Jan 12 2009

Israel and Palestine

Jamie Barrows

There has been a lot of news lately about the current war in Israel. And most of what I’m hearing is that Israel is being too aggressive against the Palestinians and Hamas. I constantly hear the term "disproportionate response." And I see on the TV and in the news, images of the devastation in Gaza. Images that show children living in bombed out homes and shelters.

The images are heartrending. And I feel real sorrow for the people whose homes, businesses, schools, and marketplaces have been destroyed. It’s a terrible thing to have your livelihood and homes destroyed. War is horrible and without fail it causes suffering among innocents who have no part in it.

The consensus of most of the world, seems to be that Israel should respond to the rocket attacks proportionately. But what does that mean? Has anyone who is saying this really thought it through. Are people really advocating that Israel should lob a rocket at a Palestinian neighborhood every time Hamas sends one at Israel? That Israel should deliberately target civilians with rocket attacks the way Hamas does?

I’m not one of those people who thinks Israel can do no wrong. They often take a very heavy handed approach to their security and many of the things they have done in the past have not been good. But in this case I’m not sure that we can totally fault Israel for the devastation.

Yes, it is Israeli missiles, bombs, and tanks that have destroyed the homes and infrastructure of the Gaza strip, but I don’t see that Israel has a choice here. Hamas deliberately positions their rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods and in critical infrastructure installations. So if Israel is going to take out the rocket launchers, there will be civilian casualties. And neighborhoods will be destroyed.

Is Israel totally blameless for the sense of hopelessness and poverty that most Palestinian’s live in? A situation that creates great recruitment fodder for extremist groups like Hamas. Of course Israel isn’t blameless. But then neither are the Palestinians who have been given many chances to improve their lives and yet keep handing the reigns of power over to groups like Hamas. There is plenty of blame to go around, but as I said before, I don’t see that Israel has much choice in it’s response here.

It’s great to talk about proportionate responses when we are talking a trade dispute or increased tarrifs. But when it comes to bombs and rockets, I’m not sure it applies. Especially when those rockets are dropping on your neighborhood. The place where your kids and loved ones live! In that case, you want it to stop. And that is what Israel is doing here. They are trying to make it stop.

Try to imagine yourself in a typical Israeli’s situation. What would you do if the country next door to your own was so lawless that militant groups were able to constantly shoot rockets at your home and workplace? What would you do if the official government of that nation either could not or would not attempt to stop these attacks? Would you be able to sit by and just hope that the next rocket attack didn’t kill you or one of your loved ones?

Don’t let the rights and wrongs of Israel being there in the first place, or Israel’s past treatment of the Palestinians, sidetrack you from looking at it from the perspective of a normal working person. Just put yourself in the place of a typical person and ask what you would do in this situation. Would you demand action against the people who were attacking your neighborhood?

I know I would be calling on my government (the job of which is to protect me) to make it stop. Even if that meant my nation had to invade, bomb, and occupy the other nation. Because the safety of my family and loved ones is more important to me than whether the people shooting at me are justified in their anger against my nation.

Nov 2 2007

Make Believe using your surroundings

Jamie Barrows

Post Office Showdown

When you were little (And maybe now as well), did you ever build elaborate stories in your head about mundane locations? I know I did.

I would be some place that was boring to me, like maybe the mall while my Mom was shopping. And I would be just sitting there doing nothing. So I would start making up a story about myself in that location. It usually involved me being some kind of secret agent. And the whole kid at the mall thing was just a cover.

I would pick people out of the shoppers around me, and imagine that they were enemy agents. Then I would start constructing an elaborate fight scene between me and the enemy agents, who had somehow penetrated my cover. The fight scene would involve guns, knives, and amazing karate moves that when pictured in my head were just awesome! Often I would make it a running battle through the store using the displays and even other shoppers as cover.

