Monday, June 21, 2010

Lessons Learned

The past few weeks have been kinda crazy for the New DeLews. So instead of writing a long post about our craziness, I've decided to explain a couple of the 'lessons learned'. Because let's be honest, we're always learning lessons, right?

Routine: Although I hate to admit it because it might mean I have a bit of Type A-ness in me, I actually like routine. And I've finally determined what 'Routine' means to me. Essentially I'm in a routine if: 1) I've made bread and granola, 2) there's some type of leftovers to eat for lunch, and 3) the living room is neat (note that I didn't say clean, I said neat). So all I really need is about 3 hours of cooking and 'neatening' in order to feel relatively stable. Maybe I'm not so complicated after all....

Trips: A solo weekend trip to California for less than 43 hours is wonderful, so invigorating, but too short. Every time I go to CA, it's harder to come back. Although I love living in Chicago and I'm so thankful for our life here, for some reason without fail I find myself in tears at the airport bar while waiting for my return flight to Chicago. It's bizarre, I know. Poor Other DeLew.

Volleyball: Playing beach volleyball on Monday evenings, after not touching a volleyball for 6 years, will lead to bruised arms and bruised egos. I swear, I used to be good!

Running: The New DeLews' wise plan to run 6 miles on Saturday at the hottest point of the day (89 degrees) turned out to be not-so-wise. We made it, but definitely hated life.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rican Day in Chicago means tons of people dangerously hanging out of cars while waving abnormally large Puerto Rican flags and honking horns. Just be aware.

Soba Noodles: If you have too many soba noodles in one pot of boiling water, just place them in a larger pot. Do not ignore this issue by cooking them for longer and allowing a layer of noodles to burn onto the bottom of said small pot. Especially not when you have friends over for dinner, like last night.

Blood Orange: Vodka + tonic + splash of Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda= one of the most refreshing drinks ever! It's the New DeLews' new thang for the summer. Thanks, Parris, for the recommendation!

Blue Sheets: Washing blue bedsheets will cause your entire load of laundry to turn a nice shade of pale blue. Unfortunately the Other DeLew doesn't like to wear blue undershirts though. Fail.

And that's our life right now. Learning about ourselves, our city, and random life-things. Although it can seem silly to make note of these little things, the truth is that these things reminds me to be thankful in the midst of mundane life moments. And practicing thankfulness helps us be more aware of God's grace in our midst.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reflections on Israel and Palestine, Part 2: Trying to understand the "terrorists" in Gaza

Let’s try to apply a Just War Theory framework to the Hamas perspective of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas operates in an occupation context that makes it closer to the French Resistance than to Al-Qaeda (in fact, Hamas views Al-Qaeda as a threat, not an ally). From Hamas’ perspective, the whole of Palestine (including the area known as Israel) is under Israeli occupation (not to mention the West Bank—actually under occupation by the Israeli Army, and Gaza—virtually besieged). To Hamas, Israel’s war against the Palestinians, which began with a massive 1947 land grab known as the Nakba (or “catastrophe”), justifies unconventional attacks against the invaders. And because the perpetrators of this invasion evicted Palestinian civilians, and include Israeli civilians, the conflict resembles something like total war. Recall that total wars occur when entire nations are in danger of being attacked, as in WWII. Civilian attacks are expected, such as the Nazi rocketing of London or Allied bombing of Dresden. (just to be clear, I don’t believe in the “Hamas” or “Israeli” perspective of this conflict, and I would never condone displacement or attacks against civilians).

But the conflict in the Middle East is something even more engrossing than total war—in this conflict, there is very little to distinguish civilians from soldiers. Not only do soldiers strike against civilians, as in the Gaza war of 2009 or a Hamas militant strike against an Israeli settlement, but also civilians participate in the conflict, such as Israeli evictions of Palestinian villages or Hamas storing weapons in schools or hospitals. And, more subtly perhaps, a civilian can become a soldier at any time to attack the enemy and then blend back into the populace. These conflicts entail identity warfare; where one group of people, often defined by ethnicity or religion, wants to destroy or displace another group of people. Moreover, their very identity is predicated upon opposition to the enemy’s identity. These wars are called post-modern conflicts, and they have sadly become more common throughout the world (Bosnia, Sudan).

