Thursday, October 12, 2023



“What's to be believed? Or does it matter at all? When mass murder's been answered with mass murder, rape with rape, hate with hate, there's no longer much meaning in asking whose ax is bloodier. Evil, on evil, piled on evil.”
Walter M. Miller Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

Pick a side. 

Come on, choose.

Tell me, who do you stand with? 

You have to pick a side and you have to declare it to the world and there's only one right answer. Choose, you son of bitch, choose. 

You have to pick a side and you have to declare it to the world and you have to do it in a timely fashion. 

And you have to pick the right side, the righteous side, the side of God! Yes!

As I said to Ted Cruz himself, When you write your memoir, I certainly hope it includes a chapter on your heroic wartime experience with lines like: "I quickly tweeted back..." 

Talk about a regular Audie Murphy.

You've got to pick a side. Return fire via social media. Man the keyboards, launch the tweets, unleash hell! Make sure everyone knows. You gotta be hard, you gotta be first, you gotta take the Facebook beach. 

If you want to get those clicks and likes and engagements. 

For that is the true measure of a patriot, is it not?

Yes, Sir, war is hell. 

This morning Mike Pence is on Twitter wearing a bomber jacket and a steely-eyed squint.

Mike Pence calls for U.S. Special Forces to "be prepared to mobilize." 

What leadership! 

What daring! 

What a man! What bravado! What a warrior! Tweet. Tweet.

As if American military forces aren't already in theater or on the way. As if being ready to deploy isn't literally the normal state of readiness for SOF units. As if US Navy carriers aren't already on station or on the way. As if we haven't been developing war plans for decades for exactly this situation. Gee, no president ever thought of that before. 

Wonder if Mother dressed him just for this photo op?

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham declares war on religion:

"We're in a religious war here, I am with Israel, do whatever you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place!"

Religious war. 

War against religion. 

Which religion? Oh, you know the one. 

Do whatever you have to do to defend yourself! 

I'm sure Israel thanks Lindsey for his permission. 

We're in a religious war. Level the place. Scorch the earth, burn the sky, salt the fields! Hoorah Hoorah! We gotta fight 'em over there or we'll have to fight 'em over here! Loose lips sink ships! America, love it or leave it! Better Red than Dead! Kill 'em all and let God sort it out! Oh yes! Now we just need some T-shirts and bumper stickers! 

Like Jesus said, I guess. 

Lindsey Graham never saw a war he didn't love and there's no war he doesn't love more than the idea of war with Iran. If he ever gets his wish, I wonder if our Muslim allies will play his words back at us when we go to them, hat in hand, asking to use bases in their countries to wage war on their religion. 

Meanwhile, the Republican Party's leading candidate for President was in Florida for a rally:

"Instead of keeping terrorists and terrorist sympathizers out of America the Biden Administration is inviting them in. You know why? Because he's got a boss, who's his boss, Barack Hussein Obama Barack Hussein Barack Hussein Obama. Remember the great Rush Limbaugh? BARock HOOOOOSSEIN Obama he'd go Barack HOOOSSEIN Obama, hello lady, unbelievably the corrupt Biden Department of Justice recently invited an Iranian backed judge from Iraq to visit our nation's capital isn't that nice? He couldn't have been too impressed with our capital it looks like shit, no, have you seen what they've done to it...?"


Obama is secretly pulling the strings. 

And Trump knows this because a dead radio pundit used to mock Obama's middle name. 

A few minutes later Donald Trump explained how Hezbollah is very smart, very smart indeed. 

He also told a funny story about how he called China very smart once and the press was all over him. But he was going to call Hezbollah very smart anyway and whatever. Ha ha. 

And then -- and then -- Trump rambled off into a disjointed story about his great Julius Caesar moment, his glorious military victory: the drone strike that assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Bagdad. The crowd listened in confused silence as Trump ended the story by explaining how Israel refused to support America. 

