Friday, August 11, 2006

a recent interview with suheir hammad

Out in the Indian Ocean somewhere
There's a former army post
Abandoned now just like the war
And there's no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
That's what that old army post was for
-Paul Simon

The above is from "The myth of the fingerprints", one of the more thought-provoking songs on Paul Simon's Graceland album. The myth of the fingerprints (in my view) is the idea that we are all different and absolutely unique, all unconnected and alone. This illusion of isolation leads to division, a lack of empathy and ultimately violence ("That's what that old army post was for").

I am reminded of that song after finding a recent interview with Suheir Hammad on the Electronic Intifada, and especially after reading the following section:
The Black Nationalist Movement, the Power To The People Movements, plural, all made these connections. African Nationalism, Arab Nationalism, the indigenous movements in South and Central America which were crushed by our government all made the connection, it came back to land. [...] I can make that connection without reading any book and without having a political view on any one of the ethnic conflicts around the world. I can make the connection with me and a Palestinian farmer whose olive trees are razed, or an American farmer in Nebraska who can no longer save seeds because the big pesticide companies say that seeds can no longer be saved. I think that connection is already there. One of the things that happens - it has happened with the work of June Jordan and Audre Lorde - the criticism that would be thrown upon them is: "The world is not that connected." There are these huge differences and there is a reactionary part of nationalism, of course, which says "no one suffers like my people suffer." That is what Angela Davis calls "the oppression Olympics" - "No one has been through this history. No one knows how I feel." The gap that I'm trying to fill isn't whether or not we are connected, because people understand this connection no matter the language that addresses the culture we are talking about, but the sense that the differences are okay and should be celebrated. And that ultimately, the differences don't matter when it comes to putting food on your child's plate or the kind of education that will be available to them. People have a hard time and we tend to feel isolated in our victimhood - that's the idea of victimhood, right? No one else understands and no one else can help you.

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