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May 2010

War Through A Brown Eyed Girl

By Brian Dann 


Peace-pic-by-jerusalem-kids1In 1988, in a London dormitory just steps away from Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall, a young Lebanese girl with olive skin and dark brown eyes, pushed me up against a wall, and with a passion I had never seen, made the demand “TALK TO ME! JUST TALK TO ME! TELL ME WHY YOU SUPPORT ISRAEL!” And I did. It was a moment that changed me. You see being a Jewish boy having been born and raised in the north suburbs of Chicago, far removed from the realities of everyday life of an Israeli citizen, I was taught that we support Israel. I learned that Israel was the home land of the Jewish people and the state of Israel was surrounded by hostile neighbors. I learned how Israel was attacked by the Arab states that surrounded it the day it declared itself a country and Israel fought back to win. I learned of the Six Day war and numerous other battles. I learned of the PLO and planes that were hijacked, Jews singled out by their passports, shot and tossed onto the run way. I learned of busses blown up filled with innocent men, women and children, time and time again. I learned about Entebbe and the Jews that were taken hostage by PLO terrorists, only to be freed in a now historic mission by the IDF. I remember watching with my class mates as Israel and Egypt signed the peace treaty, and I remember hearing about the death of Anwar Sadat only too soon afterwards. I learned of the Holocaust and “never forget” and “never again.” I remember being taught that Jews were good and Arabs were bad. And as a kid I wondered why so many people hate us.
 Then when I was attending college in Chicago, I decided in my last year to spend a semester studying in London. Through my school I found an exchange program at Richmond University, an American University in London. I was thrilled to be going there and knew this would be the experience of my life. When I got there I quickly discovered something I had not anticipated, not a bad thing just something I did not expect. Half of the students at this American University were Arab Muslims. They were mostly the sons and daughters of Arab nationals based in London. Being a boy from the Midwest, I had never encountered this many Arabs in one place. Their certainly were not this many on the North Shore of Chicago. So I decided to make this a learning experience. I decided to open my mind and erase all of the pre-conceived notions that I had learned over the past 20 years. After all wasn’t that what this experience was all about. First I signed up for a class called “The History of the Muslim Religion from 600A.D. to the present.” Next, I tried to interact with the Arabs attending this university as much as possible. I hoped it would allow me to form my own opinions, entirely separate from what I had been taught. I found it fascinating that here were two groups of people, who traditionally, by label alone, Americans, and Arab Muslims, were not known to have the best relationship, and were thrust together and forced to interact. It was like a great social experiment. I never told any of them I was Jewish. It was obvious I was American.
What I quickly noticed was that it was not easy to get to know them. They mostly socialized with each other. There was nothing wrong with that, in fact it's very natural. After all I hung out mostly with other Americans. I’m not sure if it was the policy of the University but as far as housing went, we were all kept very segregated from each other. It wasn’t until I had a business class that I encountered a very friendly young girl named Abeer. She was from Oman. Honestly, she was beautiful as were most of the Arab girls. She had long dark hair, very dark eyes and beautiful skin. She was also a bit shy but somehow I flirted my way into becoming friends with her. We would sit together during breaks and talk about class and each other’s cultures, but I still never mentioned I was Jewish. Then one day, about halfway through the semester she said to me, “You’re Jewish, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes I am. How did you know?” and with a little smile she said, “I’ve always known.” I asked her if she wanted to have dinner one night and she made it clear that was just not going to happen so I didn’t pursue it. I never talked politics with her or what she thought about Israel because I wanted to get to know the person not the politics, also believe it or not, I did not like to talk politics, especially when it came to Israel.