"I’ll never forget, I'll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing I will say that and, uh, so when I see, uh, sometimes, the intelligence, you talk about the intelligence, or you talk about some of the things that went wrong over the last week, uh, they've gotta straighten it out because they're fighting potentially a very big force they're fighting potentially Iran, and, when they have, people, saying the wrong things, everything they say is being digested by these people because they're vicious and they're smart and boy are they vicious because nobody's ever seen the kind of sight that we've seen, nobody's ever seen it, but they cannot play games so we were disappointed by that, very disappointed, but we did the job ourself and it was absolute precision, magnificent beautiful job, and then, uuh, Bibi tried to take credit for it, that was a good, THAT DIDN'T MAKE ME FEEL TOO GOOD, ha ha, but that's all right, so they gotta strengthen themselves up..."

The crowd made this sort of sickly collective laugh and there was some weak applause, but I imagine most of them were wondering how they were going to scrape the Israel Flag stickers off their bumpers without ruining the paint. 

I'm not quite sure how Republicans like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham who've been screaming for a week about "standing with Israel" will process Trump's remarks, but I'm sure they'll manage somehow. Ted Cruz will probably just pretend Trump called his wife ugly and roll over. 

Speaking of rolling over, in a Colorado court yesterday, Trump's lawyers argued the former president "had no duty to support" the Constitution as president and therefore the 14th Amendment's Insurrection Clause doesn't apply and thus Trump can't be disqualified from the state's ballot. 

"The Presidential oath, which the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment surely knew, requires the President to swear to 'preserve, protect and defend' the Constitution, not to 'support' the Constitution." 

"Because the framers chose to define the group of people subject to Section Three by an oath to 'support' the Constitution of the United States, and not by an oath to 'preserve, protect and defend' the Constitution, the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment never intended for it to apply to the President."

Trump's lawyers actually wrote that down on paper and signed it. 

But, I digress. 

We were talking about the situation in Israel. 

You have to pick a side. 

You have to say the words, I stand with Israel! I stand with the Palestinians! One or the other. Black or white. Right or Left. Us or them. You got to get in line. 

It's just that simple. 


Guess what, Folks?

It's not that simple. 

It's not that cut and dried. It's not one "side" or the other.

You don't have to pick a team in this conflict. Not like that. You don't. 

Hang on before you start screaming at me. Listen for a minute. 

Again, I was talking about the larger conflict, Israel and the Palestinians. Not Hamas. And it's complicated. It's not simple. It's not a simple matter of picking sides, us and them, no matter what the politicians and pundits and preachers tell you.

This isn't a game of dodgeball. 

This conflict, the bigger one, the one between peoples and nations and history, that goes far beyond the current fight with Hamas and it's incredibly complicated. 

There are a thousand years or better of history and politics behind this war.

There are the machinations of a dozen nations, who all have their fingers in it, pulling strings behind the scenes, fighting a proxy war, throwing gasoline on the fire for their own selfish reasons. 

There are the religions of many people, prophets and holy men and true believers all eager to bring about their version of paradise, or Armageddon, in the name of their god. 

There is the legacy of war, many wars across generations and how memory of that violence and those dead bodies shape and twist history and justify even more violence.

There are crimes and atrocities and grievances and slights that go back not just decades, but centuries, things that few outside the conflict can really, truly understand -- or care to understand, for that matter.

And underneath all of that, well, there are the very real conditions of hunger and poverty and sickness and hate and fear and a need for opportunity and a thirst for freedom and a thousand other things that drive humans to do what they do, right or wrong.

I don't know that peace is possible in this larger conflict. 

I don't know that it's not. That wasn't my profession or area of expertise. 

If an end is possible, I certainly don't know how to bring it about -- and I doubt you do either, dear reader. Not really. 

But, what I do know is that no American politician, president, senator, congressperson, or dog catcher can end that conflict. 

America can't end this fight.

But we can for damn sure make it worse

Some of you are in this fight because you have to be. 

Because it's your country, your people, your family, your religion, your history. 

