Sunday, November 20, 2005

Quote from 'The Economist'

The recent issue of the Economist had an article paying tribute to Condoleeza Rice's recent diplomatic efforts in Palestine, which succeded in producing a deal between Israel and the Palestinian authority allowing Palestinians to go in and out of Gaza. A significant (and quiet) diplomatic achivement which stands in contrast to the recklessness and absrasiveness we have come to expect from this administration.

Anyway, I wanted to quote the following paragraph from the article. Finally, I thought, some people are starting to "get" what this whole issue of terrorism in Middle East is all about.

From the Nov 19th issue of 'The Economist':
"Fifteen years ago, an exasperated James Baker, secretary of state for the first President Bush, said that America could not want peace more than the parties did. He was wrong. This conflict poisons the whole world, not just the protagonists - and with the single half-excpetion of the Oslo accords no progress has ever been made without the concentrated attention of the United States. Ms Rice .... should plan a return to Jerusalem for a follow-up agreement on easing movement on the West Bank and to put the "road map" back on track. After this week, she knows it makes sense."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Amman, part2

Our friend Megan sent this really sweet email on the 12th. I asked her and she gave me permission to share it here. Megan is an archaeologist who lives and teaches in North Carolina. She had lived in Jordan for a long time, which is where she met her Iraqi husband, Leo (Laith).

Hi Samer & Mandy-

I read Samer's blog today - I have to admit it's been a long time but was feeling - as you said - a delayed emotional reaction today. So perhaps I needed some connection? I realized this as I called my landlord about something completely mundane this morning (I was frustrated nonetheless) but ended the phone call in tears.

You know it's weird - and I guess you (or maybe Amanda even more) would understand this - this odd feeling started last weekend. Leo and I went to the International Festival here in Raleigh - were they had food & craft booths, performances, etc. put on by people from a number of countries. Jordan had a food & craft booth, but I think it was the first year they did and it was rather lame to be honest. But I remember later we were watching a Lebanese dance performance - performed it seemed by kids of immigrants, rather than kids who immigrated themselves - and a group of people were gathered around the stage whooping it up as the binat did the dabka. At that point I had a very distinct feeling of emptiness. Like, it was this display that was totally familiar and comfortable and I got it, unlike most of the stuff I see around the south - but yet I wasn't, and couldn't be a part of it because I wasn't Lebanese, or Jordanian, or Arab. I can't imagine their faces if I came down there clapping and snapping my fingers et al (LIKE I ever would anyway but you know what I mean). But that feeling felt weird as well because I SHOULD be able to be a part of this culture, Amman is where I've spent the most time since graduating from college, it's where a lot of major shit in my life happened, yet I didn't feel 'legitimate' enough to claim it as my own. And the same feeling emerged after the bombing. You know, 9/11 here in the U.S. was terrible, but yet in the back of my mind I knew that we 'deserved' it somehow because we were the big bully on the block. But with Amman, it's like, not habibi Amman! Fuck you! I think people in Amman would understand if I did display emotion about it, but people here would think it was insincere or something. The one neat thing is our dept. administrator was the one to tell me what happened - and she was all upset. Donna is Country with a capital 'C', but because of me this somehow became real for her.

Anyway I'm feeling a bit melancholy. Leo I think is a bit more immune to this sort of thing because of Kuwait/Iraq and has moved on. So much so he obliviously is asleep on the couch. But we both haven't been sleeping very well the last couple of nights. I know why, perhaps he does too and won't admit it.


Friday, November 11, 2005


Its 2 days since the bombings in Amman and I'm experiencing some sort of delayed emotional reaction. I am so angry and sad. Amanda and I were literally grieving last night and she said that she wished we were back there, not here.

