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January 11, 2009


Dave's certainly been the 'go to' guy for weeping lately. And Dale's said something wonderful about empathy benefitting those who feel it, not those who they feel empathy towards. It's a bit stark, the contrast between the warm rain of my comfortable weeping, and the deranging trauma being suffered by the objects of my remote, aesthetic minded gaze. It's probably myself I'm blubbering for, and why not. Dave's words framed that image of the child being lowered into the earth in a way that was dizzyingly beautiful. I never want to see it again, but somehow the gift of that child to the ground is something that I find sustains me, and speaks to my fears, perhaps in the very Aztec way that Dave suggests. It's just too gruesome to elaborate this parallel into words as I see myself as more Aztec, more Saturnine, by the minute. How vexing to see children as pomegranate seeds, with no better model at hand. "Weeping through the generations" would be my guess. I certainly wouldn't want to deny anyone the joy.

I do not want to be silent, but who will listen to me? I'm just an old woman.

Bill, you're quite right, that we mainly weep for ourselves. I've actually gone back and looked at that photo several times - it says more to me than all the more gruesome pictures of bodies that have been in the news. One thing I've especially appreciated lately is Dave's wrestling with the way we have of making violence and death poetic, in the sense of sort of making it into an aesthetic, because that's how we see songs and poems. On the other hand, images like that one, and certain poems, speak more eloquently to our deepest feelings than the ruder images that show the act of violence itself, and I think they have a cathartic power that sometimes lifts us out of numbness and despair and makes us more capable of acting. Thanks a lot for the thoughtful comment.

Anne, thank you for articulating the helplessness so many of us feel. I read your comment to my husband today, wondering how to respond. He immediately said, "Tell her that the most influential people in your life were old women." And that's absolutely true: older women who refused to keep their mouths shut about what was right, and wrong. If older people, especially women, hadn't passed along their values about human decency -- and had the quiet authority that comes with living according to their beliefs -- so many younger people would have grown up thinking less about things, and the world would be in far worse shape than it is. Age certainly brings a sense of dis-empowerment, but it can also bring the courage to speak out more fearlessly -- mostly I think it's our choice to make. If you don't want to be silent, then don't be - and that makes two of us, which makes me feel less alone.

Kia ora Beth,
Your beautiful words move me deeply, and Dave's bring me to tears. I don't know what to write inside this deep sadness, but I will try to speak.

Your analogy is so beautiful and apt.
And oh god - I miss anar, terribly. And just the thought of khoresht fesenjan makes my mouth water. I really can't wait to go back to and explore the region in greater detail and I am happy I can now study what I really, really have wanted to for so long.

Beth, I've just left a comment at Dick's blog and have been reading Dave's and seeing videos on YouTube of the carnage in Gaza and started an admittedly pie-in-sky fantasy on Blaugustine about a dancing army to confront the killing one. But the truth is, as you and the others have said, that our despair and anger and outrage are our own, they are no comfort or solution for those who are suffering. Yet we must continue to feel strongly and to express what we feel. There are demonstrations here in London and all over the world right now - are they powerful enough to stop the killing? Probably not, but they must continue and maybe, if they get larger and stronger, they will have an effect. Meanwhile, the children continue to die.

Beth, I've just seen the following report on the European Tribune website and am copying it here as it is so relevant to the discussion.

(Cyprus, 11 January 2009) - The Free Gaza Movement ship, "SPIRIT OF HUMANITY," left Larnaca Port at 3:00 pm, Monday, 12 January, on an emergency mission to besieged Gaza. It is expected to arrive in Gaza at approximately 11am (UST) Tuesday morning. Aboard the ship are 36 passengers and crew, representing 17 different nations. They are five doctors, five journalists, human rights workers, and five European parliamentarians representing Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Spain The mercy ship also carries desperately needed medical supplies meant for hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

This voyage marks Free Gaza's second attempt to break through the blockade since Israel began attacking Gaza on 27 December. Between August and December 2008, the Free Gaza Movement successfully challenged the Israeli blockade five times, landing the first international ships in the port of Gaza since 1967.

The Israeli military violently attacked an earlier attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to send an emergency boat filled with doctors and medical supplies to Gaza. In the early hours of Tuesday, 30 December, the Israeli navy deliberately, repeatedly, and without warning rammed the unarmed ship, the DIGNITY, causing significant structural damage and endangering the lives of its passengers and crew. The DIGNITY found safe harbor in Lebanon, and is currently awaiting repairs.

Shortly before the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY left Cyprus today, the Cypriot authorities informed the Free Gaza Movement that the Israeli government had officially contacted their embassy in Tel Aviv, and warned them that they felt "justified" in using "any means available" to forcibly prevent the mercy ship from arriving in Gaza. At the request of the ship's organizers, the Cypriot authorities searched the ship prior to its departure to certify that it only carried medical supplies.

Fouad Ahidar, a member of the Belgian Parliament sailing to Gaza aboard the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, responded to concerns that Israel may attack the unarmed ship by saying, "I have five children that are very worried about me, but I told them: `you can sit on your couch and watch these atrocities on the television, or you can choose to take action to make them stop.'"

Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have injured thousands of civilians and killed over 900 people, including hundreds of women and children. This ongoing Israeli massacre severely and massively violates international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions, especially the obligations of an Occupying Power and the requirements of the laws of war.

The United Nations has failed to protect the Palestinian civilian population from Israel's massive violations of international humanitarian law. Israel has closed off Gaza from the international community and demanded that all foreigners leave. But Huwaida Arraf, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movements, stated that, "We cannot just sit by and wait for Israel to decide to stop the killing and open the borders for relief workers to pick up the pieces. We are coming in. There is an urgent need for this mission as Palestinian civilians in Gaza are being terrorized and slaughtered by Israel, and access to humanitarian relief denied to them. When states and the international bodies responsible for taking action to stop such atrocities chose to be impotent, then we--the citizens of the world--must act. Our common humanity demands nothing less."

Forgot to give the direct link to the page on the European Tribune. Here it is:


Sorry about silly stuff in a serious thread. But you've been memed. I hope you don't mind, and it's fun.


Thank you for this post, beth. And for the reminder that however fatigued we are by horrors it is always better to speak than be silent. Being silent is too close to despair for me.

Thank you.

Thanks for this, and for steering me towards Dave's poem, too.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.