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Standing in that same overcrowded bus station, cradling a box of houseplants under one arm, I realized something: I think I've traded my cynicism in for faith.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. I'm still not convinced that this world is inherently good. I can't quite bring myself to believe that everyone I meet has redeemable qualities. And I'm still more likely to give a dry, sarcastic answer--or none at all.

But lately I've been feeling a lot more optimistic. The past few months, my life has been filled with small randomnesses that give me warm fuzzies. An unexpected invitation to a party full of intelligent, geeky strangers, a Friday seminar mysteriously cancelled two weeks in a row, the smoker who stopped himself to move downwind of me. Little things, true, but they've seemed like almost-miracles. My life feels balanced. For all of the steelingly painful things I endure each day, there's been a sprinkling of tiny, glowingly pleasant things. And I'm almost beginning to think that maybe the future isn't set, to trust that this time, I'll emerge holding more than I did before.

I also realized that when faced with hordes of pretentious, sheltered, rich college kids, there is nothing better than industrial music.

Except maybe a crowbar.

The Good Ole' Arab News

Ah, the Arab News...always good for a chuckle. From time to time I post the more err peculiar items in the daylog. Enjoy!

On Oct. 15, a huge bomb practically vaporized a car in a U.S. diplomatic convoy, escorted by a Palestinian Authority police car. The convoy crossed into the Gaza Strip at the Erez Crossing, on their way to interview Gaza's best and brightest, Palestinian academics who had applied for prestigious Fulbright scholarships to study or teach in the United States.

No soldiers or government officials were in the targeted car. Only private US citizens were murdered: "John Branchizio, 36, Mark T. Parson, 31, and John Martin Linde Jr., 30. Their home towns were not released, but all were employees of DynCorp, a Reston, Virginia-based government contractor that provides security services to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv."1

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ostensibly condemned the bombing, but the Arab News (remember, its the official, government approved and sponsored English language daily of the Saudi Arabia) apparently had a more...nuanced view. They ran an editorial cartoon in the Oct 16. issue that portrayed an Orthodox Jew ostensibly mourning the body of a slain American, while holding a dagger dripping with blood behind his back! The American body has a prominent stab wound. You can see the cartoon at http://www.arabnews.com/cartoon/2003/10/16.jpg.

The not-so-implicit sub-text is, the #!*@% Jew$ made us do it.

I guess we're supposed to see this Erez Crossing bombing as a response to the recent Israeli bombing of an alleged terrorist training camp in Syria. Good one, Arab News! I've always suspected those Fulbright scholarships were a breeding ground for terror...

Meanwhile, the Oct. 17 Arab News reports2 from Putrajaya, Malaysia on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's opening remarks to the 2003 Islamic Summit Conference (which is also known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference or OIC). The Prime Minister's remarks, faithfully reported without commentary or disclaimer by the Arab News, includes these gems:

  • “The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
  • “We are up against a people who think. They survived 2,000 years of pogroms not by hitting back but by thinking.”
  • “For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think, then we could have devised a plan, a strategy to win us final victory.”
  • “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews”, but {he} suggested using political and economic tactics instead of violence.
The Western press generally describe the Malaysian regime as moderate. My theory is, this is because (take your choice) a) he acknowledges that the holocaust happened; b) he compliments the Jews on how darn clever Hitler made them. Many Muslims who compliment Jews suffer persecution from militants; c) the remark about 1.3 billion Muslims is perhaps a tribute to Gandhi's observation (I paraphrase) that a hundred thousand British simply can't rule a nation of a billion.

I was intrigued that, according to the Arab News, the Prime Minister was calling for non-violent tactics, but considering the source of the report, I had certain doubts. Thanks to the sleuths at the Wall Street Journal's Best Of The Web Today (http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/), I found the unabridged remarks from the Conference3, and learned of another facet of the Prime Minster's commitment to non-violence (emphasis added):

The early Muslims produced great mathematicians and scientists, scholars, physicians and astronomers etc. and they excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times, besides studying and practicing their own religion of Islam. As a result the Muslims were able to develop and extract wealth from their lands and through their world trade, able to strengthen their defences, protect their people and give them the Islamic way of life, Addin, as prescribed by Islam. At the time the Europeans of the Middle Ages were still superstitious and backward, the enlightened Muslims had already built a great Muslim civilisation, respected and powerful, more than able to compete with the rest of the world and able to protect the ummah from foreign aggression. The Europeans had to kneel at the feet of Muslim scholars in order to access their own scholastic heritage.

...

