Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Kenneth Lay, our Lord Jesus Christ? I'm not outwitted, but I am DUMBFOUNDED.

The alleged "terrorists" of Guantanamo have been villified in the press and by government officials for years, their names withheld, but their reputations sullied and their guilt decided before any of them is actually tried.

Most likely, even after the Supreme Court ruling in their favor, they will never have a trial by their peers in order to clear their name or convict them.

However, if one happens to be in the ranks of the rich and powerful in this country, even conviction of a felony cannot besmirch one's name. Kenneth Lay was a "philanthropist and family man who didn't succumb to despair despite the scandal that destroyed his company and left him a vilified felon, friends and family members said at a memorial service Wednesday where mourners included former President George Bush" according to the Dallas Morning Snooze.

The DMS went on to report that, "Neither the Bushes nor former Secretary of State James Baker III, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. and noted heart surgeon Denton Cooley spoke. The Bushes sat directly behind Lay's wife, Linda. "

But the greatest honor of the day was pronounced by The Rev. Bill Lawson, prominent pastor of the African-American Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston. He said lay was a "victim of a lynching." A lynching? O, Brother, Where Art Thou? A LYNCHING?

Lawson, according the Morning Snooze, continued, "The folks who don't like him have had their say. I'd like to have mine and I don't care what you think about it." Lawson evoked leaders who he said were vilified in life but vindicated by history, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and "our Lord Jesus Christ."

O, brother, A LYNCHING?

Will A CONFESSION outwit everyone?

"The Palestinian Catastrophe, Then and Now" by Sandy Tolan

Yesterday, I sent an e-mail to my "distribution list" that read:

This e-mail is an act of penance for my actions in 1962. As pianist with my high school orchestra, I played the solo part in a stirring concert version of the theme music from the 1960 movie Exodus. Our orchestra (and I as soloist) was widely praised for our ability and professionalism, and these performances brought audiences to their feet cheering. I did not know then what I was participating in, but I have often in recent years mourned that use of my musical abilities. I confess that---even though I had no way to understand what I was doing---my pianism was hurtful to people I now know and love. I apologize for playing that music, and I resolve to use my meager musicianship in the future only for causes that cannot harm anyone.

As an act of penance, I offer this essay to you and pray that you will read it. If you have never been able to understand my "obsession" with the Palestinian cause, this should explain it better than anything I have ever written or said. It is perhaps the clearest and most accurate historical statement I have ever found.

Assalaamu alaikum (Peace be unto you),

The essay I suggested that the recipients read was:
"The Palestinian Catastrophe, Then and Now" By Sandy Tolan

found at:

I received so many e-mails telling me not to beat myself up and not to feel regret, and not to be depressed, and ... that I simply had to explain my original e-mail.

So today, I sent the following:

When I sent the message, “A confession,” I was responding to the understanding of the Palestinian cause outlined in the Sandy Tolan essay. The essay reminded me that the music from Exodus from time to time takes up residence in my head after all these years, and, when it does, I am mortified.

That movie, starring Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, and Sal Mineo, among others, struck a chord with American audiences—the underdogs beset with oh, so many trials, and overcoming all of them to win glorious “freedom.” It is a romanticized, historically inaccurate depiction of the founding days of the state of Israel, and, of course, omits any mention of the suffering of the Palestinians. In fact, the Palestinians are a non-entity in the film. As is so often the case, audiences were unable to ask critical questions, and most simply accepted the fiction as fact.

How could America in 1960, only twelve years after the supposed events of the story—fresh from our victory in WWII, only sixty years past the “closing of the frontier” in American history, and only a century beyond the Civil War—not fall in love with those attractive young actors seeking “freedom.” Kudos for the strongest performance, however—as well as the only Oscar the film earned—go to Ernest Gold, the composer of score. My guess is that, were I to play the main theme for anyone who was a teenager in 1960, they would not only be able to say what it is, but would be able to sing along.

I said yesterday, and I do not recant the statement, “I confess that—even though I had no way to understand what I was doing—my pianism was hurtful to people I now know and love. I apologize for playing that music…”

I don’t apologize for being a young musician learning my trade. I don’t apologize for “moving” audiences. I don't apologize for being caught up in the cultural history of my best friends in the orchestra: Sol, Frances, Neil, Harold, and Hymie. I don’t even apologize for being part of a propaganda effort (I doubt that’s how the film was intended; however, it became that, either intentionally or inadvertently).

What I confess is that—as the vast majority of Americans did and still do—I accepted the mythology of that film and other romantic depictions of the founding of the state of Israel so that, a few short years later (1967), we could not believe that the state of Israel was anything other than the underdog that valiantly fought to save itself by occupying ALL of the territory of the Palestinian people. It took me twenty years after the 1967 War to begin to understand reality “on the ground,” not romance created by the likes of Leon Uris, Otto Preminger, and Ernest Gold. The reality "on the ground" is that the government of Israel is dedicated to the subjugation of the Palestinian people, and our knee-jerk reaction to Palestinian "terrorism" is the reaction of valuing the lives of one people over the lives of the other people.

In 1987 I began to allow myself to understand the non-movie version of reality. In one of my classes at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston was a young “man without a country,” a Palestinian refugee whose family were in exile on the Island of Malta, who had no passport that would allow him to return to Palestine—or anywhere else in the world—when his US student visa ran out.

For more than twenty years, I had allowed the stirring melody of a film score to cloud my thinking about reality in Palestine and Israel rather than trying to discover the truth. And now, in 2006, twenty years after my awakening, the reality there has not changed—in part, at least, because of Americans’ unwillingness to face truth.

That is the nature of my confession. I, with all Americans, have participated in the romantic de-valuation of the lives of an entire people, the Palestinians. And, by devaluing their lives, we have paid for, with our tax dollars, the means of their subjugation.

I invite you to search your heart to see if you need to rethink your romantic ideas about the situation “on the ground” in Israel and Palestine, if you are helping to perpetuate facts as Sandy Tolan describes them, that
“…the world sees the life of an Arab as infinitely less valuable than that of an Israeli; that no amount of suffering by innocent Palestinians is too much to justify the return of a single Jewish soldier. This understanding, and the rage and humiliation it fuels, has been driven home again and again through decades...”