Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ellen Reiss, anti-war writer

In "When We Feel Hurt; or, Arabs and Jews" Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, describes the ordinary mistake out of which wars have arisen throughout history:
"Each of us makes [this] mistake...: we lump people together, rob them of their fulness and specificity. And with that mistake comes this: we make ourselves inaccurately different from other people; we don't see that we are vividly related to every human being. These two wrongnesses are so ordinary. But from them has arisen the huge cruelty of all the centuries. So I speak a little here about the agony now going on between Israelis and Palestinians — and give the only real solution to it."

As an American, and Jewish, I am a person who examplifies this real solution and know other people, among them Israelis, who also examplify it. We have changed the way we see Palestinians and their rights. The change was from that ordinary wrongness--seeing Palestinians as essentially different from Jews--to real respect: seeing that their feelings, their rights, are as real as our own and must be honored for us to respect ourselves. Ms. Reiss wrote on this solution in a column published as an ad in the New York Times in 1990, titled "The Only Answer to the Mideast Crisis." But with supreme foolishness this article was not discussed, taken up, implemented. And that is why we have the horror now in southern Lebanon, let alone elsewhere. I shall soon quote Ellen Reiss on the solution--the only one that can last. But for now let us look at how her commentary continues:
"There is no bigger emergency in the world now, both internationally and in the private life of everyone, than the matter of: What do we do when we feel we've been hurt? Peoples feel hurt by other peoples — Israelis and Palestinians certainly do. But also, individuals feel hurt by persons they know — by a spouse, acquaintance, co-worker. It happens, Aesthetic Realism explains, that we can arrange to see ourselves as hurt, because our being hurt seems to justify our doing anything we please, dealing with people however it suits us."

What has "suited us" in America includes a foreign policy. including the use of violence, that millions are hurt and insulted by and are retaliating against--and what "suits them" includes horrifying acts of violence. There is no doubt that the situation between Israelis and Palestines, the mutual hate and retaliation, is the focal point around which opposing forces, both harmful to humanity, have gathered and erupted. And what could solve this mutual hate would be good for the whole world.

I am not going to attempt to explain fully what is already in this important issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, but to point to it as presenting the most important thing we need to see in order to end the horrendous destruction now in the Middle East and prevent its escalation. For this commentary by Ellen Reiss, click here.

This commentary presents Ms. Reiss's practicable, do-able, absolutely necessary beginning point. I quote it now:
"The following, however, can and should take place immediately:
Every Israeli Jew is asked to write a 500-word soliloquy of a Palestinian. Every Palestinian is asked to write such a soliloquy of an Israeli person. Every day, on Israeli and Palestinian radio and television stations, these soliloquies will be read, ten of them each day. First Ms. B_______, an Israeli mother, might read the 500 words she wrote, trying to get within and describe the feelings of a Palestinian mother. Then an 18-year-old Palestinian will read the soliloquy he wrote of an elderly Jewish man who landed in Haifa in 1945, just liberated from a concentration camp. A young woman in the Israeli army, Rachel, will read her soliloquy of a Palestinian woman her age, Salma (Rachel's family now lives in the house Salma's family had before they fled in fear in 1948).

"The soliloquies will be read on the air, day after day. Persons in government, too, will write them. There will likely still be some persons viciously angry on both sides, but they will not be able to get the adherents they now can get. People will see others as real at last, real as oneself, and will feel others are seeing them as real. And you cannot hurt a person whom you see as having feelings like your own.

"I am presenting a principle, a solution — not 'taking sides.' "

To any thinking person, it will be evident that the principle behind these soliloquies is the only thing that can lead to peace. I mean a peace that is based on a solid foundation. It is wholly different from the temporary network of military balances and political compromises that have held war partly in check for decades.

As an anti-war commentator Ellen Reiss has the company of many people. I am one, who knows that Aesthetic Realism has the understanding of the fundamental cause of wars and how they can end — an understanding from which every diplomat, politician, citizen needs to learn.

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