Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our opinion of war starts at the pump

I've started Alia Malek's book, A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives, it's excellent. Malek tells the history of Arabs in America by selecting monumental events and narrating those events through the eyes of a character, or a handful of characters, who lived through those formative moments.

Malek follows an America man, Alan, who is of Lebanese descent, as he lives through the Detroit riots that ran in parallel with Israel's routing of the Arab nations in the War of 1967 and the Six Day War of 1973.

Alan struggles to understand why no one in Detroit, MI cares about the 20,000 Arabs killed in the war nor how the American media could so blatantly tell half-truths about the war and Israel's role therein. But as I have certainly seen in my lifetime, people start to care about America's wars only when it starts to affect their prized pocketbook. In this instance, Arab oil-producing nations had began an oil embargo in hopes of making the West pay attention to Israel's annexation of land through warfare. 
During the twenty days of fighting, which ended with a ceasefire on October 26, it seemed to Alan most Americans had not given the war much thought. The oil embargo, on the other hand, had forced Americans to pay more attention. While in 1967, the war had been 'over there' and out of mind, Americans were now waiting in line for has and not getting any. And a lot of the, from politicians to newspeople to regular folk, were blaming Arabs for it.
It smacks of the current U.S.-led war in Libya. What is the news coverage of the war centered on? Prices at the pump. Does local Sacramento news interview people to ask them what they think about their country getting involved in its third, costly war in the Middle East/North Africa? Do residents get asked about their opinion of military intervention in this particular instance? Do people even talk about it over coffee or lunch?

I have seen countless news segments about the price of gas and how its affecting people. Flipping channels I will inevitably find an image of a gas prices sign displayed with some apocalyptic subtext, such as, "Will prices continue to rise" or "How much worse can it get."

Sure, it's a real life economic impact, and is thus, newsworthy. What I fail to understand is how the wars that the United States military executes, under the direction of elected United States politicians, is completely irrelevant to the citizens of the country.

We are paying for these wars too -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya -- just like we're paying for the gas.

P.S. Libyans, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians are being killed, maimed, slaughtered in our name. But that's neither here nor there. 

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