You didn't choose a side, it chose you. 

And I am certainly not about to tell you you're wrong. 

I went to war myself, once upon a time, because it was my sworn duty to do so. I willingly went to fight those who committed atrocities against my nation, against those who murdered my people and threatened my family. I did it. I did it for my own reasons and I'd do it again, and I would never be so crass as to deny you a similar choice. 

Here's the thing though: we won our war, but we lost the peace

We won our righteous war and we made the world all the worse for it. 

I would caution you to learn from our bitter mistakes -- though you probably won't. 

America can't end this fight, but we can for damn sure make it worse

See, the rest of you, well you don't have to pick side. 

You will, of course. Probably already have. But you don't have to. 

You don't have to declare who you stand with on social media. You don't have to make some chest beating declaration of loyalty to one side or the other.

And you most certainly don't have to condemn others for not doing so, or not doing so hard enough or fast enough or the right way. 

You don't have to pick a team. 

Those of us who are not in this conflict, the only side we must choose is the side of civilization. 

The only stand we must take is against terror and barbarism. 

You don't have to join a team. You don't have to use this moment to attack your fellow citizens. You don't have to pick any side other that of humanity in order to be righteously outraged, to be furious and appalled and disgusted, at the atrocities of the goddamned barbarians trying to tear civilization down. 

You can support and criticize Israel and the Palestinians both without engaging in apologia for terrorism.

Because there is no justification for barbarism. Full stop. 

No matter how righteously aggrieved any people might be, no matter how oppressed, no matter how wronged, there is no justification for the murder and rape and kidnapping of innocents. 

You don't have to pick a side to stand against that

You don't have to pick a side in order to offer support and sincere sympathy and aid. 

You also don't have to dismiss the things you care about, whether it be Israel's right to exist and/or the very same for the Palestinians. You can care about those things and still stand with both peoples against the sons of bitches who carried out these attacks. 

America can't end this conflict, but we can most certainly make it worse. 

And there are those who are determined to do so for their own selfish ends. 

Because they never miss a chance to use war and atrocity and terror and fear and hate to further their agenda, so long as none of that horror ever actually touches them

In the wake of September 11, 2001, the world stood in solidarity with us, America. Even our sworn enemies offered us their sympathy and support, aghast at the barbarism that killed 3000 Americans. 

And I will never forget how our leaders, right and left, stood on the steps of the US Capitol with the smoke of the burning Pentagon still in the air, and swore to us that they would put aside their differences and their partisan rancor and work together as Americans. 

They gave us their solemn word in the name of their god. 

And that promise lasted just long enough for those faithless sons of bitches to walk up the steps and return to their offices. Some of them are on TV and social media right now attacking their fellow Americans. 

So much for their sacred word. 

We Americans, we pissed away the world's goodwill in 20 years of conflict and occupation. 

We won our war, yes we did, and make no mistake. We won every battle.

But we lost the peace. 

We made the world all the worse for it and our children will have to live in that reality.

I hope the Israelis will do better than we did, but history suggests they won't. 

You don't have to pick any side other than that of civilization. 

You don't have to pick a side in order to comfort the dying, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to provide for the homeless, to aid those in need, to confront evil, to stand with your neighbors whoever they might be. 

You don't have to make things worse. 

You don't have to make the same mistakes again. 

But you probably will. 

“Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk: Ground to dust and plowed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America—burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again. Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing? This time, it will swing us clean to oblivion.”
― Walter M. Miller Jr.A Canticle for Leibowitz


  1. Replies
    1. I lost contact with you and your bold no-nonsense wit. I am glad I found you again on Daily Kos. As usual: brilliant.

    2. Are you still taking comments?

  2. Very well stated…and discouraging. Because you are right…history tells us that this will end badly, no matter who “wins “, we all lose.

