Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: Things Read and Seen on the World Front

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things Read and Seen on the World Front

Well, it's been a busy few weeks and I realized that I hadn't written about some of the more profound experiences I've had.

I finally finished the book, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families. I began it waaaaaay back in February and for those of you who know me, you know that I generally finish a book within a few days. So, this was a record for me I think. It's an account of the genocide and aftermath in Rwanda in 1994. It was so challenging to read that at times I read only a page a day before I had to put it down. And then, of course, there were weeks I simply couldn't pick it up. It's beautifully and written and very informative. It's so challenging to keep track of who did what to whom--that you often don't know who the 'bad guy' is! This was definately true in the case of Rwanda. I won't go into the details here, but suffice to say when race and politics mix with long histories of suppression and neo-colonialism, it's difficult to know which came first the chicken or the egg. But we can know this, that when a standing government calls for an all-out attack on its own people, something has gone terribly wrong. But I found the summation of the book refreshing, especially in this New-World-Order-Age-of-We-Know-What's-Best-Interventionary-Politics: Africa must be the solution to Africa's problems. The outside world and it's presumptious and arrogant position that they, and only they, can solve these 'peoples problems has been shattered. The US and European Union have no more idea how to solve East or Central or West Africa's problems than they know to solve their own. And in most cases, they are the initiator of the problem in the first place. Let's not even start with the the Congo, or France in Uganda, or the US in Somalia. So, the people and the politicics must reflect the region they are from as well as project the univeral, humanitarian principles of liberty and justice and the preciousness of this human life--every human life. That's all. But that's asking a lot--for all of us.

I also finished reading Anderson Cooper's new memoir: Dispatches from the Edge: A memoir of war, disasters, and survival. A really excellent book. I don't know why I was drawn to it. I don't have cable so I can't know him as a personality on tv. But I've read a couple of interviews with him in various magazines (vanity fair, etc.) and was really compelled by his story. This memoir is a quick read, though again, a challenging one. He's been to almost every war zone and famine in the past 15 years. His tales of the human toll of war and the cost to himself in witnessing it is harrowing. I personally have a strange paradox: I love photography as a medium, an art; but I hate being behind the camera or in front of it. I feel it closes you off from the experience, from actually being there. And so to hear his account of breaking past that wall--that barrier of the camera--and beginning to be present to the moment is very powerful. Highly recommend.

And finally, the new documentary by Michael Franti on the conflict in the Middle East called I Know I'm Not Alone. First let me confess my bias, I love Michael Franti and have for more than 10 years. He began with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy--a cutting edge, conscious hip-hop/rap group, then he went on to form Spearhead. He's a beautiful, conscious, love-this-life man of peace. In this documentary he goes to Bhaghdad on his own. He meets musicians, poets, and people from all walks of life. He meets both US and Iraqi soldiers. He meets survivors, mothers, children with no legs, men with no arms. And he sings! Then he goes to the occupied territors in Palestine/Israel. And in this sequence, I am most moved by his encounter between a Palestinian young man and the Israeli guards at a gate. He convinces the palestinian to go with him and just start a dialigogue--and what begins as accusing and blame becomes a true authentic relay between the two parties. It's a beautiful thing to witness. This movie is already available on DVD and I highly recommend that you buy it and you invite all your friends over and you watch it and you talk about how we're going to be committed to peace, committed to dialogue, and committed to ending the US interests in the middle east and beyond.


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