But the girl from Lebanon was different. First of all she lived in the same dorm as all of us Americans. She was attractive but somewhat of a tomboy. She seemed more at home with the Americans than anyone else. She was just one of many in the group of people who all hung out together. But every once in a while, after a few to many pints at the pub she would ask me what I thought about Israel. She kept it real open-ended and I always told her, “I don’t like to discuss it.” I had my views, they weren’t going to change, so why discuss it. I know it frustrated her but I didn’t know why. What I did know is I always supported Israel. Whatever they did I supported Israel because that is what I was taught to do, but the truth was besides being Jewish and knowing it was the Jewish homeland, I really did not have a true understanding of why I supported Israel beyond that’s how I was raised and I really didn't question it. So every time she would ask me, I would tell here, “I really don’t want to discuss it. I have my reasons, and you have yours, and I just don’t want to discuss it.” After that she would usually back off, annoyed by my answer.
Finally the semester was nearing its end. We would all be leaving, going back to the countries that we came from hopefully being a bit wiser then we were before we arrived. We went out for one last time to the local pub that we would go to each night after classes. At 10:30 pm when all pubs in England closed we headed back to the dorm. We all sat around the main lobby of our dorm and had a great time. We talked for hours. Then the Lebanese girl with olive skin and dark brown eyes tried one last time to talk to me about Israel. She found me in the hallway and asked me again, “Why do you support Israel!” I said, “I just don’t want to talk about it.” She grabbed me, pushed me up against a wall, and with a passion I had never seen, made the demand “TALK TO ME! JUST TALK TO ME! TELL ME WHY YOU SUPPORT ISRAEL!” And I did. And after I was done, after I told her what I had been taught, so far removed from the realities of life in that part of world, she told me the other side, the side not so removed, the side I had never been told. Not the side of a terrorist, or a soldier but the side of a child, a child who didn’t know or care about the politics of the situation, or who fired first. She told me the side of a frightened little girl who saw the bombs and the missiles come down and kill her aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. She showed me the side I had never seen before, not the Lebanese side, but the human side, the side you never see on the news, the side removed from politics, not of who’s right and who’s wrong, but instead the side of a pretty little girl who saw things she should never have seen, who’s attitudes and opinions have every right to exist based on her perspective and experiences, a side that we all too often forget when we talk about not just Israel, but also Iraq, and Afghanistan. We forget that no matter what side we support, there are family members who are devastated by the loss of a loved one, parents in the middle who lost a child, children orphaned by a bomb, soldiers and civilians both American and foreign, maimed by explosions. Do I support Israel? Yes I do, but not blindly. I don’t support any move by any side that is counterproductive to peace and all sides have made mistakes. But most importantly I support the human side because somewhere there is a little girl with olive skin and dark brown eyes watching her family get blown apart. And whether that little girl is Israeli, or Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan, Lebanese or American it doesn’t really matter, now does it? We are all people and we all have families that we love. Our leaders need to remember that, but they seldom do. We all need to remember that in every conflict, on every side, there is a little brown eyed girl.


