24 July 2006

Hard To Define, That

I'm experiencing that rarest of gifts for a parent, peace and quiet. The LightChildren are visiting their grandparents for two weeks. They are with my parents this week, and with LightHusband's parents next week. They are in Vermont. We are here. Ahhhh. I love those two dearly, but sometimes they leave me with my ears bleeding from all the words I have to hear. The ramp up to this trip was hair-raising. I have to apologize to the BrickDude. He and his lovely wife, GoldenGirl, came to visit and trade cars with us the evening before the LightChildren left. There came a point in the evening when both children were talking at the same time, in ever increasing volumes, about different subjects to BrickDude. It was horrifying. He handled it with aplomb. But they left shortly thereafter.

The next day, packed and ready to go, we set out for the airport. We stopped for lunch at a favored Indian restaurant. We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare for any "unforeseen circumstances," such as identity needs, long lines, who knows. Nothing happened. There were no "unforeseen circumstances." With one tiny exception. We checked the LightChildren in at the ticket counter, checked their luggage, filled out the "unaccompanied minor" paperwork, had a lovely chat with the ticket lady (who was very kind and just the tiniest bit frazzled when her key got stuck in the drawer) and then she spoke the words of doom in the most cheerful voice imaginable, "So, which ONE of you will be accompanying the children to the gate?" Me (reeling and looking around and the millions of people and imagining shepherding the children through the masses of evil humanity alone ... and remember my lingering panic disorder which gets worse in crowds): "Ummm ... One? You mean BOTH of us can't go with them?" Cheerful Ticket Lady (who's name was Eva): "Oh no, I can only allow ONE of you to go. So who will it be?" LightHusband is rather desperate to relieve himself of the duty because he had spent all morning with them while I went to a guild event and his ears were bleeding. Really. But I. Just. Could. Not. Go. I also could not stay and not go with my dear children. In the end, LightHusband graciously gave way and allowed me to stay back. We dawdled around as long as is possible in place that is so clearly NOT designed for people to wait. There are no places for sitting, only places for standing in line or walking. One is clearly expected to complete one's business and go on one's way here; do not dawdle.

In the end, I found a Cinnabon stand, purchased a tasty treat, a cup of coffee and a couple of magazines to read. It was interesting to me that when he got to the gate LightHusband also bought a magazine to look at. He got Food & Wine. This is a fun magazine. What do I get when I have a few hours to myself in a busy airport? The Economist, U.S. News & World Report, and another magazine about living green. That's sad; it says something about my inability to relax.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed my little piece of time to catch up on some reading about world affairs. It's a passion of mine that I've had little time to indulge since the advent of children in my life. I've even gone so far as to subscribe to the on-line version of The Economist. I used to read it frequently, now I'll be able to again.

I spent most of my time reading about the current crisis between Israel and Lebanon. It's a situation that is heartbreaking. Lebanon was just struggling back to her feet. There are times when I'd like to give Syrian president Assad a real talking to. Seriously, the Syrians need to own up to the underhanded work they are doing. A small splinter group in Lebanon has demolished it yet again. The picture that went with the article made me cry.

Then I read this sentence or two:
On each of these fronts the fighting was precipitated by an audacious attack on Israel's army by fighters belonging to extreme Islamist groups that combine the functions of armed militias—“terrorists”, says Israel—and elected political parties.
The phrase, "armed militias," caught my eye. We bluster on here in the U.S. about our highly touted "War on Terror." But what was the Revolutionary War? It was many groups of "armed militias" using guerilla tactics against a much larger, colonial power who was trying to take away freedoms that our forefathers thought they had a "right" to.

I'm not sure how far out we or I can draw this analogy, but I have to wonder what tactics our forefathers would have used if they had had the weaponry at their disposal that the Arabs do today. I wonder if we were British would we consider them heros? or terrorists? Just what does it look like when it's your land, religion and way of life that is at risk?

It's really hard to define, that.


Blogger Liz said...

You know, I've thought about that sometimes, too. The idea that during the revolution we were the ones trying to overthrow someone and doing it in new and novel ways... But I keep coming back to three things -- and since I only know about this from my public school education, I could be wrong -- but in my mind we were very different.

1) We had specific goals. We didn't start out to overthrow England and if England had been more open to our requests, most likely we'd be more like Canada and still have pictures of the Queen everywhere. The feeling I get from what I hear about the terrorists is that they don't have modest goals. They're after the destruction of the infidels. (I'm not saying everyone in the Middle East is dogmatic, but it sure seems like the terrorists are.)

2) We would have negotiated with England. Even as it was, good ol’ Ben Franklin did a lot of smoosing. Later it was mostly with French woman to gain financial support for the war effort, but he could have worked the crowd in England given the chance. I get the feeling the terrorist don't want to talk things over.

3) This is the biggest difference for me... we may have used the equivalent of gorilla tactics, but we didn't target civilians. We did not intend to create terror. We knew who the military was and that's who we went after – not Aunt Millie milking her cow.

Like I said, this is all based on a very pro-America public school education. But I certainly hope it's true.

7/24/2006 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

You make some good points, Liz. And there are some Arabs who are attempting negotiation. Just as there were Americans who attempted negotiation.