  3. Thank you Jim. For admitting so much that is true, but that people never say. The peace was lost, and the world is a far worse place than it was before, because of what was done to win the war. Israel is right, and also wrong, as much as the other "side" is right, and also wrong. I wish more people would realise that, and if they do realise that, they should damned well stand up and say so, not hide behind convention that Israel is always right, and the Arab perspective and action always wrong. Where has the UN been all these years, when Israel flouted UN resolution after resolution with impunity? Another nation would have had sanctions slapped upon them without a second thought. Would not a UN peace-keeping force be the right action in this current terrible case? Why allow Israel to destroy the structure and the people that Hamas apparently accidentally left standing in Gaza in the name of "retribution" - a fashionable word right now.

    1. As Jim pointed out, a great deal of history there, but you seem to have missed some highly relevant parts to what you've posted here. I'll be brief and hope you follow up to find detailed historical information, because at this point you are doing what you say shouldn;t be done...condemning one side entirely.
      The collective intention of the arab states surrounding Israel, as well as of the Palestinians as a whole, has been to eradicate Jews in the region since before Israel existed; one thing you might use to start checking that out what was happening when Jewish people tried to buy land/homes in the area. The collective arab states have had a vested interest in keeping Palestinians in this situation all this time to help turn world opinion against Israel as an aid to their intention for the total destruction of Israel itself and of any of her people present at the time. Jimmy Carter got Sadat of Egypt and Begin of Israel to sign a peace treaty; Sadat was assassinated by fellow arabs for it and that is another good point to start checking out relations in the collective arab states between those committed to the destruction of Israel and Jews and those who can at least think of a peace re the situation.
      Israelis live every single day with the fact of the Holocaust which happened within living memory, and also the facts of their group having been blamed and hunted and scapegoated and harmed and killed worldwide over thousands of years wherever they went and tried to live peaceably...and the collective arab intention to destroy their country and them, and the knowledge that some people -and not just those in the collective arab states who want them gone permanently- want to erase all of that and just condemn them any time they do anything at all.
      There are few among us who have not had to live that way who could handle it.

    2. I would hug you if I could. Thanks for being brave and honest.

    3. And Israel announced the collective guilt of e ery human being in Gaza so no Jim was not condemning one sise only.

  4. My only "side" in this conflict is peace.

    That peace has to provide for both Israel's continued existence, AND for the Palestinians to have a peaceful existence.

    But I've got NO idea how this can ever happen.

    The one thing I'm certain of... so long as extremists on both sides keep fanning the flames, the fires are going to keep burning hotter and hotter.

    1. It looks like the so-called Two State Solution was actually close to happening before this attack. I myself wonder if that was part of the motivation for it. But it does mean that peace, with Israel continuing to exist and Palestinians having a peaceful existence as you put it, IS indeed possible. Take heart.

  5. A side picked me. I was brought up in a family with blood ties (greatgrandfather's cousin) to Chaim Weizzman. Used to make me proud. I was brought up on stories of how the Palestinians should just move to Egypt or Syria; hell, they're all Arabs, just go one country over and we can have our dream of Zion. I was brought up on news of terrorist bombings weekly in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem. Cafes, buses, civilian bodies shredded and spread across roadways and tables. This is why the wall around Gaza was built, by the way. I have relatives who consider Palestinians sub human. I do not. In the last few years, I've seen footage of the IDF killing children way too often. Of the IDF levelling 800 year old olive orchards that were the sole support of Palestinian grandfathers. Of the IDF sniper shooting a Palestinian journalist who was doing her job. I don't have a side. Except that killing innocent babies and adults does not avenge killing innocent babies and adults. And I am sickened that I'm expected to be happy about it. I am afraid to go to my cousin's wedding because they will all be talking about how it could not be helped, or they're getting what they deserve. Separate from that, I have never seen anything more craven than the way the Rs tried to throw shade on Biden for Hamas's action. Like anything he did a week ago could have instigated this attack, which was two years in the planning. Who was it who leaked Israeli intel to Russia? Trying to remember. Wasn't Biden. Ok sorry that's a bit long. I have been watching videos of Gaza being leveled and have never been more ashamed to be a Jew and a distant relative of the first President. Come at me.

