I spent a considerable amount of time in my 20s living in cities where terror was a daily occurrence. I remember celebrating July 4th 2009 with my sheet pulled up to my chin, listening to familiar “Israeli debke” at 3:30am: a crescendo of dogs barking, flash bang grenades, the sounds of doors being busted in. The sudden silence of the streets of Cairo in curfew as armored personel carriers rumbled by. Black billowing smoke from car bombs. Rockets, checkpoints, arrests, guns, grenades – that’s life for billions of oppressed people worldwide.
I was reminded of this when I’m in Paris two weeks ago, watching the gendarmes walk with automatic rifles through the streets, commonplace as you please. It’s a racist dreamscape when people don’t think this encroaching militarism will touch all. It’s a racist dreamscape when the people of the English-speaking world and the people in Europe and the United States think their lives are worth any more to the ruling class than the people the ruling class regularly torment abroad because their passport is a different color.
When we speak of solidarity, they tell me I sound cold. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent years of my life in war zones and only days in Paris and I know very well in which instance I will receive phone calls when people get blown up in public. I vividly remember sitting on a couch in the United States, watching television and crying as Israelis reinvaded Nablus in 2009. I vividly remember bald racism thrown around the room like a football. “This is normal for them,” people insist.
It isn’t normal for anyone. They cope differently because it happens more, but it’s not normal.
A Palestinian boy shot in the spine cries in fear and pain as his blood runs over Jerusalem’s light rail tracks. A settler circles him like a vulture, filming the boy’s fear, mocking him. A Palestinian girl tackled by strangers on the street in Tel Aviv receives a kick to the head, delivered almost-casually as the assailant keeps walking. In despair, a girl douses herself in kerosene and lights a match. A neighborhood, historically black churches, a refugee camp go up in flames. At least 1,566 young men – sons, husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers – brutally murdered face down in trenches at Camp Speicher in Iraq. This is not normal, but this is what is treated as normal by people elsewhere, by the capitalist media.
If every human life really holds the same weight, why are we told to cry for some and not for others? Qui bono?