Our Collateral damage, and theirs!

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Almost two months have passed since the eleventh of September, and now we can start reflecting on this whole issue with the necessary rationality and distance. The first thing that comes to our mind is trying to understand our own reactions and emotions in relation to that event. And when I say ‘our’ I’m thinking of us Arabs whether living abroad or in our homeland. I do realize that we did not have a unanimous way of reacting that day, but there was something in common. Most of us éexcept a small percentage of exceptions that confirm the standard as such- felt that day something that can not be described as joy, or as happiness, but rather as that sweet revenge feeling. We all had é except that small minority- a “what goes around comes around'” attitude. Seeing people jump out of the windows of the WTC, was a very disturbing sight for all of us, we all felt bad about that, and sorry for these people. That sorrow feeling was also very present whenever we tried to think of how it would have been for the poor passengers on these planes.

But then, we remembered, Iraq, Beirut, Palestine, and the millions of Arabs who perished under American-Israeli aggression over the last 50 years, and that bitter sweet feeling would come back “hell, let them feel one day what we were feeling for half a century because of them”, you would hear that everywhere, and above all places in your own mind.

Once someone told me that the toughest meeting a person might have is that with himself. And it was very difficult for us to realize that we are able of experiencing a feeling of satisfaction after such atrocity, it was very disturbing indeed. We started wondering, “what is going on with us” and almost everybody would answer ” look how far did they bring us” everybody also said ” they were killing us, humiliating us and oppressing us for so long that we lost a part of our humanity, that part that cherishes human life unconditionally”. We tried to understand our reactions, why didn’t we morn the dead, why didn’t we feel as terrified as the rest of the world did? Well maybe because, no one mourned our dead, no one stood even a second of silence for the half a million (and some say one million) Iraqi children slaughtered (albeit very neatly) by the American-British embargo. They taught us by killing us over and over again that human life is so cheap, that thousands and thousands of us scattered by their “smart” bombs are nothing but regrettable “collateral damage”, regrettable but acceptable. So one day we saw them being slaughtered and we found ourselves thinking and talking like that, we caught ourselves feeling that all these innocent civilians in the planes and at the WTC were just regrettable collateral damage.

But now after two months an alarm is ringing inside, and we are starting to realize a lot of things. There is something in our Arab-Islamic culture that can not sink that low, that rejects to become as barbaric as our enemy.

“Make no mistake” we are no heart-bleeding softies wanting to save the dolphins, and we do not have a “turn the other cheek” value making us feel guilty whenever we don’t (Europe is so imprisoned in its guilt feelings since it NEVER turned the other cheek), our culture and religion both say ” you hit me on my cheek, I give you a blow in your face. You stay out of my way, I will not bother you”. But at the same time, we have a very deeply rooted value, both religious and cultural, that a “soul” is sacred and should never be killed unless in self-defense or when executing a criminal murderer.

Our nation was not build through a process of genocide and ethnic cleansing like the United States or Israel. So the value of mass murder is not own to our heritage. Our heroes are not Indian-killing cowboys, or criminals like Begin, Shamir and Sharon, and we would not give a medal to someone after burning a whole city with all its men, women and children with an atomic bomb.

So whenever criminals among us (because like any nation of humans, us Arabs have also criminals among us) commit a horrible act of genocide or even a small attack against civilians, we are unable to behave like Americans and Israelis and applaud it feeling that it is a heroic act. We might applaud it yes, because once again I remind you that we are humans, we bare grudges and we are vulnerable to the seduction of revenge. But while applauding we will be feeling bad, and knowing how terrible it is.

Now, almost two months after the eleventh of September, we see things clear(er). It is terrible how criminals can cause by their acts the misery for so many people, people of their own kind and people of their alleged enemy. How violence will breed violence that will breed more violence. It is really terrible that criminals keep on killing civilians in name of avenging the civilians that other criminals killed.

Why don’t Doctor Frankenstein go after its created monster, and withdraw into a top of a mountain in a cave somewhere to either kill each other, or to contemplate about who is the monster and who is the victim, and over who started it first. But please, stop causing “collateral damage” it is like the pest, if you start it, it will definitely come back to your home.

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