Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 33

Dear Mr. President,

It seems as though your administration is going out of its way to upset China this week. Selling arms to Taiwan? Announcing plans to meet with the Dalai Lama? I think these actions are admirable, they demonstrate mature wisdom and the courage of your convictions about human rights. You say that, because our relationship with China is an adult relationship, we can disagree publicly without jeopardizing diplomatic relations. Our disagreements do not demonstrate a lack of respect.

Why is this not true of the US and Israel? Why can we not demonstrate the same maturity, the same courage, with regards to one of our supposedly staunches allies? Why can we not speak to Hamas, or provide the necessary political support to Palestine to secure its independence? How can we justify defying the status quo for the Taiwanese and Tibetans, but not the Palestinians? What strategic considerations come into play when determining whose rights are worth fighting for?

In our history we have often compromised the freedom of one group for the progress of another. Subjects of King George were freed while their slaves were not. Black men were given the vote, while women were told to wait their turn. Feminists marched to equal rights, while the gay community must wait for the decriminalization of their love. In all of these cases the powerful masses- be they actively participating in the oppression or merely turning a blind eye for the sake of their own struggle- were either forced by conscience to share power, or threatened with the loss of this power all together. And progress was slow in coming, but progress came. The slaves were freed, women voted, and, I believe, one day, gay couples will be allowed to marry. These equalities were hard-won, but they were also the inevitable product of an enlightened, free society, a society mature enough and courageous enough to embrace change. How does history treat the oppressors, the detractors, those who defended slavery and opposed suffrage?

I feel certain that history will judge the disenfranchisement of the Palestinians just as harshly. It seems inevitable that Israel will either share power or risk losing it. We can respect Israel as an ally, call out their shortcomings in the name of doing the right thing, or we can be painted alongside them, oppressors in kind. I don't want my citizenship to be a source of shame. I want to be proud of my country, I want to believe that we defend human rights, wherever they are threatened, regardless of political expediency.

Respectfully yours,


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