Afghan Civilians Killed Since the War Started: 8453

Afghan Civilians Seriously Injured: 15,215

Iraqi Civilians Killed Since the War Started: 835,058

Iraqi Civilians Seriously Injured: 1,503,106

U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan: 5,390

U.S. Troops Seriously Injured in Iraq and Afghanistan: 34,569

About 296 times as many people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the cowardly attacks of September 11, 2001.



The Gulf, It's His Fault, No It's His Fault, No It's...


I’ve been watching this oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico for weeks now and I’ve been at a bit of a loss as to what to say about it.  The enormity of this disaster is so huge that if you sit down for a few moments and really try to wrap your brain around the effects this has had, and will continue to have, not just on the wildlife that you see photos of on the news, but on our entire ecosystem from the smallest bit of plankton up to every human being on the face of this earth, it is simply mind boggling.  And that is where the problem lies right there.  No one, not the news media, not the environmentalists, not our government, no one has been able to put this unconscionable, unfathomable disaster in any sort of terms that will make the public understand what has really happened here to the point that the masses will demand answers, demand change, and personally take action so that this will never happen again.  We have not, as a nation, as a world, become mad enough about this, and we need to.  So what I am going to attempt to do, is make you mad.
Let’s imagine for a moment that instead of that pipe spewing 210,000 gallons of oil a day at the bottom of the ocean, it was doing it on your front lawn.  Imagine that for some reason that no matter how hard they tried, the authorities could not stop it and since it started, an estimated 4.9 million gallons had been emptied on to your neighborhood.  In the process the fumes have poisoned the air for miles and thousand of people have been suffering from severe headaches and possible brain damage.  In addition the oil has made its way into the local water wells and water filtration plants and made the drinking water undrinkable. All local plants and vegetation have died and in turn all the animals that live in the area are dying from lack of food.  The sheer amount of oil has made it impossible for vehicles to navigate the roads so there are food shortages at all local supermarkets.  To help dissipate the oil, the government has decided to dump thousands of gallons of chemicals on the oil but the toxicity of the chemicals makes it so hard to breathe that some pass out and even die. Now imagine that no matter how hard they try, the oil just can not be fully cleaned up.  You are told that your home can not be saved, and because of the amount of oil that has been absorbed into the ground, it is unlikely that any vegetation will grow at least in your lifetime.  Imagine that everything you know about the world you live in has been ruined and it can not be fixed.  Now imagine you’re a fish, or a sea turtle, or a dolphin, or a sea gull and with out warning, without any fault of your own your world has been destroyed.  Those around you are dying and you don’t know why.  The food you eat is gone because it has been killed off by the oil. Your atmosphere is polluted, your home is destroyed, and you have nowhere to go.
A tragedy like 9/11 is easy for us to comprehend.  We see the planes fly into the Twin Towers and we get physically ill.  We watch them collapse and we shudder at the loss of human life.  We sit dazed, confused, we cry and we ask why? We come together, we see the common enemy, and we get mad!  We demand action, we take to the streets, we vow never again!  But for this, we do nothing.  For this we say how terrible and we do nothing.  We drive our cars, we drink from our plastic bottles of water, we buy our gas from BP still, and we do nothing.  We do nothing because all we see is the occasional dead turtle, the oil covered bird, and the photos of some oil floating on the top of the water.  It is impossible to see the devastation in its entirety that this disaster has caused, and will continue to cause, because it is simply to big to comprehend.  It is impossible to see the loss of life that has occurred, a loss that dwarfs the number of lives lost in 9/11. And because most of that life is not human, we do nothing.
To comprehend what has happened is simply impossible, but we need to.  We need to get mad.  We need to demand action, because if we don’t the collective enemy will not be the government, it will not be corporate America, it will be us.  We will go on driving our cars, drinking water from plastic bottles, and demanding nothing.  And when this happens again, who will be to blame? You will. Are you mad yet?


These are the names of the eleven Transocean workers who died. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families.


Jayson Anderson - Toolpusher
Dewey Revette - Driller
Donald Clark - Asst. Driller
Stephen Curtis - Asst. Driller
Dale Burkeen - Crane Operator
Roy Kemp - Derrickhand
Karl Kleppinger - Floorhand
Shane Roshto - Floorhand
Adam Weise - Floorhand
Gordon Jones - MI Swaco
Blair Manuel - MI Swaco


What Do You Call a Mexican In Arizona? A Suspect.


I am going to do some racial profiling.  If you were to ask me what skin color I think the next American to win an Olympic medal for swimming will be, I would say white.  If you were to ask me what skin color I think the next person to win an Olympic medal for the 110 meters hurdles will be, I would say black. If you were to ask me what nationality the person behind the counter at my local Dunkin’ Donuts is going to be, I would guess Indian.  And if you were to ask me what skin color the next President of the United States will be, well up until Barack Obama, I would have bet on white, but now I have no idea.  That mold, thankfully, has been broken pretty much wide open.  And if you were to ask me what nationality an illegal alien living in Arizona will be, I would easily bet on Mexican, and so would most people from Arizona. Now do any of my answers make me racist or a bad person? No, they make me a perfectly normal human being because statistically I would be right on all of them.  I would love to see any and all of these statistically correct profiles broken and occasionally we do. An example would be Shani Davis, an African American who in Vancouver won both the gold and the silver medals for men’s speed skating at the 2010 Olympics, a sport dominated by Caucasians.  And just this year Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director.

