Thursday, October 20, 2005

On being cursed

Robert Fisk writes in The Independent about his whirlwind book tour for his new tome, The Great War for Civilization. The article's definitely worth a read (although you have to log-in at the site--sorry!)

Fisk talks about all the dead he's seen over the years covering wars in the Middle East, and how his life and writing have taken on a grimness as a result.

The following excerpt really hit home for me:

I told the journalism students there that when I saw families walking happily in London or Paris, I wondered whether I had not missed out on life, that perhaps comparative safety and security with nothing more than the mortgage to worry about was preferable to the existence I had chosen for myself. A friend of my father’s once said I had enjoyed the privilege of seeing things that no other man had seen. But after a flood of questions from students in Sydney about suffering in the Middle East, I began to wonder if my privilege had not also been my curse.

For most of the time I spent in Jordan, war seemed to be all around. Unlike Fisk, I didn't see any dead bodies, but I certainly became affected by the general sadness and tension that one can't escape living there. At least 60% of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin--people who didn't choose to move to Amman but rather ended up there when they got booted out of Palestine. There were many days when I would go into work or talk to friends and hear horrifying stories about how their families in the West Bank or Gaza were being treated (jails, houses bulldozed, etc.) Not the typical water cooler conversation most people have in this country.

In many ways, coming to America has been a wonderful break. It's easy to avoid the news here, and conversation rarely, if ever, touches on politics or the urgent stories captivating us all back in Jordan. It's frightening, though, to know just how out of touch the general public is with what's going on in the rest of the world. Frightening, because it's oh so easy to be as out of touch ourselves. Like Fisk, we have the curse of having been there and needing to feel like we play a role in helping to make a difference.


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