It was so sad to see how juvenile these guys were... 9/11 in reverse? Like its some sort of game. Give me a fucking break. My explanation is that these guys do this to say they're in charge; a cult of death that just wants to be in center stage. But this was a mistake they will pay for. Every Jordanian in existence has attended a wedding in a 5 star hotel; it is a Jordanian phenomenon. Even poor people from East Amman who cannot afford rent somehow scrape together thousands of JD's to marry their sons and daughters in 5 star hotels. Its very strange and I've seen it happen. Most Jordanians will think it could have been me, my family, my friends. I will vouch for the following prediction: it will erode their base of support. They might think that they're doing something meaningful in Iraq, that they're engaged in some sort of epic struggle, but this shows that they're just juvenile.

They same might be said for George W. Bush and his administration. Arabs might now be more inclined to favor Zarqawi's defeat, but we still don't have much of a stomach for this administration's "war on terrorism". As a Jordanian I now feel that Mr. Bush's Iraq war has merely provided these "terrorists" with a base in Iraq as well as a moral claim. It helped create and strengthen them. Good job George. Message to this administration: we don't like your war on terrorism, we don't like the metaphor of "war" because we think its stupid and dangerous and self-serving, and we don't believe that you know exactly what it is that you are engaged in war against. Before selling Arabs on their "Crusade", this administration might well understand what they're selling, and they don't. News flash: the product was made to a right-wing domestic audience and it simply won't sell much anywhere else.

Anyway, I grieve the breach of our "oasis" of calm and stability in Jordan. The Hyatt was where the gallery I showed my art in was located, and where I had my last show.

I love Amman so much, despite the fact that I spent so much time growing up hating it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Going to work every morning

People ask why I dont post more, which I find flattering because of the underlying suggestion that they enjoy my posts. I'm not sure why my posts are few and far between. I actually have all these ideas about articles/stories that I would like to write that never materialize. This is partly due to the fact that most of these are political in nature, and somehow it seems like my posts are more interesting when they're personal and reflexive.

Another reason why I'm not posting is that at the moment I am spending every moment of my spare time playing Civilization IV. But that will be the subject of its own future posting.

Anyway, I wanted to post this story after it had sat on my hard drive for 10 days. Its about Seattle. It may sound familiar because I have already talked about this with some friends (marhaba Ghassan, hi George!)

One of the things I like the most about being here in Seattle is taking the bus to work and back. I am not sure why, but it is one of my favorite parts of the day. I like the anonymity of it, and the egalitarianism, maybe; it makes me feel like part of humanity, like I somehow belong.

I wake up at around 6 every morning and leave the house around 7. It is usually still dark when I walk out the door and the golden lights from the Java Bean café around the corner from my house make a nice contrast to the misty grayness outside. I have to walk a few blocks to get to the bus stop on Market Street which takes me into downtown. I often race in and out of the Great Harvest bakery, across from the bus stop, to quickly get a coffee, hopefully without missing my bus. I like their simple, unassuming coffee, not strong and gourmet-ish like so many of Seattle’s coffee shops. The blond, Scandinavian looking matronly woman who is there in the morning always offers me (and all customers) a free slice of bread . I like to see her in the morning; sometimes I feel that that bread and coffee is nourishment not just for my body but also my soul.

The bus ride is also delightful because it gives me time to read. I am currently reading Anthony Shadid’s brilliant “Night Draws Near”, subtitled “Iraq’s people in the shadow of America’s war”- a wonderful portrait of a suffering nation I wish many Americans would read.

I work near Seattle's famous Pike Place Market, which is a historic area full of quaint shops and street performers. It's on a hill overlooking the waterfront, and as I walk down the hill towards our office I can see the amazing spectacle that is Puget sound stretched out in front of me. Elliot Bay is just so amazingly pretty at that time of day! The waters of the sound are the same rich grey color of the sky above, separated by the narrow strip in the horizon on the other side that is west Seattle.

It is sad to say, perhaps, but I also like to see the homeless people sleeping in the park right next to our office beneath the 2 totem poles that tower above.

I feel so lucky to be here.