But in Arizona a law was passed that, no matter how much certain ultra conservative individuals around this country may want to deny it, guarantees that every Arizona police officer, will have it as his or her duty to question the citizenship of what may be completely innocent legal Mexican Americans, for no other cause then there skin color, facial features and clothing.  The law that was passed does not explicitly say anywhere in it that the police must question those that look Mexican, but it contains language that forces a police officer to answer the question of what they believe an illegal alien in Arizona would look like, and statistically I can assure you that their answer will not be a Caucasian, well dressed, blond male or female, driving a convertible BMW through the posh suburbs of Scottsdale.  What I can ensure you is that there answer will be based on the same thing that allowed me to easily answer the questions at the beginning of this article, statistics.  The problem lies in that it is one thing for me to statistically speculate what race the next person who wins an Olympic sport will be, but it is an other thing to force an individual to prove their legal status and face possible arrest and deportation based solely on their appearance. 
The law uses the term “reasonable suspicion.”  It states “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States”.  The issue is that the law is too vague and does not define what “reasonable suspicion” is. And because of that vagueness, and the fact that statistically it is most likely that an illegal alien in Arizona will be Mexican, in order for a police officer to enforce this law, they must put under suspicion any person who fits the statistically correct definition of an illegal alien in Arizona, or racial profiling.  It forces a police officer to violate the civil rights of millions of perfectly legal Mexican Americans living their lives in Arizona and unfairly singles out an entire race of people.  If that isn’t the definition of racial discrimination, I don’t know what is. 
There is a precedence set for this law being considered lawfully wrong and unacceptable in this country.   In 1999, five white police officers, working in the upscale, mostly white suburb of Highland Park Illinois were charges with racial profiling.  The charge stated that there boss directed the officers to target minorities for traffic stops.  I can tell you on a personal note that at that time I worked with a number of African American individuals who confirmed to me that they had been pulled over in Highland Park and did not violate any traffic rules.  They refused to enter this town at that time because they believed it was likely that they would be hassled for no other reason then they were black and they were there.  In July of 2000 the case was settled with the help of the ACLU.  In the settlement it decreed the following;
“Highland Park police officers will not consider the racial appearance or ethnicity of any civilian in deciding to survey, stop, detain, interrogate, request consent to search or search any civilian unless they are seeking to detain, apprehend, or otherwise be on the lookout for a specific suspect described in part by race or ethnicity when sought in connection with a crime. The Highland Park Police Department will also require officers to report any conduct by other officers who engage in racial profiling.”
The Highland Park police department and their city officials came to understand that racial profiling is wrong and is illegal.  Arizona on the other hand has made it state policy.  Now don’t get me wrong, we have a definite problem with illegal immigration in this country, and I can understand the state of Arizona being frustrated with the situation since they have to deal with it more than any other state does, but this misguided, illegal and racist law is not the way to deal with the problem.  The border is not being patrolled correctly and that needs to change, not just in Arizona, but along the Canadian border as well.  This is not only an immigration issue, but also an issue of economics, and national security.  But remember, this is not a new issue. This was not dealt with for the eight years of the Bush administration, or the eight years of the Clinton administration, so today it has to be dealt with by the Obama administration.  Today we have a president who has promised us change and he needs to show us that he can and will do what past administrations have not, and that is secure our borders and reform our policies on immigration.  Maybe this was Arizona’s way of getting our attention and of forcing this issue to be dealt with on a national level.  Just remember this, this country was settled by illegal aliens.  The Indians never invited us on to their land and fought us every step of the way.  They never gave us permission to take their land but we did it any way.  And at that time if you were to ask them what they think the skin color will be of the next group of men to take what is there’s, they would say white.  And statistically, they would have been right.