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Watching Men Drown
April 23, 2002
By Maggie Porter

What's going on here? I wake up and go to sleep each and every night with a sense of dread. Never mind the fact that I've seen bombs, heard the thunder of shells in the early morning hours, landing a short distance from my home in Southern Lebanon. Never mind all that. Never mind that during my summer vacation in 1993 I was made into a refugee by Israeli gunships and bombs. Never mind that I keep a piece of shrapnel in my philodendron, the piece that almost took my daughter's life. All that was just the prelude. It's as if I have always known this was coming to me. Something like fate, something that brought me to live in the Middle East as opposed to Kitt or Lisa or Brenda, my childhood pals. Why me?

I want to believe that I am someone who can make a difference. I cherish this silly thought and post endless streams of rhetoric and argument on message boards hoping that somewhere out there, someone who really can make a difference will see my words and do something. I realize now, have come to the stunning conclusion that this is utter nonsense. I realize that this is nothing more than a coping strategy that I employ in order to get hold of some really powerful circumstances and emotions, to control them.

I have lived in Saudi Arabia for ten years now. My husband is from Lebanon, my children are part Arab. What does this make me? From what I see in the media, if I were to return to the US, we would be under constant scrutiny and my children might one day, face belligerent discrimination. It's like overnight, I've become an African American, only I am the same color.

When the WTC was hit, my first thoughts were, "If the Arabs didn't do this, certainly they will be blamed." I stocked up on rice, beans, sugar.

Let's go back a little though. Two weeks before the attack, I had literally given up on any improvement in the situation in Palestine. I only began educating myself regarding their plight in 1999 or so. It became quite clear to me, two weeks before WTC, that the situation was hopeless, on all sides. I decided to stop reading the news about Palestine.

I won't lie to you and say that I support the State of Israel. Like most Americans however, I never really had a handle on Palestine or the formation of the Israeli state. I believed what I'd been told, that those people had been fighting for 2,000 years, that it was an 'unsolveable' situation. As well, even though my husband is from Lebanon, I never understood that war either. Did anyone? It was known in the mainstream media as the Lebanese Civil War. I know now how dreadfully mislabelled it was.

The truth is, it was a Proxy War between Palestine and Israel. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Lebanese people, only they were drawn into it against their will. I remember many of our Lebanese friends back in college complaining, "Everyone brings their trouble into Lebanon." I had not idea what they meant, perhaps I thought it a case of collective scapegoating. Back in those days, my husband was a real demon. I realize now the sense of guilt he felt when he saw countless Lebanese killed in mortar attacks, car bombs, assassination attempts. Now, it all makes sense.

What really makes me angry is the fact that people still accept these simple lies about a country, one that out of all the Arab countries, has demonstrated a resolve and solidarity never before witnessed in the dictatorial world of the ME, where puppet regimes and weapons of mass destruction are the norm. What does Lebanon get? It gets labelled as a terrorist nation. Why? Because, even without US dollars and US weapons, they were able to beat the oppressor.

The oppressor that employed Lebanese citizens, even coerced them, plying them with jobs in Israel or threats of exile from their villages, so that they would torture other Lebanese citizens in the name of security for the State of Israel. A state that is based on the beliefs of one religious group to the exclusion of the indigenous Palestinian population. Israel destroyed Lebanese infrastructure over and over and over. I can't tell you how many nights I've had to cook by candlelight or how many huge pots of water I've had to boil in order to take a warm bath or bathe my children. These repeated destructions mind you, are war crimes.

I am tired now. What tires me more than anything is the fact that many, many Americans confuse the WTC attack with Palestine. The same way the Lebanese Civil War was portrayed as a civil war as opposed to Israel's Proxy War against Palestine. I talk to alot of Saudis about WTC. I will confess, very few people here believe Osama did it. Unfortunately, Americans translate that to mean that they indeed support Osama if he did it.

What is clear is that Americans, average people like you and me, have lost their ability to reason. Either that or American Nationalistic fervor is morphing into fascism. I prefer to think the former as opposed to the latter. I am comforted that so many people are marching in Washington. That so many people are trying to report the news. I remind myself of an article I read recently about Nero, the one who fiddled while Rome burned. The evidence suggests he didn't burn Rome at all! Lo! Yet we still associate his name with one of the worst acts of state terror in written history. Go figure.

Did Osama do it? Who knows, perhaps we will never know. If he did, then he has hurt Islam more than any other muslim in history. With that in mind, realize he cannot be considered a muslim. I personally, do not feel anything has been proven. Indeed, much evidence to the contrary points at a much wider conspiracy than our work-a-day minds can process. We seemingly live in a state of denial.

I remember a story about a man and a group of his friends that went swimming at Canyon Lake in Phoenix, Arizona some years back. Around 20 of them stood calmly on a boat as the man waved his arms frantically in the water until he drowned, right there in full view of his good friends. No one wanted to believe that someone could drown while they looked on.

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