Oceans are for everybody, but land is for me

Contributing WriterJune 28, 2014 

I sit here living on land that once belonged to everyone, just as most of the world’s oceans still belong to everyone.

Land differs from oceans in that respect. Land can be and mostly is owned by individual people, corporations and governments. But most of the huge puddles on this planet belong to you and me.

Oceans are for everybody, but land is mine, mine, mine.

True, Sharon and I paid for this property. And I gladly sit here on this little lot with a house, a vegetable garden and two rambunctious cats. However, I feel a little sheepish knowing the original owners never got paid in full, partly because they thought the land belonged to everyone and they didn’t compete for individual parcels.

That reminds me of a French movie and two disturbing books I recently stumbled across.The movie (available on Netflix) is “The Other Son.” It’s about two babies, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who were accidentally switched at birth. The two young men suddenly learn they are part of culturally opposite families that they are supposed to hate.

Of course, it’s impossible for me to live here among the original people and not see something familiar in a movie about Palestinians being forced onto what amounts to reservations. That’s a familiar concept in this nation where our native neighbors were forced onto reservations while the new Americans took over most of the land.

The original Americans now have the freedom to come and go as they please without the checkpoints and passports and the massive Israeli military presence facing the Palestinians today.

Two recent books have rubbed my nose in the bloody similarities of what went on in this country and what goes on in Israel and Palestine more recently.

“Empire of the Summer Moon,” was written by S.C. Gwynne, a seasoned journalist and inexhaustible researcher. Gwynne details the viciousness on both sides by the settlers and the Comanches.

The two factions took turns using terrorism. Both the Comanches and the settlers tortured, raped, scalped and murdered each other for years, trying to scare each other away.

The second book is “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” by Ari Shavit. His Jewish family has lived in Israel since the late 1800s. He is a major Israeli writer and surprisingly even-handed in his judgments.

Shavit tells the story of Palestinians and Israelis savagely murdering each other in night raids several decades ago, not unlike those Southwestern America settlers and Comanches.

Eventually, the Israelis pushed Palestinians off much of the land the two factions had once occupied and farmed side by side.

After hundreds of years, few in that part of the world will give an inch. And there is no doubt that many Palestinians and Israelis (not to mention those white settlers and Comanches in the American Southwest) would rather watch their children and grandchildren die than compromise on peace.

Have these silly people never heard of a couple of saints named Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.? Those two stewards of sanity were neither too angry nor too stupid to find a way. Gandhi and King dazzled doubters with the success of their tenacious nonviolent quest of freedom from strife.

I noticed something enlightening on television the other day. A tribute to King described his struggle for peaceful justice. And there in that audience sat King’s children and grandchildren – alive, as children should be.

There’s a lesson in that for the crackpot leaders of the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Contact columnist Bill Hall at wilberth@cableone.net or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.

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