[Bodymind] Spiegelman Schmiegelman
“Et tu, Brute? — Then fall, Caesar!”
It’s amazing how the quotation above from Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar is one of the most remembered phrases from the English language.
My husband Jeremy says: “It is ironic to think that one of the most famous lines in English literature is in Latin.” I think the reason many people remember this line is because it resonates so deeply with them.
Take me, for example. One of my Brutuses is Art Spiegelman, author of Maus which, in 1992 became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. Speigelman wrote a painfully-hit-you-in-the-gut yet beautiful story centered on his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.
The only time I met Spiegelman was at a book festival in New York when he signed my copy of Maus. Having had a crush on him then, I was so frustrated that I was too shy (luckily for him) to try and engage him further.
After that, silence, at least for this clinical psychologist here in Manila, until I came across his Facebook entry of Aug 30, 2014. As an introduction to a collage which he designed for a recent issue of the magazine The Nation, he wrote: “I've spent a lifetime trying to NOT think about Israel—deciding it has nothing more to do with me, a diasporist, than the rest of the World's Bad News on Parade.”
I was gobsmacked.
Here is a man who knew first hand how much his father and mother suffered for no other reason than that they were Jewish. In fact, it wouldn’t be farfetched to conclude Spiegelman became famous (and, I daresay, rich) primarily for recounting his father’s story. Admittedly, I am merely speculating, but I cannot help thinking his parents’ Holocaust experiences contributed to his troubled relationship with his father and his mother’s suicide. And yet all he can say is the above?
Since Speigelman is recognized as one of the most effective voices in reminding the world about the Holocaust, I can’t help worrying that his criticism of Israel carries more weight than an ordinary person’s.
So let me quote Simon Kobster who commented on his page: " (you said): ‘I've spent a lifetime trying to not think about Israel’ - then we shouldn't set much store by your analogies, should we? Especially when they consist of a lame rehash of the far more perceptive Isaac Deutscher. Why don't you do what many a media pundit, self-styled expert or armchail (sic) radical have failed to do: visit the two countries, talk to theIr people, read their histories... Then you might come up with something other than this crowd-baiting dross.”
But feelings cannot be changed (though actions can be questioned) so perhaps the best I can do is correct the psychological blather he passes off as fact. At least that I can back up with clinical experience and research.
Speigelman’s collage is captioned “Perspective in Gaza (The David and Goliath Illusion).” It is a Biblical-style art image consists of two panels. On the left is a traditional rendering of David facing Goliath. The right-hand panel presents a shrunken Goliath brought closer to the foreground. He then says: “Israel is like some badly battered child with PTSD who has grown up to batter others.”
It’s a powerful analogy, isn’t it? But, for those who rail against the fact that people judge Israel’s behavior with a much more stringent standard than everyone else, happily a false one.
PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by either witnessing or experiencing terrifying event.
This terrifying event would’ve happened in the past and is relived in the present weeks, even months and years after that via flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts, nightmares, panic attacks.
The word for the acronym PTSD says it all: post traumatic stress disorder, as in after-the-fact.
And yet, a cursory look at the news, for starters, show there is still reason for Israelis to fear for their lives.
This is not to excuse what the Israeli and Hamas leaders have done. Like Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel has done terrible things. I am horrified by the terrible toll the hawks in this latest war (and many before that) have exacted on Gaza, the west Bank, Israel and all its citizens. I am also aware that Palestinian civilians endure the brunt of this latest (and possibly every) war fought over the Gaza, Israel and West Bank areas, and that this latest war must be understood in terms of the so called political decision by the British in 1948 and the deeper, more historical and yes, geopolitical realities way before that.
But I wish this would not blind others to the fact that Israel suffers too. At the present time Israeli children are also being killed, Israeli soldiers are also dying, and many Israeli civilians have to pick up the pieces and are just as terrified about what might happen in the future.
Just because they put on a brave face does not mean they are cavalier about what they feel. I am ashamed (somewhat) to see the pictures, etc shown on Facebook of Israelis smiling in their bomb shelters and even cheering when their bombs are aimed at Gaza.
And yet, isn’t that less demoralizing for them than cowering in fear when faced with what they perceive is an intractable enemy?
After all, the Palestinians elected Hamas whose covenant includes the destruction of Israel. They could’ve elected a non-annihilistic party but they didn’t. In this case, as in many others where politicians think only of themselves and not the havoc they wreak on their constituents, we get the government we elect. This is true of us, who have time and again elected known killers and thieves, this is true of the Palestinians.
It does, therefore, perfectly reasonable for Israel to fight anyone dedicated to their annihilation. And to do it with everything they’ve got. In fact, not only is it reasonable, it is necessary.
And because of this, my answer to "Et tu, Spiegelman,” will not be “then fall, Holmes” but rather PTSD, Schmee TSD. Go back and read your Psych 101, Art. - Rappler.com
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