08 December 2010
I Won't Be Your Enemy
I'm carving again. This time I'm working on a pattern that will overlay the tan-colored areas of the print, the "Palestinian territories" on my map. I like using patterns to show cultural ties to land. I first did it on the Locusts In Babylon print and then I used patterns again on Vast Unpeopled Lands. I searched online for an Islamic pattern to use and this one stopped me in my tracks when I saw that it includes a 6-pointed star. The inclusion of the star speaks to the ancestral ties of the Jewish and Palestinian people (both tracing their lineage back to Abraham) and it can also represent the Bible-based claims some Jews make to West Bank land.
While I carve, I continue to contemplate peace. Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation in the last post about peace and not eating meat. I found a lot to think about there and I'll probably circle back around to that topic again.
Being an artist, and especially working with a method that could be called "slow art," I do have a lot of time to contemplate. And being a blogger, I receive input from other people that helps my contemplation develop. My blogger/printmaker friend Katka (her relief printing blog is The Blue Chisel) left a comment last month recommending an author named Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta. I Googled her and discovered that Kaufman-Lacusta is a peace activist who has written a book called Refusing to Be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation. The book looks excellent, but it doesn't exist in audio form and I can't read while I carve and print, so I didn't buy it. But I've gotten a lot of mileage out of simply contemplating the title: Refusing to Be Enemies.
Thinking about it, I realized that I've been on the receiving end of someone's refusal to be enemies, and I can attest that it is an utterly disarming tactic. It happened almost 20 years ago when I first started dating my partner Lynn. Between us, Lynn has the sunnier disposition while I can be a little pessimistic and prone to outbursts. One day I was especially irritable and I was trying to pick a fight with her. I kept saying argumentative things and Lynn kept deflecting my comments, letting it all roll off her like water. Finally she simply said "I'm not going to fight with you." So there I was, all wound up with nobody but myself to fight with. The fire that I had been trying to ignite quickly sputtered out.
Not that it's easy to refuse to be enemies. When someone wrongs you, the easiest thing in the world is to become indignant. Righteous anger can be pretty exhilarating. If the confrontation is over more than a trivial matter it can take tremendous effort to restrain oneself. But it can be done. Maybe peace isn't the absence of conflict. Maybe peace is a decision to stop fighting. Or even a decision to stop struggling against fighting. Lynn could have fought with me about fighting, but she didn't even engage with me at that level. She just refused to allow me to turn her into my enemy. We have that power.