and famous without working too hard for it. After all, I’m attractive (in the right black light) and intelligent. Why should I struggle so hard?
Will the U.S. boomerang its troops back into Iraq? I can only hope not. But, you know how that goes.
Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh has been detained without charge by Israeli officials since February 16 at the Allenby Bridge checkpoint between Jordan and the West Bank. Saba’aneh, a popular editorial cartoonist for “Al-Hayat al-Jadida,”s the Palestinian daily newspaper, is also head of public relations at the Arab American University in Jenin. His imprisonment has sparked an international outrage.
The Cartoon Movement, a global cartoonist collective, Cartoonists Rights Network International and Reporters Without Borders have joined in an effort to have Saba’aneh released. It’s hard to imagine cartoonists getting into an uproar, but like most artists, they’re often the voice of the people.
I was surprised to learn that Israeli law allows for the detainment of foreigners without charge; mere suspicion can induce imprisonment. I suppose if I happen to find myself in downtown Tel-Aviv and ask for a BLT, I could end up in the slammer. Damn! For just that?! In such a hostile society, anything can happen.
Here we go again – more violence in the Middle East. In case you’ve been in a coma, or preoccupied by Dancing with the Stars, Egypt is in another uproar; this time because President Mohammed Morsi has issued a mandate that grants him more political power. This comes less than two years after Egyptian liberation activists forced Hosni Mubarak to resign, following a nearly three-decade reign. Then, the “Arab Spring” erupted, as one country after another in the region started demanding truly democratic states; free speech, free elections, the freedom to walk down the street and not be hit by a car bomb. But, just as things seemed to settle down – and they always just seem to settle down – Israel and Palestine have begun fighting once more. Yawn – so what’s new?
Years ago, when I worked for a bank in downtown Dallas, I’d set my VCR to record the CBS Evening News. I often made it home, as the VCR was recording, so I’d just lay down for a quick nap. But, whenever news of the day’s events came to the Middle East, I’d just fast-forward the tape. I didn’t want to hear – again – what crap was ablaze in that part of the world. And, that part of the world is always ablaze. If news reports of the region don’t show scattered body parts and ambulances swinging around street corners, I tend to think the end of the world has come and I didn’t check my email in time.
Just like every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has longed to end America’s dependence on foreign oil, every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has sought peace in the Middle East. In the waning days of their respective administrations, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush became determined to draw up peace treaties. But, Jimmy Carter came closest of any Chief Executive with the Camp David Accords. In 1978, he succeeded in bringing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin together to discuss two plans of action:
(1) a framework for the conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and;
(2) a broader framework for achieving peace in the Middle East.
The first provided for a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula and that region’s full return to Egypt within three years of the signing of a formal peace treaty between the two countries. It also guaranteed the right of passage for Israeli ships through the Suez Canal. The second was a more general framework (with vague terms) for Israel to gradually grant self-government and/or autonomy to the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and to partially withdraw its forces from those areas in preparation for negotiations on their final status of autonomy after a period of three years. The two countries had been in an almost perpetual state of conflict since the 1956 Suez War, which had ultimately led to the 1967 “Six Day War.” Israel invaded Egypt in May 1967, after the latter had forced the United Nations to withdraw from the Suez region. Israel believed Egypt was about to attack them, so it engaged in what is now called a preemptive strike.
That’s how it’s been ever since. The history of the Middle East is long and complicated, as you might expect from one of the birth places of modern humanity. Early Egyptians built one of the most advanced and complex societies in the ancient world; they created one of the earliest forms of writing. The ancient Israelites had lived in the area for thousands of years. But, scores of powerful societies – from the Babylonians to the Romans to the Ottoman Empire – gradually forced them out in different waves over extended periods of time. The British were the last; leaving in 1948, as the new Israeli state took shape.
Thus, I hate to see that entire region engulfed in a continuing state of war. It’s one of the most culturally and archeologically significant places in the world. I was upset, in early 2001, when the Taliban destroyed some of the oldest pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan, including a 2,000-year-old, 165-foot-tall Buddhist masterpiece.
Since its founding as a formal nation in 1948, Israel is always fighting someone. But, it seems they have no choice; they’re surrounded by enemies. And, Israel is a small country, both geographically and population-wise. Like every other nation, it has a right to exist in peace. Its people have endured plenty of suffering, too; bounced around like trash sometimes; forced to move from one place to the next, while trying to maintain their unique
cultural identify and personal dignity. The Nazi Holocaust of World War II compelled many Jews to flee Europe and settle in the area generally known before 1948 as Palestine. They sought to establish their own homeland.
I actually support Israel. They are the only true democracy in the Middle East. They have the highest standard of living in the region and one of the highest in the world. They also have one of the best national policies: every one of their able-bodied, able-minded citizens must serve in one branch of their military. I feel the U.S. should adopt the same strategy, although wealthy conservatives, bleeding heart liberals and angry feminists would throw a fit.
But, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of this Middle East mess. I’M REALLY TIRED OF IT! Like presidential campaigns and Thanksgiving turkeys, it’s never-ending. And, the entire world seems to stop and pay attention when a bomb goes off or a solider is kidnapped – which I’m sure is how Israel, Palestine and all the others like it. At the start of the 2007 – 2009 Israel – Palestine conflict, even HLN’s Nancy Grace took time out from looking for missing White females to talk with Christiane Amanpour about the fighting. I literally did a double take. What the hell was Nancy Grace doing involved in that shit?!
But, that proves how much attention the Middle East garners whenever things go awry – which is all the time. It’s the same conflict – the same issues – the same level of anxiety – and the same results. People die, and the streets are bloodied. Israel holds up its hands, saying they had no alternative but to defend itself, and Palestine, Egypt, or whoever claims they’re fighting for their own self-preservation. Nothing changes. Yet, the U.S. keeps jumping in to save Israel and work towards elusive peace agreement.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next – aside from more bloodshed and name-calling – and I don’t know what can be done about it. But, sometimes I wish the U.S. would just stay the hell out of it. I know that won’t happen. But, I have these wild dreams sometimes and I like to think they can actually come true, if people would just listen to me.
Image courtesy of Olle Johansson.
“Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. And it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians.”
– Norman Finkelstein, American political scientist and author, whose parents are Nazi Holocaust survivors.
I’m sure anyone in the Middle East, outside of Israel, would answer this question with a resounding ‘no.’ While the question of Palestine sovereignty is one of the most pressing issues on the international stage, author and human rights activist Susan Abulhawa looks at it from a literary standpoint. She and her family are refugees from the 1967 ‘Six Day War,’ and one might expect her to be filled with rage towards Israel. But, as a writer, Abulhawa knows fully that literature, like art and music, can be used as a tool to create dialogues about even the most controversial of matters and build bridges between communities that have always built walls instead. Her book Mornings in Jenin is a fictional telling of her family’s own experiences with forced relocation, but the story takes place in the aftermath of Israel’s 1948 independence. Many people probably don’t want to talk about it, or worst, pretend there’s no real problem at all. But, we’ve seen what happens when people stop talking and start fighting. They end up with the problems that plague the Middle East. I think we should stop listening to the region’s political leaders and start listening to its writers and other artists. Often, their resolutions don’t involve blood and bombs.