Lately I have been in a bit of a writer’s slump. This is due to numerous reasons.
Teaching is a tough job. I love it, but it can be all consuming when teaching students in both a brick-and-mortar classroom and in an online classroom.
Events in the world continue to make me shake my head. As a historian and a teacher of Genocide and Human Rights, I see too many parallels to past times of hardship and horror.
Then there is the 2016 cyclone that keeps sucking my childhood heroes away into the ether.
So, what do I write about? Nothing. I feel almost paralyzed. Until today.
I used to dread looking at my Facebook feed because of the crazy stuff people were posting during the election. Between fake news and memes created by far right and far left organizations, I started to wonder what had become of my friends.
How come they keep posting things about how US schools don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore? This is a LIE people! It is a requirement in 43 out of 50 states.
How come they keep posting things about they would rather vote for their political enemy if they can’t vote for Bernie Sanders? Why would you vote for someone in direct opposition to all that you celebrated in Bernie?
Bengazi, email servers, conflicts of interest that matter for one candidate but don’t matter for the other, or ridiculous tweets…this was enough to send me over the edge.
And now I’m frightened by what is occurring on my Facebook feed about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When you live inside the US, you don’t always see the clear picture. Like living in any country, your world view is bound by what your politicians and media tell you. Sometimes our religious leaders also sway our opinions about an issue.
I remember the first time I heard my British friends rail against Margaret Thatcher. I was in a state of shock. As a school girl in the states, faithfully reading my Weekly Reader, I always assumed Thatcher was the ideal female head of state. I had no idea about how she had destroyed manufacturing jobs that then led to massive unemployment. I had no idea about the Irish Hunger Strikes. I had no idea about her education policies that sent my friends fleeing their country for International schools. Growing up, I only heard what the American media told me.
What we know about “the Holy Lands” is shrouded by our cultural filter. I don’t think most people have a clear understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict unless they have lived there, have studied it in college, or have taught the subject. This means that my Facebook feed is again filled with one sided rants that are filled mostly with opinion rather than facts.
On both sides of this conflict there are extremists doing terrible things to the other side. On both sides, there are groups seeking peace and unification of the region, groups seeking a two-state solution which would put in place secular governments, and groups seeking a theocracy and total control of the region for their people. The problem is that one side has made the other powerless by refusing to recognize them as a nation: no rights, no passport, no rights to their land.
This semester my students were troubled by what was occurring in Israel. My American Jewish students, my Palestinian student from Jordan, my Jewish Canadian student living in Mexico, struggled to understand how a people who survived the Holocaust could perpetrate crimes similar to what had been perpetrated against them? Why is it, that so often, genocides come about because of religious differences? Why would people elect someone who claims he/she wants to continue to separate people by walls because of their religious or cultural differences?
As we leave behind the trials and tribulations of 2016, let’s make a pledge to create a brighter 2017. Fight back against fake or inaccurate sources of information. Before you post:
- read through an article, or watch the video completely
- find out a little bit about the source of that article or video
- check out what various news services (around the world) say about that issue
Once you feel that this article/video/meme comes from a reputable source, once you feel it presents an accurate view of the issue, then post it. Yes, this will take time, but in the process, it will help you find out more about that issue. And feel free to post controversial topics, just make sure you aren’t posting inaccuracies about that topic.
Let’s pledge to make our Facebook feeds more peaceful and accepting. Let’s pledge to make Facebook a place of dialogue, a place to raise awareness on the issues that matter to us, a place where we can root out the inaccuracies. Let’s make a pledge to speak out and speak up for peace.
If you are looking for a place to start in your understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict John Green in his Crash Course has made a great 12-minute summary.
Also when investigating human rights issues world-wide, Human Rights Watch, a non-profit news agency, is a good place to start. Beyond the daily news articles, they also create yearly reports on most countries. Here is what is currently going on in Israel.
Or for those of you who are looking for a human story on how the settlements in the occupied territories affect the daily lives of Palestinians (Muslims & Christians) just follow the issue of the olive harvest. Here is a recent video from Al Jazeera. Or go here to look at what Rabbis for Human Rights are doing to help with this problem.