We are enjoined by our religion to prepare for the defence of the ummah. Unfortunately we stress not defence but the weapons of the time of the Prophet. Those weapons and horses cannot help to defend us any more. We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence. But because we discouraged the learning of science and mathematics etc as giving no merit for the akhirat, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence. We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies.
In other words, non-violence is appropriate in order to rebuild Islamic economic and educational institutions...so that Islamic leaders can design modern weapons and build modern armies that will win. Further perusal of the speech finds several condemnations of violence, but the emphasis is on ending internal violence between Islamic factions and regimes. Nowhere is there a clear statement calling for an end to violence against the ememy.

Arab News, you never let me down.

World War IV Ramblings

A final thought: Its worth remarking how a number of seemingly disparate events have occured in a relativly small window of time, a couple of months:
  • The renewed4 targeting of Americans in Palestine;
  • The Ramadan offensive in Iraq, a hopefully failed attempt to replicate the Tet offensive which the UN/US forces won mililtarily -- their casualties were only a tenth of their opponents, and the NVA had to carry on the war without the VC which after Tet was no longer an effective fighting force -- but lost in the court of public opinion;
  • The Malaysian Prime Minister's speech;
  • The Arab news cartoon and related articles in the Islamist "press";
Does anyone still believe that the only threat is al-Qaeda, a supposedly independant terrorist network that has nothing to do with Iraq? Of course, no-one outside the conspiracy community has enough information at this point to prove definatively if these events are all orchestrated by a formal, if secret, political alliance. More likely, its a case of various Islamist organizations ideologically allied in a common cause. A rough analogy comes to mind: In WW II, we didn't know if Hitler had formally signed off on the Pearl Harbor attack or the rest of the Japanese war plan; we can be almost certain that Mussolini didn't sign off, indeed, I wonder if he even knew about it ahead of time. And yet the first major invasion in which the US participated significantly was not Japan, or occupied France...it was Italy. Perhaps this best illustrates how the current Iraq war fits into the larger war against the Islamists, with 9-11 being roughly analagous to Pearl Harbor. At the very least, we'd be naive if we didn't treat these diverse Islamist organizations as effectively (albeit not formally as was the case with the WW II Axis powers) in a military and political alliance.

Footnotes

1. "Bomb Kills 3 Americans In Gaza Strip" by Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson, Washington Post Foreign Service Thursday, October 16, 2003; Page A01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32510-2003Oct15.html. Accessed Oct 16, 2002, 10pm EDT.

2. "Mahathir Urges Muslim Unity" by Omar Salahuddin, Special to the Arab News, Friday, October 17, 2003. http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=33727&d=17&m=10&y=2003. Accessed Oct 16, 2002, 10pm EDT.

3. "Dr Mahathir opens 10th OIC Summit", The Star News Staff, Thursday October 16, 2003. http://thestar.com.my/oic/story.asp?file=/2003/10/16/oic/20031016123438&sec. Accessed Oct 16, 2002, 11pm EDT.

4. ...but not unprecedented. Eric Rozenman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) writes, "Although the October 15 murders, apparently committed by Palestinian Arab terrorists, were the first targeted attack of U.S. officials in Israel or the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past three years, they were not the first such crimes, nor did they demonstrate a shift in Palestinian Arab attitudes", and cites a series of incidents dating as far back as 1973. The Palestinian Media Watch, and The Washington Institute for Near East Policy have also documented this.

Sadly, I have to admit I am an addict. I try not to abuse any substance, even caffeine, but I am an escapist fiction junkie. The evidence is everywhere. On a shelf in my room stand many battered novels, silent witnesses of long years of addiction. If my library record were printed out, it would circle the globe twice. There is always a small library carried around in my backpack. I can hardly function without my daily reading fix.

You are probably thinking, "Why does this girls say she's addicted? Lots of people like to read, but no one's felt the need to start Readaholics Anonymous." I could claim I just like to read, but it has really become a necessity for me. Let me show you the progression of this addiction.

In the beginning, I could only talk, and chattering floated across the darkness of my mind. Then I learned to read, and there was knowledge, and it was good. I read everything in sight from the street signs towering over my head to the brand names written across the soles of my shoes. Next picture books appeared, and Max with his Wild Things took root with the Lorax. I discovered my first chapter book in second grade and the Indian from the cupboard became a permanent fixture of the mindscape. Children's classics, like The Secret Garden and Little Women, shaped the earth and set morals above it. Then I found nonfiction. Suddenly my mind abounded with animals and great figures of history strode after them. Even a small history of the world that I snatched out of the school discard box replayed the saga of history from creatures forming in primordial goop until the first industrial revolution. Finally I discovered fantasy and science fiction, stories created in the image of everyday life.