    1. You are entitled to feel as you do. As you noted, sometimes a side chooses us. Against our will.

      No one will come at you here. I won't allow it.


    2. Thanks . And I’m equally outraged at the rape and murder by Hamas. I have no side really. I appreciate your essay; I always do. Too many weird men on Twitter , or bots, tried to say there was no proof of rape . Ugh. What a weird stance to take in the face of the hostage videos

    3. Men always use rape in war. Always.

    4. No doubt there was rape. It's always used in war. Always.

  6. I've tried to understand this conflict for the better part of my life. In all that time, 50+ years, the only conclusions I have come to........is to cry for the innocents.


  8. I hope they do better as well, but history is against them.

  9. You stated it very well. Thank you!!!

    I am horrified at what happened to Israel and I am horrified at what is happening to the ppl in Gaza. I have no solutions - I am just praying for all the people on all the sides who are in harms way - tho I am not particularly religious. I am so thankful for President Biden being in the White House tho.

  10. Thank you for this. Insightful as always.

  11. My wife and I have struggled dearly to make sense of all this. The only conclusion we came to believe is the "humanity side". You nailed it. You put our conflicting thoughts, feelings, and emotions into clarity. Thank you, sir. And eff the politicians who are hell bent on dividing us even more--and who could give shit about the REAL reasons for all this inhumanity. It's too complicated and complex for their little minds.

  12. I belong to no religion other than the teachings of all wise men thru the ages: Jesus, Buddha, Allah, & many others. Common threads run thru all if these: Truth, love, peace, faith, hope. I have no vested interest with which to take sides other than the shared humanity of all peoples. Thank you for expressing this so clearly time & time again in your posts, and especially this one! There will be no winner or loser in the middle east, only death and destruction, until the world realizes how right you are!

  13. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have refused to choose a side because my compassion doesn't begin or end with one side or the other. I hurt for all those who are suffering and dying.

  14. I suppose it's too late to complain about the stupid mandate and partition and all the 100 year old "diplomacy" that got us here. :(

  15. I stand for humanity, even though I know we are beasts of unimaginable violence and at the same time capable of excruciating love and kindness. We can not win, it’s never been in the cards.

  16. Thank You! I stand with Peace and Humanity. Just waiting for humans to quit repeating their mistakes.

  17. The beginning to ending these endless conflicts will be the day Israel is recognized by all to it's right to exist. Full stop.

    1. And perhaps for Israel to end it's apartheid against the Palestineans.

  18. I remember the Six-Day War and know the basic history of why things are the way they are in that part of the world. So much pain, anger, suffering, frustration and hate on both sides. Almost makes what happened in Ireland a mild disagreement by comparison. And it looks like it's about to get waaay worse. Sign.

  19. Well said, Mr. Wright, well said.
    As an Englishman who has seen war first-hand (from the viewpoint of the television news industry, 1990-1995) I don't support 'religious wars' or 'jihads' or even religious arguing in any shape or form and I won't pick a 'side'.
    The Zionists and the Terrorists are both wrong but nothing I can say or do can fix that. I stand with the innocent civilians on both sides. They are the ones that matter to me, especially the children.

  20. Thank you for this. I am really torn because I have friends and relatives who are Jewish and am really horrified by what happened. (They are all safe) But I also have been dismayed the past few years or so, when the Israeli government seemed to be sliding toward becoming what they founded Israel to escape. And this is the only place I would dare to say this, but when they cut off all food, water and power from Gaza, I kept thinking about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and what was done in the beginning. I know this is the only way they can even try to get their people back, and they don't want to kill all the Palestinians, but the echo of history is frightening.
    What Hamas did is vile and barbaric, and I hope they are all made to pay for it. I remember at the start of other wars, one of the things we heard at first was of the atrocities on the part of the attackers, most of which were not true, so I waited to see. And in this case sources I trust have verified them.
    I have no answers, and I hope this ends soon. But it won't.

