Variation on the Word Sleep

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Kiss my Ashcroft

I have a lot of bumper stickers on my car, so I was very intrigued when a friend sent me this article about a song made from bumper sticker slogans in Israel. I apologize for the fact that you have register with them. "Free" registration makes absolutely no sense to me: its a major annoyance with very little benefit that I can see to the newspaper itself. But I digress.

David Grossman is one of my favorite authors. His book See Under: Love is amazing, certainly in my top couple novels. According to the article Grossman began noticing the quantity and range of bumper stickers -- especially those of a political nature in Israel:

''When I had my list of stickers, I realized it's like a capsule of Israeliness, all the brutality and aggression and the need to get out of this situation... The more the dead end of the situation grows, the more frustrated people become with their inability to influence it,'' he continued, in a telephone interview. "Few people on the left or the right are satisfied. And the more they are frustrated, the more they are extremists, the more bumper stickers they have on the car. Sometimes you stop behind a car that looks like a shouting demonstration.''
The article goes on to discuss the polarization of Israeli politics, which up until recently would have made our own polarization issues look like nothing. The reality is that there has been a shift toward polarity in U.S. politics, and it becomes visible in things like t-shirts and bumper stickers. These are not parts of a rational engaged discussion, they are the lashing out of people who feel strongly about something, and feel strongly disenfranchised. The less powerful you actually are, the louder you spout your opinion. The country is split. I know that the liberal side is right, but there is still something disturbing about the lack of engagement and respect that each side has for the other -- that's what disturbed me about Farenheit 9/11. That's what disturbs me about even my own bumper stickers (I plan on pruning them).

The other thing that sort of disturbs me is that it's a reminder of the disturbing rise in similarities between the U.S. and Israel since September 11th: the willingness to suspend essential civil liberties in the name of security, dealing with terrorism in an aggressive idiotic way which only exacerbates the problem, willingness to violate the geneva convention and treat their enemies as sub-human, and the polarization and evaporation of meaningful political discourse. In most of those characteristics Israel is drastically worse than we are, but in the lack of meaningful political discourse we have the (dis)advantage. I blame the media and our own laziness -- it's ironic that reading Haaretz gives you a far more balanced view of the Palestine/Israel situation and the war on "terror" than our newspapers do. Ironic but not surprising -- the vast majority of American lives are not yet at risk in our "war" so it is easy to be idiotically patriotic and ignore real possibilities of peace. The terrifying thing is wondering where we will be in the next 5 or 10 years -- and wondering if it really rests on the next election, or if faith in that is just wishful thinking.


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