Many people think of California as some sort of liberal beacon of enlightenment, and the San Francisco Bay Area as the beacon for the beacon, but I am here to tell you to abandon such notions. Yesterday morning, I was drinking a coffee and reading the paper in front of Peet’s in the Grand Lake neighborhood of Oakland–an area known for its great ethnic diversity and forward thinking people. Ok, there’s a Gap across the street, but in all fairness, no one gives a shit about sweat shop labor anymore. As a testament to the progressive spirit of the neighborhood, a window or two down from the Gap, you’ll find Arizmendi, the worker owned and operated collective bakery pulling down money hand over fist because they make Vegan bundt cakes and cheeseless pizza. Around the corner, the Grand Lake Theatre thrives despite its 3 plex limitations and very vocal progressive and anti-Bush messages posted on the Marquee.
Reading the paper, as I said, I was angry. I’ve said that alot lately, there is no other way to describe this feeling. Daily, during situations like this, when there is no PR campaign, such as the one in Iraq, to convince Americans that we are bombing the Lebanese and Palestinians for their own good, I can read a dozen articles that make it very clear that I and my family will always be slightly less important than real people. No one is trying to persuade us that the bombing will liberate the brave, democracy-hungry people of Gaza and Balbek–what would be the point? No one needs to be convinced here that its ok to kill Lebanese and Palestinians. Israel has bombed Lebanon about every half-decade or so in this way, and rarely a peep has been heard about brave A-rabs struggling against adversity.
There were a few people hanging around in front of the place. There’s a long bench in front of the coffee shop that gets alot of use. Residents like to mill about and exchange pulse-pounding tales about how they secured their low mortgatge rates and whatever. One of these types, who I had noticed earlier because of the very obnoxious way he wielded his very obnoxious dog as a conversational aid, excitedly boasted “we’re pounding them!” At first, I assumed he was talking about football or something. I don’t follow sports. But after another few minutes, I realized that he was describing the Israeli attack when his companion mentioned with some amount of glee that the Lebanese civilians hiding Hezbollah missiles in their apartments were now getting their come uppance.
“That’s bullshit!” I yelled. One of his friends, perhaps, thinking he was mediating, said, “Well, it is true. It was in the LA Times.” He was a more thoughtful advocate of slaughter, having expressed existential worry of some kind or another about the conflict spilling into our democracy spreading adventure in Iraq if it dragged on too long. What did the LA Times have to say about Saadam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, I asked. His friend responded “Where are they hiding them then?”.
There is a point where words fail to convey meaning. I did not want to talk to them, nor did I want to convince them, to tell them the truth about Israel, Lebanon and Palestine. That it was Israel’s occupation of both Lebanon and Palestine that created Hezbollah and Hamas in the first place. That people have a right to resist occupation, even if their occupier is Israel. How preposterous it was to think that Lebanese civilians were hiding missiles in their apartments and how even more preposterous it would be to use this as a pretext for wholesale bombing of communities if it were true. But I did not want to convey such obvious truths nor persuade these armchair murderers in the hopes that they might also one day advocate peace through justice in the Middle East. To be honest, I don’t want these guys on my team. What I really wanted to say was that I am going to kill you, but I wanted to say it with my fists. For a moment, I imagined leaping at the guy who started the conversation and beating him until his blood drenched my knuckles. I had to leave quickly. I would have done it.
I simply yelled “I hate you people!” as I left. I’m still not sure what I meant. Who are these people, anway? Are they indeed representative of Americans as a whole? Or did I just strike a Zionist vein in the steppes Oakland? Are Americans, on the median, this bloodthirsty and so banally evil, and if not, if it is only a few, than aren’t we who know better, as bad for not stopping them? At this point, I’m not sure I ever knew and I’m not sure I care anymore. But if there happen to really be terrorists plotting against America, and if they ever get smart and start blowing up places like the Gap, and they blow up this one the next time these guys are passing by on their way to applaud genocide over their French Roast and morning buns, I would feel nothing but a great joy.