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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25, 2013: AmericanStudies Wishes: Peace on Earth

[Each of the last couple years, I’ve expressed some holiday-season wishes for the AmericanStudies Elves. I’ve still got plenty on my list, so this year I’ll share five more wishes. Add your own in comments, please! And happy holidays!]

On the situation that seems irresolvable, and my wish for it nonetheless.
Earlier this month, I signed my name to a letter opposing the American Studies Association’s proposed boycott of Israeli universities and academic institutions. By the time this piece posts, the ASA general membership’s vote on the boycott will have been completed (INSIDE BASEBALL SEE HOW THE SAUSAGE GETS MADE BLOG SPOILER ALERT: I’m writing this on December 11th, the vote closes on December 15th, and I’ll add the result as a PPS to this post so it can at least be part of any continuing conversation), and so my stance on it will be a relatively moot point; for that reason, and because it’s not the principal thrust of this post (nor exactly in the holiday spirit), I’m not going to get into why I oppose the boycott here (although of course I’d be happy to discuss it further, whether in comments, by email, or in any other way).
Whatever the results of the ASA vote, it doesn’t seem likely to me that this action—nor, to be honest, any action or inaction an organization like this could take—would have any effect on the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. One of the more striking moments from a childhood watching classic films with my Mom was when we watched the film based on Leon Uris’ novel Exodus (1958); I’m sure it wasn’t the only nor even a particularly intended effect, but what stood out to me was the stark realization that conflict and violence have been integral to Israel’s existence since even before the nation was founded, and I’ll admit that it’s very difficult for even this optimist to imagine a future for the nation and region that isn’t similarly war-torn. To quote the best song I know about that conflict, Steve Earle’s “Jerusalem”: I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good/Death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood/And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way/And there was nothin' anyone could do or say.”
Yet Earle’s next lines push back on that version of history, and the speaker instead “look[s] into my heart to find/That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham/Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem.” So AmericanStudies Elves, on this holiday that has for so long been associated with peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, I wish that Earle’s belief will come to be, and that even the most deeply rooted of human conflicts can move toward a different and better future. Merry Christmas if you celebrate, happy holidays if you don’t, and peace be with you in any case.
Next wish tomorrow,
PS. Thoughts on this wish? Wishes you’d share?

PPS. Per a December 16th update, the boycott resolution passed, with about 2/3rds of the 1250 voters voting in favor of it.

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