It was great fun. And by using people I had picked out of the crowd around me as characters in my story, it felt more real. Of course, in real life I was actually just sitting quietly waiting for my Mom to finish shopping.

I never told anyone about these make believe stories. They were just something I did to amuse myself when I was bored. But when I saw the above comic, I had to post it. It was just too much like something I would do.

For the authors site, check out Post Office Showdown.

May 5 2007

People are stupid

Jamie Barrows

Sea Wall

People will fight over the stupidest things in the world. I share a house with my brother in a nice neighborhood on the bay. The past six weeks or so, my brother and the neighbors one block over have been feuding.

It all started when those neighbors decided that they didn’t want people walking in front of their house. Their house faces the bay, with nothing between them and the water but a sidewalk and a seawall that the county owns and maintains. Because the sidewalk and seawall are owned by the county, many people in the neighborhood walk along the water on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is relatively new. The county put it in about a year ago when they rebuilt the seawall after a hurricane damaged it. Before the sidewalk was put in, no one realized that my neighbors property didn’t actually go all the way to the water. So people didn’t walk in front of their house, since they thought it was private property.

After the sidewalk it became quite common for people to walk in front of their house. This bothered our neighbors so much,that they put up signs at each end of the sidewalk saying that the sidewalk and the seawall were private property. When they first put the signs up, they told us and others in the neighborhood, that they were putting them up to keep people from outside of the neighborhood from fishing in front of their house. That seemed to me to be a reasonable concern, and I could understand their position. The signs worked quite well for keeping people from fishing and walking in front of their house. People who lived in the neighborhood knew the signs were bogus, and ignored them, at least for walking. Everyone seemed happy.

Then those same neighbors took a dislike towards my brother. I don’t really know why they decided they didn’t like him, and I really don’t care. The problem was that they started telling him he wasn’t allowed to walk on the sidewalk or on the seawall because they owned it. This is the exact wrong approach to take with my brother. Since he knew that they didn’t own it, them telling him they did, made him mad. He started deliberately walking on it every day.

The first few days, they just had shouting matches. With them yelling at him for walking there, and him yelling back that he had every right to walk there. Since that wasn’t getting them anywhere, they called the police and reported that he was trespassing. The police came out, but my brother had already left for work by the time they came. So they left him a warning. The same neighbors also came by the next day, to make sure that we had gotten the warning, and to let us know that the police had told them that “they take trespassing very seriously.”

Before this,my brother had been positive that he was in the right. Now he wasn’t so sure. So for a few days he didn’t walk there. But it bothered him so much that the neighbors had “won” the dispute, that he called up the county appraisers office. The county appraiser confirmed that the sidewalk really was public property. So my brother went back to walking on it and arguing with the neighbors. After all, he wasn’t going to let them win.

The neighbors again called the police,and again my brother wasn’t home and another warning was issued. My brother ignored the warning, but did go down to the appraisers office and had the appraiser print out a plat showing the seawall and sidewalk as public property. The county appraiser called the sheriff’s department and let them know that the seawall and sidewalk were public property. My brother kept a copy of the plat for himself to show the cops if they ever came back out, and the other copy he proudly presented to the neighbors.

They were so upset, that they called the appraiser and tried their best to convince him that his plats were wrong. They also called the cops yet again, but this time the cops didn’t issue a warning or even attempt to talk to my brother.
So, that is where we stand today. My brother walks in front of their house on purpose to annoy them, and they regularly call and report him for speeding and trespassing. They also have a yelling match about once a week with him.

This whole issue is so stupid on both sides. On my neighbors side, what does it hurt them if someone walks along the seawall in front of their house? It’s not like my brother was parking himself in front of their house fishing. All he was doing was walking past.
And on my brothers side, what does it hurt him not to walk there? He could go around, or simply not walk that direction. Go the other direction on the sidewalk.

Why do they both have to fight over such stupid things?

By the way, the picture above is of the seawall and sidewalk that caused so much trouble.