    1. Are members of Hamas being tortured, raped, murdered? Or everyday people who just want a peaceful co-existence? How heartbreaking.

  21. If I absolutely had to pick a side, it would be the citizens and civilization. Both of which are under great strain in that area of the world right now. No civilized person should be taking joy in the mass murder of citizens on either side.

  22. Thanks for your wise perspective. I always benefit from it.

  23. I am an American Jew who has been distraught for years over the Netanyahu's march towards authoritarianism and his continuance of allowing Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands. For the past few years, I've read comment after comment on all social media about how terrible Jews are. It hurts - a lot. While my heart goes out to the innocents in Gaza, they need to take action against Hamas. And what about the neighboring Muslim countries? Why is it only up to the Israelis to help people whose stated goal is to drown all Jews in the sea? There must be a solution to this. For those of you equating Hamas with Israel, I think you don't know the whole story. For instance, did you know that Gaza elected Hamas to govern them and now no longer has elections? Did you know that Israel issues a warning before bombing Gaza - to evacuate the civilians? Unfortunately, Hamas uses their civilians as human shields. After the events of this past weekend, I really don't understand how anyone can consider this brutality as Israel's fault.

    1. Willing to throw a little blame out there. Bibi taking his divide the country wanta be dictatorship is half the problem, Hamas is the other half. No good guys allowed.

  24. "A Canticle for Leibowitz" was written in the late 1950s. Although not personally religious, I have lived with it as part of my soul for more than a half century. It is still as achingly relevant today as when it was written. You could not have picked a better set of brackets for your essay.

    1. I hear you. I am started listening to "A Canticle for Leibowitz" two days ago on audiobook. I'm beginning to think that the buzzards ARE God's chosen ones. *sigh*

  25. I have no idea how to achieve peace there. I would pick the side of humanity, though that seems less than useful, since I don't know how to achieve it.

    And if you haven't yet caught it and fixed it, I suspect you meant --scrape the-- --stickers off--.

  26. Both Great Britain and the USA have a lot to answer for regarding the history of Israel and Palestine. The only side I will take is with the civilians on

  27. Thank you. It HAS TO BE SAID.
    I am ethnically Jewish.
    There is no "right" side in the slaughter of innocents, no matter WHO their parents are.
    Israel has f'd up fixing this issue, probably from paranoia AND hubris.
    America hasn't really done anything to make it better, when we let the support-Israel-or-else crowd determine what WE do.

  28. I wait for your essays with baited breath. You always hit the target,and sometimes it feels like you're writing my thoughts. I'm with you on this. I have no side just sorrow for those people who were hurt or killed.

  29. As usual, Jim, you manage to hit fifteen nails on the head simultaneously … while quoting, twice, from my all-time favorite sci-fi novel. Thank you; we are all much in your debt.

  30. Another perspective on what you are saying is that most people in a conflict are not involved in the evil but just want peace for their families and friends. The egos of leaders lead them into taking sides and making the enemy evil. Obviously, a conflict that has festered for so long will tend to blur the original reasons for conflict and just foster hatred without reason. Politicians will always use such conflicts to further their own self serving agendas. Keep up the struggle for good over evil. You might not win but you’ll help us determine right from wrong.

  31. Thank you again. I appreciate your insights.

  32. This week I feel we are scarily close to "Hear now the last canticle of the brethren of the order of Liebowitz, as it was sung in the century that swallowed its name." There will be no one to slap the dust from their sandals and say "Sic transit mundus."

  33. I won't "pick a side". I will be angry and outraged when terrorists kill and when civilians are targets. I will pray (and have been) and feel the ache in my heart. I will try to counter "side picking" when I hear it. I see it is very complicated and will take so much time, work and wise people to mediate. Thank you for your clear thinking and words.

