Several years ago, singer Nancy Griffith scored a hit with a song that noted, ironically, that we’re living in a time of inconvenience. For all our modern gizmos, we’re more harried, frantic and irritable than ever.
Parallel to that is the notion that we’re living in the Information Age. There is a lot of information coming at us, no question. But are we more informed or are we just being deluged with commercialized pop-culture data, the relevance of which fades right along with Britney Spears’ latest boyfriend?
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, George W. Bush’s war on terrorism and the recent calamities in Israel and the occupied territories have revealed that Americans, despite access to all kinds of information, remain relatively ignorant of world events, cultures and politics.
Chalk it up to our frenzied lifestyles, where we jump over the morning newspaper rushing to work, catch a little news on the radio during the commute, and finally settle in to catch up with the world on the 10 p.m. newscast. That scenario leaves us informationally impoverished in a time when the world is becoming smaller, economies more intertwined.
As the shock faded from Sept. 11, some began wondering why many in the Middle East hate us. It had been some 20 years since our embassy was seized in Iran, about 18 since 241 U.S. Marines were blown up in Lebanon, 10 years since the Gulf War. Still, we care to know little about the Middle East.
The national news media had conditioned us well for this beginning in 1967 when Israel crushed Arab forces and took control of the West Bank and Gaza. It was, perhaps, guilt from the Holocaust, along with the notion that the huge and evil Arab world was beating up on little Israel, that led us to view the Middle East as populated by backward and hateful tribesman, much the way we have viewed Native Americans for the past 300 years. Like Native Americans, Muslims have been seen as dark-skinned pests to be brushed back so we could realize our manifest destiny—in this case, oil.
Much of our lack of understanding of the Middle East and its peoples is based on a paucity of knowledge—or in some cases, misinformation. In this issue of City Weekly, Ben Fulton tells the story of several Palestinians who fled their land and immigrated to Utah. It is an effort to provide more information about these people and their plight. It is not designed to be an endorsement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It does, however, seek to provide our readers with a broader view of a world of which we are, like it or not, a part.