“El Derecho de Vivir in Paz” or The Right to Live in Peace. I’ve shared this video on here before, but it’s even more relevant now. I have a serious problem with this song. I have a problem because I can’t hear this song without crying. As soon as I hear the first notes of the song I start crying. I can’t even THINK about this song without my eyes welling up with tears! Help me! I am not exaggerating! There is a lump in my throat as I write about this song write now! I was pregnant with Sara when this first happened, so it must be related. I think becoming a mother has made me more receptive to the pain of others and it has cultivated a kind of empathy I’ve never had before…
I didn’t know this until recently, but Latin America holds a significant portion of the Palestinian Diaspora. Or more specifically, Chile has the largest Palestinian community outside of the Middle East, with close to 500,000 Palestinian-descended people. The first immigrants here were fleeing from the Crimean War; they took a boat to Argentina and then traveled by MULE across the ANDES MOUNTAINS into Chile. When I get nervous about traveling with two kids by plane, I think about this. Early immigrant from Europe/Asia to Chile fascinates me. Like, why? Why didn’t they just stay in Argentina? Or why didn’t they go to neighboring countries Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia?? Nobody just stumbles into Chile. It takes planning and commitment, particularly in days before flying. I guess that was what was appealing about it too.
These days I find myself wishing Chile was as distant and isolated as it was back then. Where the only news that you knew about and cared about was local news. A time where you could run away from the rest of the world. But we are all connected now.
Last night I went to sleep with a headache and a heavy heart. I had been on Twitter, trying to piece together what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri. A few days ago, Mike Brown, an 18 year old Black boy, was shot by police. He was unarmed. He pleaded, “don’t shoot”. He got down on his knees with his hands in the air to demonstrate that he wasn’t armed. The cop shot and killed him anyway. The response of the Ferguson police department to a largely peaceful demonstration, has been to act like a military force, complete with snipers, tanks, tear gas and violence. They have been arresting journalists and breaking cameras and have not released any details about their response to the officer who killed Mike Brown.
It’s not just Mike Brown. It’s Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant…and many more. Their only common denominator amongst the victims is that they are Black and accused of looking “threatening”. In other words, Black = threatening.
On the other side of the world children are being killed in Gaza, and President Obama’s response has been, “Israel has the right to defend itself”. Since when does defending yourself include killing innocent people? Innocent children??? Hamas is slapped with the terrorist label, yet they are not the ones producing terror in the lives of little children. I read that a 10 year girl died of a heart attack in Gaza, startled by the sounds of bombs.
I want to run away from it all and hide. I want to go to sleep and tell everyone to just wake me up when all the nonsense is over. I don’t want to confront or release the rage I have from all of this because I’m afraid of being buried by it. I don’t even know how to release it. All I have been able to do is share information through Facebook and Twitter, and sign petitions. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. Times like these, I realize how much I miss Philadelphia, especially West Philadelphia. I know people are meeting and organizing and directing their anger into something meaningful. I would be right there with them.
And it’s also times like these that I am reminded of how much of an outsider I am here, and how much of a “gringa” I really am. Because of course people are organizing and protesting in Santiago too. A few weeks ago over 5000 people in Santiago gathered to protest Israel’s occupation of Gaza. With such a large and influential Palestinian community here, it’s also not surprising that there would be a lot of political action. Chile’s official response, like those of many Latin American leaders, has been the most critical of Israel, pulling out ambassadors and showing support for the people of Palestine. In fact my husband’s aunt wrote a great piece condemning Israel, which was published in the country’s biggest newspaper, El Mercurio. Here and here. Even more interesting is that my husband’s family is Jewish, so they have some emotional ties to Israel.
There seems to be so much happening in the world this year and it can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. I think about my fellow mothers in Gaza, in Syria…the mothers of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride and I can feel their pain and horror. I look at my daughters and want to apologize for leaving them such a ridiculous world to live in. But then I remind myself that the world has never been better. We are more connected. Human rights is a legal, recognized thing, even if those rights are being violated every day, the concept exists.
We get email updates about our children’s development via Babycenter and it’s amazing to see how spot-on they are with the milestones. As unique and interesting our children are, they are also very much like the majority of children their age, not just physically but psychologically and emotionally. It reminds us that all humans are basically the same in the beginning. And we all want the same thing: happiness, freedom and the right to live in peace.