  34. Bravo Zulu, Chief. In my relatively uninformed and uneducated view of the Middle East, it has been unsettled to hostile within itself for centuries. The hubris of the west trying to impose itself there is nothing if not short-sighted, and the creation of the state of Israel in an area already occupied by historical “foes” as an apology for Hitler’s atrocities in WWII was equally inappropriate.

  35. Well said. I spoke out and the only responses were crickets chirping and doors being closed in my face. I am thankful to know that someone else feels pretty much as I do about the hell that is being brought down on all those souls.

  36. I found it interesting President Biden twice "reminded" Netanyahu that there are "rules" to war. The current policy to deny any services to Gaza (no food, water, power) etc. While bombing the area is disturbing to me. The children will only grow up and extend the hate. They don't deserve to be punished for the actions of Hummas. Compassion would go.a long way in healing.

  37. I'd like to think that somewhere, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger are shaking their heads over a drink, as they do the work of turning this into a song cycle, a cry from the ruins for sanity. Well done, Jim.

  38. This genuinely helped me process the conflict, even as I am responsible for helping address it. Well written and moral, sir, thank you.

  39. The Human Condition. Those who have, always want more.

  40. You Said it all. And I see our politicians doing it daily

  41. Thanks, Jim, for so nicely encapsulating how little we know about the history of this conflict and reminding us that Americans can always make things worse by inserting ourselves where we've no business being.

  42. Thank you for this. The entire thing is making me sick and sad. No sides.

  43. Indeed, one can be on the side of peace and justice without being on either side of a conflict. Taking that position demands actions, or at least advocacy of actions, which I am not currently seeing anyone with any power to make a difference undertaking.

    Never again. Not now.

  44. That's it. That's where I am. Aghast (not surprised) at atrocities, but not willing to offer a carte blanche for any retaliatory horrors. You can't do heinous things and wear the white hat, no matter the provocation. As soon as you accept the murder even the starvation of untold millions of others' children and civilians as a price you're willing, even eager, to pay, you've lost your own humanity.

    I was aghast 9/11, too. Personally, I was never for carpet-bombing Afghanistan or attacking Iran. I knew the logic but also knew the real perpetrators and Taliban had the power to escape while the people they oppressed did not.

    I too wish we'd learn but fear we will not.

  45. I first read the Canticle for Liebowitz when it was first published. Now I am reduced to quoting the bible: Jesus wept.

  46. I originally read Leibowitz in 1969. Listened to a great version from Audible recently. It was far more sobering than my experience of it as an 19yo

    An optimist believes that someday we can create the best of all possible worlds; a pessimist is certain we already have.

  47. Excellent essay. This is complicated indeed.

    The only side I'm willing to take is the one those occupying Mt Carmel have. I don't really see another way out. And they stand for civilization and not never ending bloodshed or barbarism.

  48. You sure did hit the nail on the head when you said the conflict was complicated. I was brought up to side with Israel and against the Palestinians, though I wasn't too committed about it. But, in my 40s, I worked with a guy, an American Christian, whose father was a doctor who ran a clinic in the Gaza Strip in the 1970s. There was an uprising the year when he was 16 and he was pressed into helping in the clinic with people who were wounded after Israeli troops came in.

    One of the injured was a 12 year old girl. A squad of Israeli soldiers came to her house. They interrogated her mother and her grandfather, beating them repeatedly, looking for her mother's brother. When they said they didn't know, the soldiers executed them. The girl tried to intervene and the gut-shot her and left her lying on the floor. When she got to the clinic, they were all out of pain killer because of all the other patients who had been brought in. All my friend could do was hold her her and try to comfort her as she died crying in agony.

    My friend said that Israeli news praised their military for the way they responded to the violence of the Palestinians. They never mentioned the 12 year old girl. He said that, if this was what the Israeli people thought they needed to do to stay safe, then, they did not deserve to survive as a nation.

    So, I can't take a side. What Hamas did was wrong, but I can't tell my friend that he is wrong. 

