Saturday, July 24, 2004

Decency to avoid cicatrices!

I am still reading the report on 911.  What I wanted to write about today, though, is an issue that is becoming very emotional for me.  As those of you reading my blog might have noticed, I am becoming more acrimonious and cynical everyday.  It is hard to remain sane these days.

A sign of times though.  Almost everyone—no matter what his or her political orientation-- seems to be expecting a bumpy ride in the coming months.  The pitch is going to get shriller and that is to be expected.  There will be charges and countercharges.   Certain matters are to be revisited, for revisionism has always been part and parcel of all political conflicts.  Trial balloons are to be floated, and that too is to be expected. 

The broad contours of the debates to come are visible and obvious; the issue of terrorism, nuclear proliferation, WMDs, and Human Rights.  Another issue sure to be revisited is to be the matter of the use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.

There is a lesson a young Jewish man once taught me many years ago in a foreign university I was attending.  The details are becoming murkier with each passing day, but his face is not.  It was either the Israeli Independence Day, or the Arab Land Day; can’t remember for sure.  There were celebrations, protests, counter protests, loud arguments, shoving, flag theft and furious men on the brink of fist fights, and of course a Star of David with a Swastika drawn in the middle.

As I was passing through the crowd a young man, yarmulke, glasses and all, caught my attention in the middle of all the raucous.  He was out of place for he was quietly weeping.  I have never been able to get those tears out of my mind. 

You see, I have always had an odd reaction to tears.  I think it might have something to do with my mother.  She is a very strong woman, reserve and subtle.  She has been sickly for as long as I remember.  In our younger days, I would catch her quietly weeping because of nasty headaches that seemed to last for ever. 

What made her quiet tears so maddening for me was the fact that although she was always in pain, she insisted on boasting a lovely smile in public, or when around her husband and children.  The sheer magnitude of the pain that would have made her cries so uncontrollable, even as a young child struck me as terribly, terribly unbearable. 

So there was the man and his tears.   I approached him to ask why he was crying in the midst of such loud madness. And he said he had lost relatives during the Holocaust and added, “you have no idea how hurt that Swastika makes me feel.”  Or something like that.

I wasn’t all too sophisticated about politics, history or other such matters. In many ways, I still am not.    But I think I knew pain.  Nothing, I told myself, would justify inflicting such a pain on another being.

 Think what you want about Israel, the nature of the Middle East conflict, the occupation of Palestinians or the Israeli tactics. There is a certain comparison that has always been off limits for me.   It didn’t take many political arguments, lectures on history, philosophy, economics or visits to the Holocaust Museum.    The young Jewish man communicated to me the imperative of treating certain questions as a matter of elementary decency.    

No momentary political gains would ever justify his tears for me. Certain sorts of rhetorical devices are simply cheap.   Some things are not worth it or just flat wrong.  I might be soft, idealistic, naive, foolish, or whatever other epithet you would want to hurl my way.  This simple principle, however untenable it might appear at times, has been a must for me.

I bring this up because I can read the writing on the wall.  In order for the matter to come to blows with Iran, the issue of mass poisoning of Iranians and the Kurds is going to have to be turned upside down.  Saddam is a monster, we were told.  He gassed his own people, we were told.  He had to be destroyed in order to ensure our collective security. 

The gassing issue was one of the fundamental pillars of the interventionist argument. So now, it has to become an Iranian problem.  And all I wanted to say is DON’T DO IT!

Have the decency to let Iranians bear their wounds without adding insult to injury.  There will be lots of other issues.  Hundreds of reasons, really.  You can weave any narrative nowadays with proper patience and in due time.   All of us can get away with all sorts of inanities.  Even I have figured that much. 

But is it too much to expect elementary decency?  Nothing good can ever come of obscene approaches, I tell you. 

There are tens of thousands here, still, who are suffering gravely, with scabs, boils and acute respiratory afflictions.  There are funerals, almost everyday, for the ones whose torment finally comes to an end.  It is too sad.  Too painful. Way too many tears. 

And we know who helped gas them. Who profited.  And who subsidized their suffering and murder.  We also know whose taxes. 

So, make all the other arguments in the world, if that’s your thing. 

And if it must come to blows, it comes to blows.  No one lives for ever.  We either die, or we muddle our way through. 

 But back the f#@k off the chemical poisoning issue.      


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