I’ve been updating a few of my links and articles here today. I hope some of you will check out the two links to interesting commentaries under “Important!” to the right. Migra Matters is a progressive immigration policy blog, and the Walls and Fences article expresses the reason I feel that building a wall with Mexico is so tragic. I never really thought about the distinction between walls and fences before, but this article provokes thought and makes some good points.
I’d never heard of Eduardo Galeano before a few weeks ago, when I listened to my weekly installment of Latino USA, where host Maria Hinojosa was interviewing the renowned South American writer and thinker. Something about the way he spoke has stayed in my mind, cutting through the millions of media-produced words that pass in front of my eyes or dance through my ears each day. Galeano cannot be described a liberal, much less a concervative, neither a progressive, nor any other conventional political label. Hinojosa described him as someone whose thinking can turn your own upside down and around, jumbling what we accept as true and revealing openings in the mind that we didn’t know existed.
When I listened to the interview-turned-intimate-conversation between Galeano and Hinojosa last week, I planned to copy down pieces, but I’m never going to get around to that; hence, a few paraphrases. As the conversation shifted to the war in Iraq, Galeano challenged us to think about how often we hear of the number of American soldiers who have died in Iraq, compared to the hundred thousand or more of Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, that have been killed there. If Iraqis had invaded the U.S., killed one hundred thousand women and children, bombed our largest cities, destroyed endless historical artifacts, devastated thousands and thousands of families, Galeano said, it would take us centuries to get over. Let this sink in for a moment. Can we imagine that level of outrage that would overtake our country if this situation was for some reason switched around? So why, oh why, do we expect anything else from Iraqis?
He suggested the reason for the lack of outrage in the world, among Americans, but anyone really, is that Iraqis are in some ways second-class citizens, at least in the eyes of Westerners and especially compared to Americans. Granted, September 11th was a horrible, terrible act, but how many tens of thousands of people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since that day? Why are we so outraged over the deaths of 3,000 Americans but so much less concerned about those tens of thousands of Iraqis? Is it just because we are powerful? Is American life more valuable than Iraqi? Are we simply that selfish and sel-concerned that all that matters is our national interest? If that is true, then it would at least be preferable to leave the verbiage about taking freedom to the world out of the picture.
I’ve always been a bit disturbed by the amount of emphasis that is put on the deaths of Americans. This is going to sound really horrible, which is exactly why I’ve never expressed it before, but life is life and people die. Not so long ago more than 100,000 Indonesians, Thais, Indians and Africans died in a freak Tsunami. Sure, people were upset, it was a natural disaster, but how many people have died in violent uprisings and ethnic battles in Africa? Is the average American outraged? Are we filled with anger and rage? In 2001, more than 3,000 people died in New York City, terrible, an attack on America, but let’s be real about it, 3,000 people die regularly in Africa in equally violent crimes. But are these people unreal and not meaningful to us because we are that self-centered?
This is a bigger question than why we are in Iraq, but it’s completely devastating nonetheless. When we step outside our ideas of national security and just look at humanity, what are we doing? How many people had to die for our national security, and what about theirs?