  49. Beautifully done, Jim. Thanks.

  50. Jimmy Carter spent decades trying to broker a peace between the Israelis and the Palestineans and failed. So I doubt that Joe Biden can do it during his term. And I am convinced that neither the Republicans nor Trump could do it in a a hundred years. They can't even broker a peace amongst themselves.

  51. I am a German. I grew up in the US, and now live in Germany again - only a few miles from Dachau. There's a monument near my house which says "Den Lebenden bleibt die Sorge um den Frieden" - the living are left with the care for peace. My God, have we failed that charge.
    I wish the many strident voices in both my countries trying to prove their virtue by shouting the 'right' opinion could just shut up and stand silent a space in witness to indescribable grief. Our various opinions just don't matter that much.
    What we owe the many, many dead and destroyed lives is the care for peace, and that involves the moral clarity to stand on the side of humanity against barbarism, whoever perpetrates it and however it is motivated. It also involves the courage to acknowledge complexity, and that our judgments can be, and very often are, so oversimplified as to be worse than wrong. In my own personal case, it involves taking a long hard look at where I, on my very very small scale, fall short of seeing humanity in my opposite.

  52. I took my daughter to bowling today. Saturday Youth League then Bowler of the Month. She won Bowler of the month. It's based on total pins over her average. She had a good day and she just left for a High School play her friends are in. I wonder why all kids can't have days like this? I've wondered this since the Carter/Reagan Presidential race. Whenever some politician would say "Damn Commies!" I'd wonder " What are Russian or Palestinian or Israeli or Iranian parents wanting for their kids?" I'm pretty sure it isn't Death to... One day, people of the world will get fed up with those telling us who we have to hate and put a stop to all this bullshit. But that day isn't today, but one day. Until then, I'm Team Kids Having A Good Day.

  53. A good friend of mine and I were drinking over the intractable problem of Israel and Palestine and he said ruefully that the hardest part for him as a Jewish man was how he'd grown up believing that one thing that made Judaism different from the other monotheistic religions was that the Torah and its rabbinical exgesis, as well as the history of persecution, insulated his faith from the sorts of atrocities and persecutions of The Others that have been so horrific, from Crusades to Buddhist-vs-Hindu Tamils.

    Turns out, he said, that we weren't ANY different. We just lacked the opportunity.

    1. It is sad to say, but Palestine had the chance of a two state solution in 1947 at the creation of Israel, but refused it. Their intransigence has led to more bloodshed than they could have imagined, and every overture by Israel to return to a peaceful solution has been met with violence by those who want blood and power instead of peace and prosperity.

  54. “If your moral compass is
    attuned to the suffering of only
    one side, your compass is
    broken, and so is your
    humanity.” (Nicholas Kristof)

  55. Once again, you nail the essence of the moment with perfect aim. Thank you. What I have been saying, this week, is that I hope Israel learns from what we did to ourselves after 9/11; instead of lashing out to return atrocities upon the collective Palestinians, they act to preserve their own values and their best chance of a future for all children, directing violence only at those who themselves seek violently to exterminate their enemies. Failure to do so will mean augmenting the forces and motivations of men whose lives mean less to them than someone else's death-- men who define the acceptable parameters of their own existence by accomplishing the extirpation of some rival or opponent as intolerable to them.

    Live and let live, or else civilization cannot afford coexistence with your ideology of supremacism and revenge.

  56. I decided awhile back that there are three choices in a contentious situation: you can try to make it better, you can leave it alone, or you can make it worse. Why choose to make it worse?

  57. Thank you for this. So many are asking people online to take sides. When we don't they come up with all the reasons we should be on this side or this side. The most I will say, is it is complicated and it is not my place nor do I have the expertise to know the best way to deal with this. I have empathy for all of those standing in the way of those waging these battles and pain on others. I hope for peace and an end to the atrocities. Very well stated sir!

  58. You, as usual, speak as for me as you do yourself. Keep doing what you are doing.

  59. A great article, Jim. You say so well what I struggle to express. Thank you.


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.