Hezbollah in My Neighborhood
by breakingranks, Thu Jul 20, 2006 at 04:16:18 PM EDT
Yesterday, while I was standing in line in the post office, people who had never previously met were arguing passionately about the slaughter in Lebanon. It reminded me of 9/11, except the conversation had flipped over somehow. On 9/11, the Muslim family that owns the corner grocery was practicing community diplomacy, handing out free sodas and assuring nervous neighbors that terrorism wasn't part of their culture. Yesterday, non-Muslims were promising their Muslim neighbors that the U.S. doesn't support the murder of civilians.
When I was growing up, the lingering memories of WWII assured that Israel always got automatic sentimental support. The pro-Israel tendencies were magnified by the lack of information about the Muslim world, especially in rural areas with no Muslim neighbors to speak of. It's not that people were determined to remain ignorant: my undergraduate college desperately tried to find a professor to launch a MidEast Studies program. If I remember correctly, the one remotely qualified candidate got poached by Harvard.
I've always been interested in world history, so I probably have a stronger sense of the adventures of the Middle East than most...as long as the clock stops around 1699. I do have my antenna up regarding news from the Middle East, and I try to watch Link TV's Mosaic to get a variety of takes on the Middle East. I'm particularly interested in the situation of women. I've read three or four books by Fatema Mernissi, and I now get Google alerts on various keywords related to the Middle East.
Yet, as I was standing in that post office listening to people I've known for a number of years shouting and wailing about the events tearing apart their homeland, I felt I still knew nothing. And I had nothing to say to the same man who had offered me a free soda on 9/11. I'm curious about how other people keep themselves informed about the Middle East and talk to their neighbors about it. I welcome any suggestions for resources.