The lives contained in my books have become just as real as my day to day life. Or maybe they have become part of my day to day life. I dive into the worlds of novels and that way I can deal with my own. I am not sure how, but reading always calms me. I can venture too far and get more involved in the lives of the book world than my own life. But if I read in moderation, somehow submerging myself in the trials and details of another imaginary life makes it possible for me to cope with mine.


This is an essay for school, so I would greatly appreciate any input you could give me. Hate it? Tell me how stupid paragraph ___ is. Like it? Point out what's good. Words are appreciated more than votes, here. Thank you in advance.

Dirty Laundry

(In order to avoid confusion, I will refer to my exhusband's girlfriend as his_gf. This is how things are unfolding and my thoughts on the situation at hand. Names are removed to protect privacy of the parties concerned. )

his_gf 9:35 AM: you are the biggest liar in the world and the owrst story teller. Don't want me to rad things then don't write about me the door swings both ways

She IM's me the moment I sign online, leaves this message and then blocks InstantMessenger. It is not like I would respond to that. I find it awkward that she has me on her buddy list. Why does she need to know when I am online or not? What business is it of hers? Things like this verify what they try to deny. She is obsessed with me as much as my exhusband is and it makes for a very uncomfortable situation. It is hard to explain what it is like to have someone constantly watching over your shoulder. It is hard to explain the violation I feel.

The sad thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. There isn't any reason for this continued stress. It can't be comfortable on their end either. It is a sad thing when a relationship ends. Sadder than you can imagine. He and I have a long history together. If I try hard enough, I can almost get past the last few years and get to the place where we were comfortable with each other. I can almost go back to those memories and not cry.

Unfortunately, I am not allowed to get past the last few years. My biggest issue with my exhusband was his belief that I had no rights at all. His anger was intense that I would not let him read my emails, that I would not let him sit next to me when I was on the computer so he could see what I was doing. It infuriated him that I did not want him to read my journals. To him, it was proof that I had something to hide. To me, it was proof that I was unworthy of his trust. Two people hurting. He and I. Ask me what tragedy is and I will tell you.

It continues to this day, the looking over the shoulder, only now he has his girlfriend involved. I feel that it is a big game to them, something that they can laugh over together. How do I find the words to explain the depth of emotional torment my exhusband dragged me through? How do I find the words to explain the intense anxiety that is brought on by being constantly watched and being made to believe that it is my own fault because I asked for it? I don't know that I can.

I only know that he and I are divorced now, as he wanted. I only know that he and his girlfriend, by proxy, can not let me go. I only know that I want this distress to end. I want to get to some place where he and I can be civil to each other and perhaps make it back to that place where we were once friends. I don't know that that is possible, not without being given basic respect and courtesy. I don't feel that I should have no rights. I don't feel that I have to "deal with" them looking over my shoulder whenever I write on everything2. I could go somewhere else, this is true. I could start all over again in a new place. Every other aspect of my life is starting over from square one. Why not this too? I don't feel I have to lose everything in order to appease my exhusband's wrath. I think that there has been heartache enough on both sides.

She signs back on.

his_gf 9:46 AM: Can you be civil for a few minutes so we can talk. I am not trying to be a bitch
his_gf9:47 AM: it is up to you because this doesn't have a thing to do with (name removed)
Chras4 9:50 AM: I would rather not communicate with you at this time. You do not respect my wishes. It is not a question of being a bitch or not. It is a question of respect. You expect it from me, yet will not grant me the same courtesy. Please back off for all of our sakes
his_gf 9:51 AM: Well I think we need to communicate because neither one have respect for the other at the moment and I don't think it is going to get any better if we keep going the route we are
Chras4 9:53 AM: I will not communicate with you this way. If you want respect, give respect. So simple a thing to do. I have not asked much. Please let me be.
his_gf 9:57 AM: If you agree to quit writting about us I'll agree to stop being inclined to read it. Then all the people involved should be happy
Chras4 10:02 AM: I did not write about you for 10 months and still you were there
Chras4 10:02 AM: go away please, respect my wishes
his_gf10:05 AM: (name removed) screens names are not blocked and I don't e-mail you from them and wouldn't even think of it. If I have something to say I'll just tell you. So please if you (name removed) a e-mail from (name removed) it is from (name removed) not me. Since you two have a hard enough time to catch eachother over the phone. Using e-mail is probably the easiest way to communicate info about the kids. So it is up to you if you want to continue to block him or not.
Chras4 10:05 AM: I don't believe you
Chras4 10:06 AM: please go away. do not make me block your handle.
his_gf10:07 AM: why not why would I have to use (name removed)'s e-mail to tell you something that is nuts. Anyways the decision is totally up to you I was just telling you.
his_gf10:07 AM: I am going to go I just want to know if we have a agreement on e2

