History, as many aspects of life, is a perception. The victors, who usually chronicle the past, frequently offer a different narrative of what the vanquished victims see; and, the two perspectives are often poles apart. This brings me to today’s topic: Heroes. Throughout human existence, there have been leaders who strode across the face of our planet and forever changed history, for the better – as some of us might believe – or for worse – as others might. It is a viewpoint, after all, based on each individual’s experiences, beliefs and opinions.
During my lifetime there have been quite a few epic political characters like that who have somehow touched my life deeply and personally. Hitler comes to mind. No hero that one! Had not that vile racist murderer committed the absolutely ignoble crime of massacring Jewish men, women and little children simply because he hated Jews, my life could have turned out to be totally different from what it is. Would it have been better? Worse? I don’t know. What I am sure of though, is that the history of the Middle East would definitely have been much different and, ergo, mine.
Another larger-than-life character in my lifetime was Che Guevara. Che and Fidel Castro were friends brought together by a grassroots idealism that succeeded in revolutionizing Cuba and, eventually, inspiring a whole continent. But why did Che have this incredible effect on so many millions of my generation and across the world? I think that the foremost reason is that he and Fidel proved that a popular movement – irrelevant of whether one agrees, or doesn’t, with the tactics and ideology that they pursued – can topple a tyrant; that there was hope for the oppressed; that a handful of people can, and do, change history. That was a very powerful message, especially for Latin America, Africa and the Middle East who were barely emerging from hundreds of years of cruel colonialism. And, of course, after Che was executed in October of 1967 by the United States government, his death generated so much anger at the US and so much grief to all of us that he became a martyr-hero like no other. He still is!
For us, in the Middle East, his execution, happening just a few months after the 1967 Arab/Israeli War in which we were soundly humiliated and defeated, was a colossal blow! The amazing fact for me was that while in Beirut we all knew from day one that Che’s assassination was undertaken by the CIA, no American person I mentioned that fact to then, and not even in the Eighties after I moved to the US, believed me. I was told things like: that’s just paranoid; our government wouldn’t do that; the Bolivians killed him; you people blame everything on the CIA. Well! Now the files have been released and America knows, doesn’t it? Or, does it? And, if not, until when will the denial of that, and all the other crimes, continue? And, what are the consequences of that denial for the US and for our world?
Another historic figure, again, especially for us in the Middle East, was Patrice Lumumba who was fighting for the Congo’s freedom from Belgian colonialism as we cheered on. Lumumba was elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo after one of the darkest colonial history eras on the African continent, during which Leopold II, the Butcher of Congo, ordered the massacre of 10 million Congolese and had their right hands cut off and shipped to Belgium as proof of that genocide!! The sheer horror of that butchery still reverberates on that miserable continent. Lumumba was martyred in January of 1961 by the Belgians and with the tacit approval of the CIA, who were planning a similar dastardly deed. There again, our hopes that one day our countries in Africa and the Middle East could be ruled by leaders of our own choice were crushed and trampled under Western feet! Do Westerners link that to what is happening over there today, I wonder? To the frustrations that people feel when they know that they do not – and will not – be allowed to control their political landscape? That when the frustrations cannot be channeled through a legal political system they will find malicious outlets such as fanaticism and terrorism, as two examples? Sadly, I doubt it!
And then, of course, there’s Mandela! A colossal hero-figure all over the world, but especially in South Africa, as well as in every nook and cranny of that vast continent where he fought for justice and equality against a white, racist apartheid regime. He was called a “terrorist” by the apartheid regime that put him behind bars, and by most white racist governments of the world. And oh, we, Palestinians, so identified with that! After all, Israel had decided to call us “terrorists” too and, again, Western governments and all their Baa Baa sheep, including the mainstream media, supported that! Mandela considered himself a Freedom Fighter and Palestinians, too, are fighting for their freedom. Anyway, think for how long Mandela was vilified and then recall how all those same heads of state and governments that had stood by as he was called a terrorist were, after he was freed and especially upon his death, falling all over themselves to attend his funeral and to laud him! What unbelievably shameless opportunistic hypocrites!
(Oh, those memories, just writing about them makes me hurt all over again!)
I have previously said that our world is now in Free Fall. I think recent events whether they are in Nigeria, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Ferguson, New York, Ukraine, or Paris prove that we are. The white Western politicians and governments that have historically refused to allow the previous “colonies,” or the “colonized” any free reign in conducting their own affairs, continue to react to events that they have previously helped to bring about, rather than seek to first of all understand their causes, link those causes to all the events going on since the sixties especially, and then try to honestly solve the dilemmas.
I am not a politician, nor do I have the answers on how to go about solving our humongous problems. What I do know, as millions around this globe do, is that there is something very criminally wrong occurring here. And I understand how the citizens of the Western World, living mostly in their consumerist comfort zones, do not want their lives to be upended in any way. Hence, they continue to be lulled by their politicians into thinking that if our distorted foreign policy is changed they would be in grave danger of losing all their comforts, freedoms, yadda, yadda, yadda! However, it behooves me that they do not see the world beyond their doorsteps and that they are too lazy and too comfortable to even want to. Perhaps, too, they might feel helpless to change things? Do they not realize though that at the end of the day what happens elsewhere will reverberate, sooner or later, in their lives and the lives of their children? And what will it take for them to do so in this very interconnected, inter-dependant world of ours?
That the colonist period in the Middle East and Africa is tragically still playing itself out in those tormented regions is apparent to millions. That it is an excuse for Western hegemony, criminal ideologies and/or radical religions – whether they are ISIS, Israel or Any other country – is totally unacceptable to most of the citizens of the affected countries who end up being their primary victims. It is though, in most cases, quite understandable. It is, also, fixable, and that’s where the responsibility for the Western Powers lies if it is their desire to fix it, which does not seem to be the genuine intent. How tragic, dangerous and infuriating!
There have always been heroes in our world (I mentioned only three of them today) and there always will be. At some point, one (or a few) must and will emerge, and the evil and unjust policies that the world has been pursuing will, hopefully, be replaced by some of those ideals we all aspire for. That the world will ever become a Shangri-La is unlikely, but we can, at least, reverse the immorality and injustice that have been going on in these past few decades especially, and that are causing such immeasurable suffering, agony and destruction to untold numbers of innocent human beings all across this distressing globe.