2022

Torn Again!

Around 1970 – brain does not remember exact dates at this stage of the game – I happened to be in Amman, Jordan where my cousin had picked me up and, while she drove, I was looking out of the car window and saw a three-story modest house where the first floor windows and verandah had been fitted with iron bars. I commented to my cousin that the neighborhood must be experiencing criminal activity and had put up the iron bars to deter thieves from entering the home. She laughed! That, she explained, is an Interrogation and Torture location rented by the Jordanian Secret Service. I was horrified! It turns out that it was not the only location for conducting these intimidating and cruel methods. Apparently, such premises existed – and still do! – in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, throughout the Gulf States, Morocco, as well as in a host of other countries!

When the US illegitimately invaded and occupied Afghanistan and then Iraq we had the infamous Abu Ghraib prison where we conducted our own Interrogation and Torture procedures, followed by our prison in Guantanamo, Cuba where the same cruel systems continued, and, we also exported some humans for Renditions (Per Google: the practice of sending a foreign criminal or terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a country with less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners) to other parts of the world where our allies would continue with these inhumane methods. Over the years, nothing has changed and some Autocratic Regimes continue to silence demonstrators and dissidents with draconian measures knowing that fear creates silence and, therefore, they can continue ruling with impunity! Pretty dismal!

Today, while witnessing the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine I recall how much wickedness we human beings and nations are capable of, and that whether it was Colonialism, or Slavery, or regime changes, fomented revolutions and many other meddling, inequalities and injustices, our methodology for these inhumane practices continue unabated. Politicians and many Humans of Western Nations in this Twenty-first Century might gasp, feign indignation and condemn all these “undemocratic” systems when they themselves are Not above reproach no matter how much, and how often, they seek to justify matters. There are No clean hands in politics! None! Simply remember how so-called democratic nations are slowly and surely torturing and murdering Julian Assange, as one example. There are more!

The ongoing tragedy in Ukraine has opened up a myriad of debates as those same old hawkish pundits, cold-war generals and other “experts” are being trotted out to nauseatingly opine about our terrific values and righteousness, and the immoral practices of our adversaries not realizing, or admitting that we have also been immoral, specifically because our ideology of “freedom and democracy” has cost the world many Calamities! Our perspectives about all such issues, after all, are built on our personal experiences and factual history, not on the Hollywood/State Department scripted and choreographed version of events.

Moreover, it seems that every Worldwide Calamity needs a Cause Célèbre” (Reminder: During the invasion of Iraq it was Jessica Lynch and the Hollywood propaganda scripted to depict US valor! (Link Below)** And today it is Zelensky basking in the limelight and almost goading NATO and the US to jump unnecessarily into this quagmire! Many are wondering what will President Putin do? Will NATO and the US do this, that, or the other? What will the New World Order and geo-political landscape look like after all this is said and done? After all, Dubya Bush and his criminal cohorts had heralded a New World Order after their invasion and occupation of Iraq and we have been witnessing the Calamity that his World Order has produced and its repercussions across the region and the world. Will we be experiencing another newer catastrophe if/when the tragedy in Ukraine ends? Will Russia and China form an Alliance to counter US/Western hegemony? Will there be a new Cold War? It’s all up in the precarious and ominous air at the moment!

Hence, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place once again! Over the many years, and as I have been witnessing the worldwide ongoing Colonialism – it never ended for all those many centuries! – of the US and NATO, I have been slowly and surely losing a lot of my trust and confidence in the so-called democracy and freedom that the West has been extolling and exporting, while wreaking havoc and creating enemies and extremists everywhere! This is a huge dilemma for me, as well as for many knowledgeable immigrants and exiles, because we are still so angry at the wreckage that was done to our countries by those same Western Democracies. Nevertheless, here we are enjoying the democratic freedoms and lifestyles of those Western Nations we are living in, while at the same time not being able to defend, or justify many of their foreign policies, or even some of their domestic policies! Thus, we are caught in between that rock and that hard place! The fact that there are non-immigrant citizens of Western Nations who also criticize their governments and policies does not make us feel any better, the main reason being that “natives” seem to have certain rights within their nations, while our bitching is looked upon with suspicion and disdain encouraging some to say: go back home, or, how impertinent of you to be griping while enjoying our freedoms and lifestyles! So, I’m Torn Again, and I often ask myself if this American Democracy, with all its shortcomings, inequalities and failures – especially those pertaining to Black and Brown citizens and other minorities – is better, or worse, than living under an Authoritarian regime where Intimidation, Disappearances, Murder, Torture and Interrogations are a fact of life? At the end of the day, and despite all my reservations regarding the Western Political System, the answer has got to be: not since I have the choice (and so many do not), and not while I truly admire and enjoy many of the democratic ways of life and freedoms. It’s quite a conundrum, really!