It is hard enough moving on with my life as it is. I am unwilling to give up this one last space where I can share my belief's about what I feel is "right" and "wrong". I am unwilling to run away from this one last area of my life where I can share my observations. It is symbolic, true. I have lost so much of my old life. I wonder if you know what it is to be "erased"? Do you know how it feels to be amputated? I have strong feelings that are my own. I have a right to them. I am allowed to cry for the loss of my previous relationship with my exhusband. I am allowed to grieve. I have a right to express my grief in the manner of my choosing. I should also have the right to have my space when I request it.

his_gf10:18 AM: I ment what I said so do what you want to with it. It is up to you
I do not feel that I should be coerced into doing what my exhusband wants any longer. His coercion tactics are why we are not together now. I have been silent long enough. They have hovered, waiting to see what I might say. It is my belief that he is afraid of what will come out. It is so important to my exhusband that people think well of him. It has always been important what other people think. It is a shame that it was never important what I thought. We would still be together if I was as important to him as he had been to me.

I have the choice to leave everything2 or I have the choice to stay. My exhusband is big on giving choices. It's A or B. Black or White. He is big on making the show of giving choices while working in the background to make choice B as unpalatable as hell. You do not know what it is to be given the choice that is no choice. I have the choice to allow my exhusband and his girlfriend drive me away and I have the choice to say, "NO"

Sometimes, you just have to make a stand.

I choose. NO.

his_gf 10:51 AM: I sent you a im to try to make amends which I guess isn't going to happen because you hell bent on keeping the flame lit. and twisting the truth the only truth you know is the one you make up.move on with your life and quit dreaming up your reality already There won't be anyone in your window so you put it .My life with (name removed) is more important that trying to understand you anymore. it is a hopeless cause. Take Care.
his_gf 10:51 AM: his_gfis being deleted time for a new story

The flames have been fanned for a year and a half. I have waited a year and a half for the coals to be removed from beneath my feet. I have waited a year and a half for the dust of a shattered relationship to settle. I have waited quietly and kept silent while my watchers hover. I am still stepping on hot coals and sharp shards. I highly doubt that she will understand me reading what I have written here on e2. It requires reading between the lines. It requires looking deeper into what is being said. It requires looking into the spaces between the words. My exhusband could not understand even when the words were spelled out in front of him; even when I spoke to him and said "This is what I need". His understanding is overshadowed by his own fears and desires. Isn't that true of all of us? It is not necessary that she understands me. Truly, it is not. It is only necessary that she respects me in this regard. Waiting silently has accomplished nothing at this point. Saying nothing has given tacit approval of their actions.

She is squirming now, unhappy that I am telling this story. Her IM's are indicative of her discomfort. She is watching it unfold before her eyes on my homenode. I would be lying if I said I did not feel some small sense of satisfaction in her discomfort. I have been uncomfortable for a long time. She should have no fear that I will give out her handle. But, she does not know me. She does not know that that is not me. She only knows that I am not keeping the body of our dispute hush hush, which is also not me. I do not blame her the confusion.

It goes against my grain to air dirty laundry and yet, here I am doing it. I do it for a purpose. I do it to illustrate that a divorce does not mean that a relationship is over when the ink is dry on the papers. Perhaps if there are some of you going through a divorce, you will see this and perhaps treat each other a little kinder. I have no choice but to remain in contact with my exhusband, there are children involved.

He could make things easier, but he chooses not to. His girlfriend could make things easier, but she chooses not to. I could sit here and continue to quietly take the discomfort I feel from these two hovering over my shoulder, but I choose not to. We all have choices. It's the simplest thing and yet the hardest thing of all for anyone, letting go.

My exhusband and I have to find some way to come to a different relationship. We have to find some way to rebuild the trust that we both lost. We need to do this because we have to have contact with each other often. It is not an easy task. It is not an easy task for any divorced couple. It makes things that much more difficult when a third wheel is involved.

If I bring this to the forefront, perhaps he will see just how serious an issue this is. Perhaps he will see just how important this is to me that we get this issue resolved. Perhaps I am naive in thinking that there is some small part of him left that still cares and will do what I believe is the "right" thing to do.