I'm not sure we can say that we wouldn't have targeted civilians, since there weren't any civilians to target. Civilians who sided with the Crown (Tories) were driven either back "home" to England or to Canada (I have ancestors who were Tories and ancestors who fought as so-called "patriots"). Those who were openly Tories were tarred and feathered; no collateral damage unless you consider the family, but still ....

There were those "patriots" who considered Ben Franklin a fool for negotiating. Sam Adams springs to mind most immediately. Tom Paine was another.

On the other hand, we hadn't lived here for thousands of years either. England wasn't a third party dropping a second party in amongst us. The Arabs know very well that they cannot take on the Europeans and the U.S., so they must then fight Israel. It's their only choice.

And, this latest round of hostilities was begun as a reaction to Hezbollah attacking a military target. Israel has reacted by bombing civilian targets. I understand (and give grudging support) to their reasoning, but as the regional superpower they have to set the example if they want the Arabs to fall in line. If they're going to complain about targeting civilians, they cannot turn around and do it themselves ... even for a good cause.

7/25/2006 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

P.S. ... I meant to add in that next to last paragraph ...

It's their only choice, if they want to fight. However they do have the choice to figure out how to co-exist.

7/25/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

P.P.S. I wonder what the newspapers in England at the time reported? I know that there were Americans calling for the assassination of King George and who wanted his head on a platter. What if those were the only voices that the English heard? Just as the only Arab voices that we hear are those of the most extreme terrorists. There are indeed Arabs, even Arab heads of state (Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt to name a few) who agree with Israel's right to exist. But the only voices we hear are the extremists. It makes you wonder ...

7/25/2006 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I'm not sure if this was clear from my comment, but I wasn't trying to defend Israel... I was just trying to make myself feel better that our country wasn't founded on evil terrorism. The truth is, war is never pretty; even if it is a "just war." After I posted my comment, I continued to think about the whole concept. And I was reminded of the war in Vietnam -- in school a vet came to speak to my class and he talked about how you couldn't trust anyone. He said people would pretend to be pro-American and give the troops soda or other food and it would laced with broken glass or poison. I think that's evil. But on the continuum of evil, I think it's less evil than terrorists who purposely target civilians just for the purposes of creating terror. As for Israel’s attacks on civilian targets... I understand their reasons, and I think they are slightly better than the terrorist because their motives are ever so slightly different. But even though I generally support Israel, I can't support or condone attacking civilians. So all I was trying to say in my first comment was that even though we fought dirty in the revolution, I don't think we fought evilly (if that's a word.) Kinda subtle, but I hope I'm making sense.

7/25/2006 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Hi Liz, yeah, you're making sense. And I agree with you. There is a continuum of evil.

I think we're just making different points. I'm making the point that we rarely, if ever, hear the moderate Arab point of view here. We always hear the extremists. But the reality is that there are Arab moderates ... we just don't hear from them and I wish we did.

I think that you're very qright about the issues of trust. I think it's been so terribly eroded on both sides in the region, that it's difficult for anyone to know who's coming from where anymore. It's all very, very sad.

7/25/2006 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

HAHA! You expect the news papers to print and the TVs to broadcast the moderate point of view? Shesh, how will the news outlets make any money doing that? ;-)

7/25/2006 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Paddy O. said...

I think this is a great analogy to think over because it really gets us to try and see things from the perspective of the other side, the side normally demonized.

As I think about it, however, I'm not sure there is an equivalence after all. Washington and the continental army may have employed some unique tactics but they were also still a very formal and organized military. Washington was a respected general on both sides and gave and was given the honor accorded to his rank. He followed military protocol and was an immensely, almost overbearingly, honorable fellow.

Had America lost the war, I doubt Washington would have set up a terrorist group to operate out of Canada.

That's the tricky bit for me. This is a war that has been going on for almost sixty years. It has erupted into full scale war three or four times with all the armies of the region trying to get Israel out of the way.

They lost, and so rather than live with this defeat they do what Washington would never have done, which is to send the fighters into the hills so that even in loss they could cause continued chaos.

I say Washington would never have done this because his philosophical descendent Robert E. Lee didn't do it. When it was suggested the Army of Northern Virginia flee to the hills and keep up the fight apart from being a normal Army Lee utterly refused and surrendered, thus leading to the end of the Civil War.

Lee refused to use the tactics which would have led to decades of strife in the south and kept up the hatred likely until our present.

Had Washington lost he most certainly would have done the same, willing to use unique tactics as a part but never relying on underhanded strategy which kept up chaos without any hope of real victory.

The armed militia may have been unusual, but it was uniformed, and organized in much similar ways as a regular army.

For that matter, even beyond the organization, we see what each were fighting for. America had the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution as the driving force. The armed militias of the Middle East do not have liberty in mind, but oppression.

7/25/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Yep ... as I said, I don't think the analogy can be drawn out very far. But it's helpful for looking at the other side. Which is why I made it in the first place. We hear the Israeli story pretty consistently, what we don't hear is the Arab story. They actually have one and it is worth hearing. The extremists are controlling the microphone at the moment, but believe it or not, they are in the minority.

7/26/2006 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger Paddy O. said...

Extremists usually are. The problem comes when the majority has lost control or thinks the extremists are, in some way, serving the cause.

Christianity Today, by the way, has been posting a nice set of articles from the Arab perspective.

7/26/2006 12:44:00 PM  

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