My heart and brain are breaking over what is happening in Gaza right now. And the weird thing is that to cope with it, I've found myself wanting to play old songs from my Christian past on my guitar, these last few days. This was low-key confusing to me because a) I am not a Christian anymore, and no longer believe the Zionist-leaning teachings that I once used to, and b) I haven't gone to a church in over 10 years, so my knowledge of popular Christian music is probably quite lame to current Christians (stuck at Hillsong).
Anyway, at first I wasn't sure why I kept feeling the compulsion to sing these old songs. Also, I felt a twinge of residual weirdness/embarrassment about it because my husband - who I only met after I stopped being religious - had not really witnessed this side of me in full. And I was like... do I really want him to see how many 4-chord songs I know by heart?? But anyway, after a few days of getting into the music, I feel like I've arrived at an explanation of why I needed to do it.
I needed to sing the old songs to remember - in a time where my feelings are running particularly high - that the Other is not out there in the world, as a thing to reject and smear and direct immense amounts of hatred towards. No. It feels uncomfortable to admit this. But the Other is in me, actually. In some ways, it IS me - is a part of me that I can bring up every once in a while, and still have genuinely strong feelings of connection and gratitude towards, even though I no longer identify with it.
I feel like when there is so much heat and strong feeling in the news/on social media at the moment, it can feel easy for me to forget this principle more generally. That Others - other people who I disagree with - are people, and not just names... not just figures, not just their worldviews, or their cultures, or even their identities. As long as someone is speaking authentically from their body and their heart - rather than from overidentification with a self that they were told they should have - then there is something there that it is possible to connect to. There is something there that is an "I", that I can reach out to and touch with the "I" that is within me, too.
The Other is inside all of us, I guess. Maybe that's what I'm trying to say, at a more abstract level.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but as I've been reading the news these last few days, I keep thinking about how forgetting that is the first and last step towards terrible atrocity. That move that can happen so gradually and quietly - where the "I" gets stripped from another person's identity, in your mind - it can be a source of such unspeakably great evil, no matter what direction the gesture is pointed in. It's been pointed at so many other human beings before, in the past. In the region of the world where I come from, too - e.g. the anti-Chinese massacres that drove my grandfather out of his village in Indonesia, as a young boy. But it's happened to Jewish people, especially. And I have many close friends who are Jewish - and now, in this time, I continually feel amazed and inspired by the emotional courage they have gathered up inside them, to sidestep and call out the lure of humanity's oldest wound. To be able to say that it's being pointed at someone else too, and I see it, I am not okay with it. Please stop.
Truthfully, I feel too sad and angry to really articulate my thoughts as clearly as I could be doing. I'm going to go to the Ceasefire Now march this Saturday, in London. And will probably cry in the crowd again as I did last week, while thinking of my friends who live in the region - many of whom are Christian Palestinians. And who - even if they survive this conflict - will almost certainly still have to suffer in different ways for many, many years going forward, from the unchecked violence currently being perpetrated against Gaza by a military, apartheid state, with the support of the world's leaders.
What a terrible time it is to be alive.