Because Israel frames this conflict as a fight against terrorists, and thereby fails to recognize the deeper causes and consequences of identity politics, it will also fail to win real peace. Instead, Israel is under a “siege mentality” that portrays even legitimate Palestinian opposition as “terrorist.” With this wartime mindset, national security is the groundwork for all policy, and problems are solved through military means.

Thus, Israel decided to deploy commandoes to stop the flotilla rather than more diplomatic means. More importantly, Israel justifies the economic blockade of Gaza as a matter of national security to stop the flow of arms to militants. But as already explained, this policy has not succeeded in diminishing Hamas’ power. The reliance upon the military to solve political problems has not yielded positive outcomes for Israel. The war against Hezbollah in 2008, against Hamas in 2009, and the Flotilla raid of last week have not created any progress towards a permanent solution. Moreover, the events of the last 3 years have actually hardened the opinion of the Arab street, erstwhile Muslim allies such as Turkey, and some Europeans against Israel. Israel must alter its policy if it wants to ensure the long-term safety of its people alongside the Palestinians.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Extreme Reactions and Summer Activities

We interrupt this series of Israel and Palestine posts for a not-so-deep and probably not-so-thoughtful post about bikes and summer. Actually, I have much to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the unfortunate truth is that I'm not quite as balanced (or informed) as the Other DeLew is. I'm really thankful for the way Mark thinks through complicated issues, because he challenges me to not jump to simplistic conclusions. Now clarification- that's something I'm working on, it doesn't come real naturally to me. For example, the New DeLews have obviously been talking about Israel and Palestine a lot recently, and typically the conversation goes something like this:

Me: I can't believe Israel is being such a bully! I'm totally Pro-Palestine

Mark: Em, it's not as simple as you think it is. Let's look at the entire history of.....

Me: So you're Pro-Israel?

Mark: No, you need to look at both sides of the issue, and the proposed solutions are so complicated....

Me: So your Pro-Palestine like me! Two have become one!

Mark: Ugh! Em!!

Actually, I'm not that ridiculous, but unfortunately my initial reaction to current events tends to be a bit extreme. But give me a bit more information (and some time to cool off), and I'll start to really think through the issues. Regardless of who is in power, however, I'm really concerned about all of the Palestinians and Israelis that are being affected by this unnecessary violence and unrest. And I do pray for reconciliation. And justice. And peace. I'm looking forward to hear more of Mark's thoughts.

Onto the not-so-thoughtful topics, Friday was very exciting because the New DeLews biked to work for the first time this season. I finally got my wonderful clunker bike fixed, which was absolutely necessary since some punk-ass kids stole my front tire. And the brakes didn't work. And the handles were on upside down? I don't know why, but it's fixed now. We had another Craigslist success and got a used bike for Mark. My bike- bright green. Mark's bike- bright orange. We look like a bunch of skittles riding around the city. Anyway, summer has arrived and the time for biking to work, marathon training, beach volleyball, and ultimate frisbee has commenced (oh so sportsy!). And of course, we're also looking forward to the other non-sportsy activities- free symphony concerts, summerdance, drinks on patios, beergardens. Gotta love summer in the city.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Reflections on Israel and Palestine, Part 1

The incident between Israeli commandoes and the flotilla of aid ships this week caught most of the world by surprise. The details of what actually occurred are still murky, so it is unclear if the commandoes acted out of self-defense, or reacted disproportionately to the activists on the ships. So far, it looks like Israel completely botched this operation...they sure aren't making any friends right now. We can debate the legality of the Israeli landing on the ships, but Israel will say that the seaborne interception was a necessary part of their blockade of Gaza (although many people, including me, would disagree). We can also debate the legality of the blockade itself, and there are strong arguments on both sides. Israel portrays its policy of blockade as defensive, purposed to keep the current trickle of arms into Gaza from becoming a flood. While the isolation of Gaza seems like a defensive necessity to many Israelis and may or may not be legal (international law is such a gray area), in effect it has ghettoized the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there. Morally, this is indefensible. There should be another way.

