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We Keep Our Gaze Fixed On Gaza
I hate every goddamn fucking second of this. I crack jokes here and there to highlight the ridiculousness of the pro-Israel position, but the truth is I’ve never enjoyed this commentary job of mine less than I’ve enjoyed it this past month.
Some nights I see dead kids when I close my eyes. There’s a phenomenon called the Tetris effect where if you play the classic puzzle video game a lot you start seeing the colorful digital blocks in your mind’s eye when the lights are out. For me it’s dead Palestinian kids. That’s just my life now.
As this horror drags on one seemingly endless day after another I find myself acutely aware not just of the unfathomable suffering in Gaza but of all the other millions of people around the world who are having the same experience I’m having, staring this nightmare dead in the eyes day after day, week after week, unable to look away in good conscience.
I saw an account with the handle @exomarxi say something on Twitter that I relate to so hard right now: “I don’t want to talk about anything else. I don’t want to do work. I don’t want to do chores or go to the gym or read a book. It reminds me of that feeling you get when a loved one is in intensive care: you feel every fucking second and your adrenaline won’t settle and you can’t sit still.”
It consumes you. It becomes your life. You take short breaks here and there to get some grass under your feet and feel the wind in your hair, but you’re only doing it so that you can jump back in and wade through this thing with the attention and reverence it deserves. You can’t let yourself burn out, because if you do you won’t be able to do your own teeny tiny almost-insignificant little part to help fight this thing in whatever way you can.
But it’s more than that really. It’s more than the fight. There’s also this acute awareness that even if it turns out nothing we do can stop the slaughter in Gaza, it’s still important to bear witness to it. You feel a responsibility, just as a human being on this planet, to keep your gaze fixed on what’s happening and to not look away.
It feels… sacred. The responsibility, I mean. I don’t even really know what that word means, but that’s the only word that clicks into place and feels appropriate when I describe this responsibility to witness the mass atrocity in Gaza with eyes wide open. It’s a sacred duty that we have to our species. To the universe even, maybe.
It could be as simple as an urge to resist the calls from the powerful to look away. All the world’s most powerful institutions want us to avert our gaze, to scroll on, to dissociate, to take our attention elsewhere. We’re all engaging in a very simple act of defiance by bringing attention and awareness to the very last thing the powerful want our attention and awareness on, one pair of eyes at a time.
So we keep our gaze fixed on Gaza. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how horrifying it gets. No matter how much we cry. No matter how often we slump over and feel like we can’t do it anymore. We keep our gaze fixed on Gaza. Because what else can we do? Nothing else feels right. Nothing else feels responsible.
I don’t know when this will end, or why. I don’t know if it will end because all the opposition made it politically untenable for Israel and its powerful western allies to continue, or because there was nothing left to bomb, or no one left to kill. It kind of feels like that’s none of my business. Because I’m in this with all of me no matter what. Come what may. My life doesn’t really feel like it belongs to me anymore.
Anyways that’s enough of that for the time being. Mainly I just wanted to let everyone who’s holding this same vigil know that I see you, and I appreciate you, and I value you, and you’re not alone, and you never will be. I raise my glass to you beautiful, beautiful souls.
Thank you so much for bearing witness.
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