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     Volume 8 Issue 73 | June 12, 2009 |

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Writing the Wrong

A Rumination on Pettiness, Fear and Assassination Attempts

Sharbari Ahmed
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, greets U.S. President Barack Obama upon his
arrival on June 4, at Qubba palace in Cairo, Egypt before his address to the Muslim world.
Photo: Amr Nabil / AP

Lately I have been doing regular emotional diagnostics on myself. This is usually during my attempts at meditation. I sit or lie still and take an inventory on how I am feeling about certain outstanding emotional issues and then try to work through them as rationally as possible. I have managed to prioritise and narrow it down to the most important ones. As a result I have had to throw out a couple of issues that I was clinging to for purely egotistical reasons, that I was using to fuel certain petty instincts.

I won't deny, however, that being petty sometimes (in theory, not in practice) really helps one heal, but only if one is fully aware that they are deliberately indulging in this pettiness. I say, take the pettiness as far as you can. Imagine your enemy, their humiliation, the veil of their duplicity being lifted publicly, their failure, their despair (but only in direct proportion to the amount they have caused you, never more, never less) and then let it go and try very hard to imagine them surrounded by love and success and joy. I liken this practice to taking antibiotics. You pop the bitter pill to heal, and you actually might have to get sicker before you fully get healthy.

I have found that one can exact a certain delicious pleasure in imagining themselves dunking a treacherous friend's face in the toilet repeatedly, while shouting, “who's your daddy now douche bag?” But that must be followed quickly by a vivid image of you holding their hand while running through a field of daisies--in slow motion.

Those of you getting weary of my inflicting my personal drama on you, the reader, this column is actually not about that. I was recently meditating on how I could inflict bodily harm on certain persons who had assassinated my character but then felt guilty because that is so antithetical to Godliness, and that led me to another deeply emotional issue I have been working through: Obama and his policy towards the Middle East.

Actually it was the word assassination, character or otherwise. Our man in the White House has taken a very bold position concerning the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. The boldest in decades. He has said, in no uncertain terms, that expansion must stop in order to have any real hope for peace between Israel and Palestinians. A few days after that a bomb (bogus?) attack on a New York City synagogue was foiled. The alleged bombers were black and claimed they were Muslim. This whole thing has been plaguing me. I fear that it is a harbinger of things to come if President Obama continues being an honest broker for peace in the Middle East (the first of his kind in centuries). I fear that the more he criticises Israeli policy or action, the more vulnerable he is, and the more we will see terrorist attacks on American interests and soil. They will be carefully orchestrated PR juggernauts, specifically designed to play into our fears, and prejudices. Anti-Jewish sentiments will be on the rise as well. Some schmuck (Muslim, of course, or Mel Gibson) will publicly deny the Holocaust, and that will set off more public outrage, and usurp the tentative warming towards the Muslim world that was taking place in the US.

Because of my ability to take huge leaps in imagination (all in the name of self-discovery) I have now become very anxious about my President's safety and what his untimely demise will mean for all of us. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Not just the American people.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (left) welcomes US President Barack Obama,
on his arrival at the Royal Terminal of the King Khalid International Airport in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (photo: Hassan Ammar/ AP)

The Israelis must be thinking: Mr. President, you are not playing ball. I thought this fact would make me happy. I have been waiting for years for the White House to look at the crisis in the region with fairness and integrity, but the image of Obama, with his hand on Mahmoud Abbas' arm in a convivial manner as opposed to his rather stiff reception of Bebe Netanyahu, sent chills down my spine. Unless of course that was purposefully done as well. To throw Arabs off the scent, perchance?

You see? My head is spinning. My six months in Dhaka have changed me. I am starting to be mistrustful, to question my belief in human intention; niyoth, in Bangla. I have always believed that if one's intentions are pure, then no matter what happens, it will end well. In this case, I am only one hundred percent certain about one intention: Israel does not want peace with the Palestinians. Israelis voted in the right wing, just as we voted ours out, which is fascinating. While the rest of the world rejoiced at Obama's election and many were even inspired by it to make drastic changes in their own governments, Al Qaeda, and Israel did not join the party. Al Qaeda calls Obama a criminal, the very definition of irony (are these guys even aware of what comedians they are?) and Israel is visibly put out by the President's sense of justice.

The President's articulate and inspiring entreaty to the Muslim world was that the US needs partners in the healing and re-building process—remember it takes two, count 'em two to engage in a tango. Many people seem to think that assigning blame to one party in every conflict is somehow rational and go to great and petty lengths to justify this, miring themselves in a dirty deadlock and dragging others down with them. This sort of thing is played out regularly in well-appointed parlours in Dhaka and is indicative of the greater issues plaguing this and many societies. What is not immediately apparent is that these instincts, played out on a collective, global scale, reap catastrophic results. They lead to brutality, bigotry, fear, suffering, and misery. They lead to Aucshwitz.

Therefore, without real partnership between the West and the Middle East, Obama's goals cannot, will not, be reached. Case in point: just two days before his trip to Egypt, Hamas and Fateh started shooting at each other in the street in the Palestinian territories, killing several people, and further undermining their position. You see, I can decry Israel and AIPAC until I am blue in the face, but when Arabs gun each other down in the streets, form factions and fuel centuries of clannish antagonism, I am hard pressed to maintain hope or sympathy. Imagine the glee of their detractors. “Good!” they must be saying. “Maybe they'll kill each other off and save us the trouble.”

A BBC commentator stated that Obama's plan of action in the Middle East is somewhat unclear. He will be relying on his charm, perhaps, they said. I am having difficulty trusting my President's intentions as well because I know what his olive branch to the Muslim world might cost him, his family, and his people. Enemies of peace abound; surely he knows that, so how can he really believe that his efforts in bringing it to the Middle East will be allowed to succeed? Peace in the region would mean loss for some very powerful people and entities. Is he as delusional as me? Well, you know, I always thought we had a special connection.

So these are the thoughts running rampant in my somewhat cluttered head and I cannot find it in me right now to think well of the enemies of peace and send them happy thoughts. I cannot seem to imagine taking their hand and dragging them across that daisy field. They probably planted mines all over it anyway. How will we navigate? Are the daisies and the sunshine obscuring the mines? What will trip them off? But the beauty of course is, that since I have thought of this, Mr. President has as well. Finally, a person in the White House smarter than me. That does give me hope.



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