Saturday, December 19, 2015

Straight Outta Beirut: My visit to an ISIS bombsite

     "Why on earth are you going to Beirut?" asked my neighbor.

     "I've been invited to attend The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine's annual conference being held there," I replied.  This is going to be a really big deal -- but only if I find a replacement babysitter for my ten-month-old granddaughter Sofia while I'm gone.  Done!

     On the plane flight over, I watched "Straight Outta Compton" -- and all that police brutality onscreen got me right into the mood to talk about all that police brutality in real life that Israeli neo-colonialists inflict on poor Palestinians daily as they too are thrown to the ground, humiliated and jailed for no reason, just like Dr. Dre and Easy E.  But I digress.

     "How do I get to that bombsite where a market was blown up by ISIS a few weeks ago?" I asked various conference delegates from Nigeria, America, Tunis, Sweden, India and Argentina.  They all shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads.  Er, "Taxi!"  Every taxi driver in Beirut should know where the bombsite is, right?

     So the taxi guy drives me around south Beirut for at least 15 minutes.  Searching for the bombsite?  Nah.  Searching for a gas station.  The gauge was on empty.  "There is the market," he finally says.  Where?  I can see nothing, but still get out and start walking around -- through a busy working-class neighborhood all alive with ordinary people coming and going.  Why would ISIS ever want to throw a bomb here?  It would be like killing people in Paris or San Bernardino.  The people here are salt of the earth.

     Suddenly some guy on a Vespa pulls up beside me and shouts, "What you want!  What you want!"  I try to ignore him.  "Police!" he cries next.  Yeah sure.  But then it turns out that he actually is the police.  I stammer and stutter and try to make sense about what I am doing there but I am shaking as well as being my usual dazed and confused self.

      "I'm looking for the bombsite," I finally manage to spit out.  "And souvenir T-shirts."

      The cop scrutinizes me closely like a bug on a pin for a few minutes then says, "Follow me."  And he takes me straight to the bombsite.  But there was nothing left to see in terms of damage to buildings.  But rows of photos of victims had been set out.  And flowers.  Lots of flowers.  Tears came to my eyes.

     Then the policeman kindly parked his Vespa and walked me back to my hotel -- which turned out to be only four blocks away.  And he also took me to a T-shirt shop, but the T-shirts there were all used, ragged and piled up in huge ugly bins.  "Sorry," I said, "but they have to be new.  Gifts for my family.  That sort of thing."  And then I went back to my hotel.  Never did find any souvenir T-shirts in Beirut. 

PS:  If Americans are really serious about stopping terrorism and ISIS, all we have to do is stop Wall Street and War Street from supplying all these bad guys with weapons, food and Toyotas.  It's as simple as that.

PPS:  After the conference was over, the delegate from Nigeria returned home and was immediately shot and killed by Nigerian army thugs, obviously for daring to support Palestine.  "Straight Outta Nigeria!"  Hey, that's what you get for supporting peace and justice these days.

     None of us must ever forget that whenever and wherever it comes to standing up for human rights against powerful neo-colonialist bullies, we all can be thrown to the ground like Ice Cube -- or like Palestinians.  But still we must do it, no matter what the risk, if we ever expect to be able to live with ourselves.  In these troubled times of out-of-control bullying by the military-industrial complex, each and every one of us is now being forced to become the next Dr. Dre -- or Patrick Henry.  "Give me liberty or give me death".

PPPS:  "Kill another human being, end up in Hell."  It's the law.  Even if you are a neo-colonialist or in the army or a cop.  Especially if you are a neo-colonialist or in the army or a cop.