Dear Miriam

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My Letter to a Dissident Palestinian Writer, Who Asked

You are finding the limits of acceptability in a restrictive, oppressive society. Your frustration is confusing to you, because you want to be recognized, celebrated and elevated (“famous”) by the Guardians of that society, for your writing that shows that society to be flawed (extremely deeply flawed), and those flaws are designed for the express purpose of giving power to those Guardians.

Waking up from your confusion occurs when you come to this realization: by limiting, diminishing and denying yourself you can submit to the role assigned to you by the Guardians, and in that way be “accepted,” OR you can realize that to do work and art to the limits of your abilities and knowledge means you have to hide from, evade, or leave that restrictive society.

This is the realization that all dissident and progressive writers, artists and musicians come to, and have come to during all of human history. Examples in more recent times are the writers of Samizdat (underground) literature in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc (like Boris Pasternak, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Roy Medvedev, and many more). Samizdat writers had to have their books smuggled out of their countries (which they were not allowed to travel from, except on occasion for permanent exile). An Israeli example is Mordechai Vanunu. In the U.S.A., we have Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning (who changed sex from male to female, and thus could never survive in an Arab culture), Edward Snowden (in asylum in Russia), and have had many others throughout U.S. history.

Internationally, we have the case of the Australian Julian Assange, who will be extradited from Britain to the U.S.A. for publishing (on the internet, from Europe!) the truth about U.S. drone killings of civilians and journalists in Iraq (information supplied by Chelsea Manning, a war resistor). The Guardians here in the U.S.A. want Assange to suffer and die, and will prosecute him under an ancient U.S. “espionage law,” which is being applied to a foreigner who was outside the country!!

My advice to you is to have a clear understanding of what you are doing, and who will be threatened by it (that feeling of threat being defined in the minds of the Guardians, and not the minimal annoyance you think it is, for the Guardians are extremely and unreasonably sensitive to “the threat” of the mass of people seeing them “negatively,” and as the total frauds, exploiters and slave-masters they really are).

Albert Einstein had to leave Nazi Germany because the Nazis couldn’t accept “a Jew” changing the understanding of the physical universe. Many African-American jazz musicians and writers (like James Baldwin) had to leave the U.S.A. because the White Supremacy bigotry against Blacks was too extreme for them to be able to practice their arts. And so it is with many other thinkers from many countries, to this day.

It strikes me that you are very fortunate compared to most women of your country, you have the financial and legal means of wide travel, foreign living, university education, participation at a high level in cultural and literary events, and the ability to project a glamorous image fashionably dressed and posed in many photographs. So you have much more opportunity to become an international person than the typical Palestinian. It seems that you can live well, beyond Palestine and the Arab World, by expanding your mind and your art (which is writing in your case, and perhaps also TV commentary).

By the phrase “expanding your mind” I mean questioning all your assumptions and training (“education,” “indoctrination”) about EVERYTHING, including religion. You have the freedom to choose how much you are willing to allow all that prior “cultural indoctrination” to limit you as a person, with the complete realization that all such limitations of you as a person — as a woman, a Palestinian, a writer, a thinker, a political activist — into the norms dictated for you (and your sisters in womanhood) by the Guardians, are what is required to “fit in” to the society as ordered by the Guardians.

If “fitting in” with your birth culture (or “the herd” as dissidents would say) is most important to you, then accept submission. But, if all those limitations (enslavement, really) are not acceptable to you, then act accordingly and don’t complain about the fact that you are in a struggle against oppression, and are at a relative disadvantage to it. But in making that struggle you are uplifted by knowing that the oppressive Guardians have not conquered your mind or your self-respect. It is that which makes them more fearful than anything else.

Finding the right balance between resistance and submission is too personal a choice for anyone else to presume to tell you what to do. That is your choice on how you want to live your life. My only point is to be clear what those choices are, and what each requires of you in terms of thinking, “mind expansion,” the keeping or releasing of old ideas and “education,” and of physical, emotional and financial actions required by each such choice (such as of where to go, or stay, and live).

I presume you have asked many others about this, and from their answers you may get some useful suggestions. Finally, let me say that I have 2 daughters (age 40 and 22), and I have always guided them to be fierce rather than submissive, to be: safe, strong and free. Also, about me, had I been living in the Soviet Union or Eastern Bloc (before 1991), or were I living in the Arab World now, I have no doubt that I would have been exiled, shot or beheaded.

Because the differences between your ideas and mine about life, culture and the universe are so vastly apart, it may be possible that you might find some of my statements unintentionally offensive. Believe me that I have no desire to offer offense, but I only intend to be as truthful as I know how (and another person’s truth can be hard to accept). If you find any of my words helpful, I will be glad, but if you do not then there is no blame to you and no offense taken by me.

Also, I apologize to being restricted to the English language in communicating with you, but I do not know any Arabic at all, except for the wonderful Arabic Numerals.

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