Word on the street

I spent yet another day on the streets of Amman with people in cafes and on the streets discussing the situation and offering solidarity. I went with various groups of friends, most of whom left at various points and then I’d meet up with a new group. After going out to breakfast we saw our first group of marchers who were Iraqis. They were marching with both Iraqi and Jordanian flags and held posters and banners offering their sympathy and solidarity with Jordanians. Things were far quieter yesterday, but certainly there were various groups, mostly of young men this time, marching. My friend and I sat on the steps of the coffee shop on the main street in between the Hyatt and the Radisson and watched the marchers go by. We saw Kofi Anan take his little tour of the hotel devastation and he waved to us from his car.

There was also the continuing phenomenon of cars in a sort of parade-like procession, decorated with flags, photographs of King Abdullah, and red and white keffiyehs (a symbol of Jordanianness). One of my friends’ friends was driving by and we jumped into his patriotic car and cruised around the city honking with other Jordanians until we came across a group of cars with license plates from Yemen. Like the Iraqi march we saw earlier, this group had both Yemeni and Jordanian flags, and pictures of both leaders, to show their support for Jordan. We took a break to get a drink and a snack before going to the candlelight vigils. No one else was in the pub. The bartender was sitting on a barstool reading Edward Said’s Orientalism wearing an Andy Warhol-esque Che Guevara t-shirt.

The word on the street in terms of mere images and symbols said: solidarity. But other people had a variety of ideas about what happened and why. As everywhere there are some conspiracy theorists who were looking at several stories. One was similar to a story circulating after the U.S. 9/11, which was that Israelis were evacuated prior to the bombings. There are other stories too: that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi either never existed (not very plausible) or that he’s merely a myth or has been created into a myth or that after he was never released from jail; rather that he was executed. Building on the latter bit of this theory, some people think that because President Al Assad of Syria gave a particularly “fiery” speech the night before, maybe the CIA or Mossad or some Jordanian entity worked to create these bombings under the name of Zarqawi. The thinking of this point of view is that such a horrific act would enable the U.S. to invade Syria with the support of Jordan and its people. I don’t necessarily have a hard time believing that the U.S. or CIA would do such a thing, but I do have a very hard time believing that anyone in power in Jordan would agree to participate in what happened here. No matter how much Jordan depends upon U.S. aid, there is no way they would agree to create such suffering. In any case, these are some ideas I was exposed to by speaking with various Jordanians I met on the street. I was interviewed by a TV reporter again, this time AP News, figuring they’d never take my statement that I shared with previous reporters, but actually when I expressed my desire to end the occupation of Palestine and Iraq he told me that he had been waiting for someone to give him such an answer. So we’ll see, even if he does include my interview in his edit, it still doesn’t mean it will feed into U.S. news reports.

I met many people all day, but I met some really wonderful university students at the candlelight vigil who I had an amazing conversation with. We watched the vigil, and the foreign press attempting to cover it. Fox News situated itself conspicuously on the steps of the Radisson among the mourners, which I thought was in poor taste mostly because Fox News could care less about people here and their suffering. I was quite elated when the Fox News “reporter” lost an interview with Prince Hassan to CNN (who I have a new found respect for because I saw one of the CNN guys reading Salman Rushdie’s new novel in between filming). It was amazing to see Prince Hassan walking among the people, despite the high level of military security around him. You could tell that he was really there to connect and show support for people in Jordan.

I was wondering what parents would tell their children about the suicide bombings in the hotels, especially since children had an extra day off school so they must have questions. When I met up with a friend and her sons last night who came to light candles she told me that the method she used to explain the situation to her youngest son, who is six-years-old. She and her husband told him about bad people who came and tried to do something very bad; that’s why we were lighting candles to celebrate life. His translation of this was that a monster had come to the hotels and he thought the candles were like birthday candles. I also saw a fascinating drawing by a four-year-old in the coffee shop across the street from the Radisson, which depicted the wedding and the dead bodies being taken away on the hotel baggage carts. Apparently, living in Jordan even if parents want to shield their children from the horrific, bloody realities around us here they can’t; the kids hear stories at school, on the street, so if they are not told the truth by their parents they will wind up with a distorted idea of reality. I can’t imagine the challenges of raising a child sandwiched between two violent occupations.

Salam–

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3 thoughts on “Word on the street

  1. Marcy I really admire everything you’re doing… and it’s always great to read your reflections and observations whether here or in Palestine!

    I was in an international youth camp this summer, and one of the points we got to discuss with the Americans was that there aren’t many exchange programs in the US that get young people to go abroad and see a different perspective of the world! If only more people can see what you’re seeing or at least dig into alternative media… well I guess it’s a great thing that you’re blogging!

    Thanks again for this great post!

  2. Dear Lina,

    Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. As a professor in the U.S. I work hard to get young people to think about travel and to just think about the rest of the world period, but it is often quite difficult. I do believe that half of education takes place with books and the other half with experience. This is why travel and cross cultural interactions are vital. And, so is Blogging if you can reach out to an audience ready to be educated.

    Salam,
    Marcy

  3. Actually, the really sad fact is that it is the Palestinians who have no legal right to be squatting on the West Bank. All the laws favour Israel.

    Until these people are able to face up to the fact that it is their own “family” -Egypt, Jordan, and Syria that has put them in this mess, life and their future future will remain bleak for them.

    Also, I must insist that grown adults cease and desist with Edward Said. Are you people serious? I can’t believe that you would accept the hopelessly ignorant and serial liar Edward Said as an authority on these matters!

    It really saddens me that so many people, particularly western middle-class university types who treat “Orientalism” as though it were unassailable holy scripture, the second law of thermodynamics or DNA code!

    Said was a crank and an intellectual crook. True historians see him for what he was: a lying opportunistic whinger who simply could not admit that the Arab muslim world started to die in the 15th century, and that they haven’t had the balls to admit ever since.

    Enough already! What is wrong with these people? If it’s not the Mongols, the Turks, the Persians, it’s the British, the French, the Americans and “the Jews.

    Time for them to grow up, shut up, and stop boring the shit out of the rest of us.

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