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.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

East Bay represents with Arabic stop signs and good questions

I stayed at my sister's place in Oakland last week. My M.O. was to see my friends, in a band called The Tree Ring, play some great music and also to see three Giants games. I successfully accomplished my MO, but I also had a pleasant morning near the Oakland port after dropping off a friend at the 12th St. BART station. I parked and headed towards Blue Bottle Coffee when I stop sign caught my eye.

It's a double-language stop sign in English and Arabic. 'Stop' and 'Qaff.' I stopped, smiled, and snapped a photo as Oakland wormed it's way a little closer into my heart.

I arrived at Blue Bottle Coffee and while standing in line I noticed the people to my left were looking at me fairly intently. I had been getting 'Hey, it's Lincecum,' comments all week long, and frankly, I was tired of it. I looked over in their direction with two objectives: 1) to give them a full view of my face, instead of a just a profile, so that they would decide that I wasn't Tim Lincecum, and 2) to make them feel guilty for staring at me. But once I made eye contact, the women of the male-female pair made it clear she wasn't a Lincecum-look-alike fanatic by asking, "What does your shirt say?"

I am always pleased with the opportunity to talk about my shirt, that's in fact why I wear it. "In Hebrew and Arabic, it says, 'Stop the occupiers in Sheikh Jarrah, which is a neighborhood in Jerusalem.'"

I continued with the explanation as I turned around to show them the back of the shirt, "and on the back it says, 'end the occupation.'"

Others have asked me about this shirt before, such as the young man who excitedly stopped me at a Seattle Sounders game. He said he recognized the Hebrew from his Hebrew school days, and wondered what it meant. When I said the words, 'end the occupation,' his face transformed from a smile into something horribly serious, yet expressionless. He turned and walked away without even responding to my translation of the shirt.

So the fact that this Oakland couple had pretty neutral reactions was a positive sign. She responded, "so it's a pro-Palestinian shirt," more matter-of-factly than interrogatively. "No, it's a pro-justice shirt,"  I clarified.

She smiled and nodded approvingly.
Ending the occupation is good for Palestinians and Israelis, it's good for the whole world. 

Go Oakland.

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