I have seen GOOD divorces. I know that they exist. I know that all divorced couples have the ability to find a new and different relationship with the exspouse. I know it and I want it. I also know he and I will not get there unless and until he and I meet somewhere in the middle that is outside both of our boundaries. It takes two to make a marraige. It takes two to end a marraige. It takes two to find a happy medium after the dust settles. It can not be one having his/her boundaries violated. The boundaries on both sides must be respected.

The ball is back in his court. Does he truly want an amicable divorce like he pays lip service to? Time will tell.

There is something in me that refuses to give up on that last dangling string. There is something in me that despite everything, refuses to give up trying.

Perhaps therein lies my strength.

The Honorable Junichiro Koizumi
Prime Minister of Japan
5-5 Nagatacho 2-chome
Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Japan

October 17, 2003

Mr. Koizumi:

If I ever see you fronting as badly as you fronted earlier today, I'm getting on the phone with Richard Gephardt and telling his office to bring back all the bitching about protectionist tariffs to save our union workers. Because, seriously, you don't look cool standing next to George W. Bush in a shiny jacket and an open dress shirt. He looks like a slovenly moron when he dresses like that, and you're only legitimizing his fashion problem.

Congratulations for standing your ground on the issue of deploying troops to Iraq. This is not the sort of constitutional crisis into which you need to be getting your country while the economy is tanking. The $1.5 billion commitment in reconstruction aid is laudable, although I'm frankly surprised that you're not writing it off as a loan as Congress is currently doing over here.

Also, congratulations for showing your class, and not pointing out how little our president knows about macroeconomics, what with his entire "free trade" and "strong dollar" mantras that don't go together. You have an excellent knack for making Mr. Bush feel good about himself.

All in all, I think you did a good job at the conference, and although I can't vote for you, I would gladly recommend you to my friends who can. However, I must reiterate: please wear a tie next time. Our president may be a cowboy, but you are not, and a Japanese cowboy is not a pretty sight.

Keep that hair brushed.

Sincerely,
sekicho

Shortly after the shift began, an octagonal envelope sealed with red wax toppled down the tube and into my basket. All over the shaft, similar envelopes fluttered invisibly down at each station like snowflakes. It's wages day, and after breaking the seal and tearing the envelope open I was six octagons richer.

On this day we are allowed to go to our nearest Exchange in shifts. At the fourth gong I entered the elevator along with eight or so others, including the new moloch and (unfortunately) moloch17 whose braying chatter I resolutely ignored.

The new moloch was easy to spot. After some time down here at the lower levels, working in the heat and darkness and humidity, we begin to grow a sort of coral on our outer selves. This moloch was still polished and shining, and his gear did not have the worn, make-it-last look of ours. His attitude was similarly untarnished. He was still excited to be working down here. "Enjoy that while it lasts," we told him. Old hands in Hell, welcoming the new recruit to their ranks.

The goods at the Exchange are kept locked away in the back, and reluctantly brought out by moloch99 upon request. You shop by browsing the cases which display one of each item, each lit by a single electric light. Here you can purchase things not issued as standard gear for a moloch: seashells, polished sticks, gold-plated clasps, musical instruments, leaves of various colors and shapes, bound journals both blank and already filled, pens and ink, vials of sand, paint and brushes, hats, gloves. Capes.

While the others fanned out, I walked straight to the counter. "The red cape, please."

moloch99 looked at me with his head tilted to one side, as if I had said something suspicious. This is how he responds to nearly all requests. "Item number?" he barked.

"One-oh-six-oh-one-four-two-dash-nine-seven-ecks-dash-nine."

He swiveled and disappeared through the door in the back. I hummed as I waited, watching the others. After a few minutes he returned, empty-handed. "Out of stock," he said.

"What?"

"Out. Of. Stock."

I stood speechless. I had saved my wages for months. Every wages day I would ride the elevator to the Exchange with the others, not to buy anything but just to look at the wonderful red cape. "Wait!" I said. "I could buy the display, couldn't I?" Without waiting for an answer I ran zig-zag through the Exchange till I came to the case with the red cape in it. The case was empty.

"That was the only one in stock," moloch99 called across the store. Heads turned in my direction. "We'll get more in eventually."

"When?"

"Don't know." He paused. "You could buy something else," he said almost kindly.

"Who?" I said thickly. "Who bought it?" moloch99 started to speak. Then he shrugged and merely looked over at moloch17, who stood by a case on the other side of the Exchange and pretended to regard an arrangement of bright pebbles beneath the glass while his shoulders shook with suppressed laughter.

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