However, and shelving my own Torn Again dilemmas and anger for a moment, I also ask myself that After, After, After all is said and done with the Ukraine Calamity will all of us be asking: Who Won? And the answer has got to be: We All Lost! We all lost another big chunk of our Humanity, Wisdom and Civility! So very tragic!

** https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/may/15/iraq.usa2

2022

Spring

With the melodrama playing out in Ukraine, the sad devastation of the country, its critical infrastructure and the miserable suffering of its people, together with all the mess that is our World at this present time, I needed to find something that would distract me, and so I landed on our local PBS Station airing the life of the great Edith Piaf interspersed with her (an eerily similar impersonator) amazing voice. It was a beautiful program during which I teared up listening to all those incredible songs, amongst which was one of my favorites, La Vie En Rose. The songs, as well as the trees in the forest behind our house coming to life and budding their blooms above ground after a fall and winter in which they had been diligently toiling and preparing underground, herald that Spring is right around the corner!

After the Virus first hit us about two years ago and just as we thought that we were beginning to have it under control, the Variant hit us and sent us scurrying back behind our masks and inside our homes, and, just as soon as we thought that we had that one under control and were beginning to look forward to resuming our pre-Virus lives again, we got hit with yet another tragic War that dampened our spirits once again! No rest for the weary, and for the usual anticipation of Spring Rituals such as planting our little pots and gardens; putting away gloves, hats and coats; bringing out our lighter garments; planning for all the Holidays that take place during this season; deciding on our summer vacation destination and all those other seasonal Rituals that we all look forward to! Rather, we find that we are on edge again wondering whether the nukes will be flying soon as Political Leadership reverts to its endemic and Ritual machoism, war-mongering and saber-rattling! Wouldn’t daring Peace, with all the bitter compromises that it demands, have been a better and doable option? Undoubtedly!! Undoubtedly!!

The most daunting aspect, and the one that keeps repeating itself, is that so many of us – my generation especially – have been through this agony time and time again! It is the same in every damn war with innocent human beings who had nothing to do with the decision to go to war in the first place, and may have even protested it, paying the biggest price, while those that ordered it were safe in their bunkers! It is unfair and unjust! Whether it was WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Libya, Rwanda, Ukraine and on and on and on we have seen almost exactly the same images: dead bodies in the streets, shelled and blasted buildings, mothers running away with their children, elderly people hobbling themselves to safety, shelters full of people cowering in fear, schools and hospitals attacked, doctors and nurses struggling to take care of the injured, humans out to buy food being blown away, mass graves, pregnant women giving birth in the most unsanitary and frightful conditions, despairing and traumatized, shell-shocked human beings! The same damn images in every single war that has ever taken place except that the lethal weapons evolve and become more deadly; forbidden weaponry being used again and again and again as if the decision to ban them was meaningless; propaganda, lies, deceit, demonizing the enemy and manufacturing consent being part of every war – No Exceptions; world forums, UN Resolutions, sanctions, threats and protests failing every single time to stop a war! When will that slogan: War Is Not The Answer ever resonate enough with inept world leaders – none exempt! – who need a crash course in Diplomacy and Peace-making before they ever run for office???!!!

As the World around us has been sent spinning into this dangerous Free Fall, many of us living away from war zones revert to our usual mundane Rituals so as to create a purpose for which to get out of bed each morning and try and avert sinking into depression! Such Rituals have been an integral part of the daily lives of the millions of worldwide refugees living in the most dismal camps where, as examples, the women get together every morning to sip coffee or tea and update each other of the latest happenings around the camp: venting their frustrations; complaining and commiserating; who had a baby; who was sick; who was raped, beaten or wet their pants; who needed help; where to pay condolences for another dead body; who was getting married and so on. The men, too, get together over a hot drink and play backgammon, or a game of cards as they exchange what news they have heard of. Meanwhile, the kids play soccer, hop scotch, tag or other games. These little Rituals have sustained refugees, and maintained much of their sanity during the deprecating circumstances of wars. They will do so for the people of Ukraine also, because human beings whether they have blue eyes or brown, straight hair or kinky, are tall or short, speak English or only know their own language, dine on a table or on the floor, live in an apartment or a hut will, at the end of the day, feel the same despondency, terror and sadness of any war as they pay the biggest price for it! Eventually, eventually this war we are all witnessing will also come to an end. Meanwhile, I find myself with every new war feeling more distracted, listless and crestfallen. This feeling of utter helplessness to do anything meaningful takes me back to so many upheavals and wars that I, and millions of others, have been through. It does not get easier. Not ever! One cannot be nonchalant about events that threaten our humanity and insult our civility whether they occur in Ukraine, or anywhere else! Perhaps I can only hope that the World will be La Vie En Rose one day for all of Humanity! Unfortunately, this does not seem to be around the corner like Spring in Virginia. Let us just hope that it will not carry on until next Spring!