Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 13

Dear Mr. President,

I really love hummus. I tried it for the first time at a small falafel shop near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Much to my dismay, this has made me kind of a snob about the hummus I buy here in the states. Recently, I gave up on my favorite brand of hummus, after finding out it was produced by an Israeli company.

Voicing my objection to US policy in Israel is never as simple as voting. Almost never is there a "pro-Palestine" option on my ballot. Usually, when considering the foreign policy position of a candidate, I find myself faced with "Pro-Israel" and "More Pro-Israel than you, so HA" and "So pro-Israel I will get the flag tattooed on my face." I believe that, in this instance, voting with my dollar tends to be more effective than any literal vote I might cast. It may not be easy to avoid shopping in the stores or buying the products that would contribute to sustaining the occupation, but it is a minor inconvenience compared to the suffering inflicted on both the occupied and occupiers by those that profit from the status quo.

While in Palestine, we encountered a few young Palestinians working on an awareness campaign to help their neighbors identify and boycott. One of my Palestinian companions later that day announced that he, too, was swearing off Israeli products. I returned home, determined to commit to boycotting Israeli products until the situation changed. This determination was empowering, for a few hours, until I remembered that I could buy all the non-Israeli products I wanted, but so long as I was paying taxes, I was supporting Israel in a big way. In Palestine, it is not uncommon to hear the occupation referred to as the "American-Israeli occupation", and one look at our foreign aid budget explains why. So while I may love my country, love the schools and other public services my tax dollars fund, I can't ignore the fact that my money is also spent arming the oppressors of my Palestinian friends. I could stop paying my taxes, practice a little civil disobedience, but I'd probably have to quit working to do so.

So I can't vote to change our policies, and I can't keep my money from supporting those same policies, either. This is maddening. I feel so powerless. At least the Tea-Party hacks could vote for John McCain and call their consciences clear. What is my alternative? The more I think about it, the only conclusion I can reach is that I have to leave the country, eventually. Have I lost my, once unshakable, faith in our capacity to change? I don't know. I hope I come up with a better plan before the demands of my conscience outweigh the obstacles to expatriation. I haven't given up trying. Writing you all of these letters is probably a last-ditch effort to come up with some shred of evidence that my voice in opposition might be enough.

I apologize if this tedious, if my persistence on this same issue, especially in the face of the catastrophic tragedy in Haiti, makes for very boring reading tonight. I have the luxury of single-mindedness, something that your office cannot possibly afford you. I might ignore other issues, other injustices, in hopes of others taking up the fight, but you cannot. Every crisis is in front of you, in briefing books, on the wall of the situation room, demanding your immediate action and attention. But, then, you knew what you were getting into when you ran for office, while I am just trying to feel OK about the daily way I live my life. I don't know. Maybe it is just tonight, maybe tomorrow I will think of something I haven't yet. Until then, I'm learning to make my own hummus and hoping that your own conscience will lead us toward a foreign policy I can feel proud of.

Respectfully yours,


1 comment:

  1. I first had shwarma at a little place outside Damascus gate. The gyro place on the Ave doesn't really cut it anymore for Middle Eastern fare. :-(

    Good luck with everything else....I've just decided that I'm going to have lots of cognitive dissonances and try not to let them bother me too much. Is that apathy? Maybe. It's mostly working so far.