Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

26 Mar 2004, 8:10 a.m.

"A tale of two miseries"

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2004 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Gary Kamiya is in the Middle East.

I have just spent two days with decent and intelligent people, Palestinians and Israelis, who because of the stupidity of their leaders and the shameful folly of my government are living a life I would not wish on a dog.

... is the checkpoint that I will remember, because it's the only one I lived, if only for half an hour. It will remain, for me, a small vision of hell, like an obscure background in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Those silhouetted figures with guns, that smell of diesel fuel, the debris, the blank look of poor people fumbling for their papers, making their way home. One of the outer circles of hell, to be sure. But I felt in my bones it was not right. And as an American, I will carry that memory as a badge of shame. Because I pay for it, I support it. That soldier in the twilight is me.


Every American policymaker, every American who cares about human rights, or justice, or Israelis, or Palestinians, or Jews, or Muslims, or the Holy Land (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most sacred site in Christianity, was empty when I visited), or just naked don't-blow-me-up self-interest, should come to the Calandia checkpoint. They should come to the rubble-strewn streets on the outskirts of Ramallah. They should stand at the No. 19 bus stop. This is not their problem: It is our problem. And then they should walk through the gates and into the Old City of Jerusalem, that divine gray maze that all three great faiths regarded as the center of the world and the terrestrial link with heaven, and see how hollow a man's prayers ring when he has not done what is needed.