Friday, December 14, 2012

card-based musing on memory, the world

I wanted to do another memory exercise but when I look at this card it elicits not so much a single kind of memory to write about so much as...snippets and thoughts about various things...

The fields in the background here catch my eye. As a person who has always lived in cities, the shape and color of fields has always intrigued me - probably because I'm not familiar with the practical, mundane reasons behind why they are the way they are. I remember being on planes landing and taking off. In Germany and Poland especially, at that time of year at least, many fields like that, growing smaller and smaller as your rise up into the sky. The last time I was actually close to some fields was in Tunisia, that day our Arabic teacher took us on a trip to his hometown. We stopped for a bit at his older sister's house. She and her husband had land, fields in that beautiful, rich northwestern countryside. We say in her courtyard eating grapes from a nearby tree and sweet makrouch, cookies similar to fig newtons but so much tastier, not artificial. It was Ramadan and not sunset yet so they didn't eat but insisted we did, the whole that's quite enough no no have more dance. There, instead of the kind of trees we see in this image there was a row of cactus plants.

In the foreground we see the king, with his staff in hand, a gate and little balls of fire separating him from the land. A lion lays at his feet. I wish I could say this brings something more positive to mind, but well...

The lion: al-Assad, in Arabic. Bashar al-Assad - a lion, his name means, the image it creates. The lion-named ruler surrounded by balls of fire, like little bombs, sitting alone.

He has a dagger at his waist. Elsewhere in the Arab world, in parts of the Gulf, a man's dagger is a necessary symbols of his honor, strength. During the summer we had an assignment that involved listening to a news broadcast over and over until we could decipher the words, the meaning, the event being described. Elections in Yemen, the second since the unification of the country in the early 1990's. A victory for the incumbent, of course. There was still tension in the country, need for increased security. Voting guidelines were clearly described. Voters are not permitted to bring their daggers into the polling stations.

There are not daggers in most wars today. We have moved beyond such thing, such limited destructive capacity. There are no polling stations in as-Shams, the land of the sun as Syria is also known, in Arabic. There is a lot of fire, though. It's interesting how, for me at least, this particular card, unless I am reading with reversals, generally one I consider a positive sign, situation, description of a person. But what does happen when a king with this kind of passion, drive, need for attention and power, action-based orientation...what happens when he isn't a good person despite all, when he is driven by selfish intentions, when he is isolated and pushed against a wall? A air king might submit to logic, strategic considerations; earth can be pragmatic, cut losses; water is emotional but also flexible, adaptable. What does fire do, if not burn?
Bashar al-Assad stalks around his palace, despondent.

He fears he will end up dead no matter what he does, the Russian official says.

If he tries to depart his own Alawite allies will kill him. They fear what will happen to them at the hands of the Sunnis if his government falls. Oh no no, there will be none of that going off and leaving us to our fate, they say. They remember how they were seen, before his father took control; they know how they are regarded now.

If he stays he will be killed when, if, the rebels take control of the capital. Perhaps he has even seen the youtube videos of Qaddhafi's death, that same fate: the once great, once mad dictator begging and beaten; and later the same crowd yelling, smiling, fooling with his corpse.

An eye doctor once, he was, peering into others' eyes.

Now he paces in the palace and outside the bombs continue to explode; the shelling continues; the rapes continue. A Turkish university carried out a study in one of its refugee camps, an article on the Arabic BBC says. 71% of the children there have lost at least one relative in the fighting. By and large, their mothers care for them alone. Where are the fathers, the husbands? Killed, or fighting with rebels or army or perhaps both.

(Why did you defect, the officers were asked. al-ATfal, al-ATfal, they said. The children - I could not stand it, the killing of children.)

And so it goes, smolders and burns.


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