From my perspective, as a 20-something middle-class American, I cannot influence any of these policies directly. I can’t change Israeli public opinion to be more compassionate towards the imprisoned Gazans, and I can’t convince Hamas to officially recognize Israel. I’m primarily concerned with the US foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine that my elected officials have created. So let's take a second to briefly review some events that have led up to this point:

In 2006, there was a relatively free (especially compared to most of the states in the Middle East) internationally monitored election in Palestine. Fatah, the incumbent party, lost and Hamas won. Reasons given for Fatah’s defeat, despite being the favorite of the West, include the lack of progress towards Palestinian independence after decades of occupation, a perception of incompetence and corruption, and being the favorite of the West. The US and most of the Western world refused to recognize Hamas as the elected government of Palestine due to their militancy and refusal to recognize Israel. The Bush Administration’s strategy was to isolate Hamas in its Gaza stronghold so that it would fail to govern properly. Meanwhile, the West Bank, which was governed by Hamas leadership for only a short while after the election, was supposed to prosper and develop, thereby delegitimizing Hamas. The ensuing contrast between a poor, isolated, Hamas-governed Gaza Strip and a developing West Bank, now governed by technocrats, was theoretically going to convince people to overthrow Hamas and re-join the Western-approved Palestine—or, at least convince Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce its dedication to Israel's destruction.

While this strategy, of which the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a key component, has succeeded in impoverishing Gazans, it has failed miserably at its primary goal of wooing Hamas or its supporters. This strategy failed because it pretends the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza do not exist. Ultimately, an event like this week’s botched interception-at-sea was bound to happen under the strain of blockading so many people.

Unfortunately, President Obama, despite promising an outreach to the Muslim world in an inspiring speech last year, has failed to change the US stance on one of most important issues to the Muslim world. The US policy of non-negotiation with Hamas makes about as much sense as Hamas refusing to recognize Israel. Although Hamas has perpetrated horrible terrorist acts (and this should not be taken lightly), it makes no sense to ignore them. Designating a democratically elected government as a mere terrorist organization completely misses the complexity of the situation. Of course, I believe that Hamas should never attack Israeli civilians or employ suicide bombers. This is so wrong and hateful. But I also believe that Israel should stop displacing Palestinian civilians from their homes--a cruelty that kills the soul of a people bonded to the land. So often the American view of Israel/Palestine is one-sided. We need to understand the context in which Hamas exists.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Liberated Women

For the past few days I've been listening to my 'Liberated Women' playlist. Ani DiFranco, Alanis Morsette, Frou Frou-you rock! Let me explain- there are no underlying reasons for listening to this playlist right now- I'm not anti-men, in a fight with the Other DeLew, or generally angry. In fact, I'm very pleased with my personal representative of the male species- specifically the Other DeLew. I think it's a common misconception that all 'liberated women' are secretly angry at men.

Now I will admit that I've been in that 'angry at men' stage, and I've used a hyper-feminist agenda to express that anger/disappointment (i.e. first 3 years of college... heh). But I believe I did a disservice to feminist ideology when I used it to salve my anger. The just message of equality and liberation became clouded by my hurt and disappointment, and so I'd use the idea of a 'liberated women' to make men feel insignificant and to exert my strength and power. But take that too far and the oppressed quickly becomes the oppressor. And let's be honest, constantly making men feel insignificant and guilty for being a man is a sure-fire way to decrease any positive interactions with them. And then when you have very limited interactions with the enemy (aka men), it becomes even easier to stigmatize all men as complete tools who live and breathe to oppress women. And only when I distance myself from the enemy can I be free and liberated, right?

The truth is, that's not real freedom, and I would suggest it's not real feminism. We'll never really be free if we try to gain liberation by demeaning someone else, and I think using ideologies as a weapon does exactly that. In fact, I feel more liberated as a woman since I've been in a relationship (and now married) to the Other DeLew. The understanding that we share allows us to explore what liberation and equality really looks like. As we understand our differences and learn from each other's perspectives, mutual respect develops, which gives us the space to live and love freely. And I believe that reconciliation brings true liberation. So all that to say- yes, I am most definitely still a feminist! But I must thank my male counterparts for contributing to a more robust understanding of feminist ideology and practice.