Wednesday, October 31, 2007

So long has passed since my last entry that I forgot how to get into my own blog--issues of memory are all around me--the death of dear friends, the dislocation of distance, a changing self in body and habits of thinking, moving.
What has been haunting me through so much of these times is the suffering of ill people behind these walls and check points and in war- torn towns. I have had colon and breast cancer--I have been able to take two Manhattan buses to get to my chemo center, to my radiation laboratory, to my surgeons. I am haunted by the image of a 14 year old Iraqi girl, thin as the pallet on which she lay, outside the gates of her family home in one of the most destroyed neighborhoods of Baghdad--her older brothers stood around her--she has cancer, she has not eaten but she can't go to the hospital, the arms of the girl waving, the translator saying she wants to go to the doctor, bare human suffering-the reporters convince one of her brothers to help them put her into their car and come with them as they try to find help for their sister. The car drives away into shadows. I do not know what happened to that young woman, but I read of the ill people in Gaza, of cancer stricken Palestinians stopped at closed gates or restricted in their travel, of treatment appointments missed or never made. Fine Israeli hospitals just moments away but not for these people--they are part of a population that must be punished, that must be exhausted as the head of Shin Bet said recently--we must make them too exhausted to engage in struggle against us. So many of us have endured life with cancer, we know how we accept poison into our bodies because that is all the doctors can offer now, we know the exhaustion of the body trying to absorb chemicals that want to kill it, and we know the exhaustion of the illness itself--if even a small number of us joined together, we who had to ask no one for permission to cross a road, who were never turned away from a departure point when we had used every bit of our energy to arrive there, if we used our human bond, stricken body with sticken body, we could break the walls that imprison all of us--those who suffer their lack of power and those of us who inflict our power down to the very cells of those we deem the enemy.
In America, politicians argue whether "illegal" immigrants should be allowed to get treatment for their cancer -- how can we who have survived because we "passed" the human requirements be silent in the face of this?

I live in Melbourne, Australia now--Australia is in the midst of an election--Liberal leader John Howard has been Prime Minister for 11 years, a devoted follower of George Bush and all things Right--today he said the most astounding thing--he answered critics of his meeting with the leader of an extreme right wing Christian group, League of Rights, by saying, "well, they are a bit anti-semitic" but refused to cut his ties to the group. The group's leader has gone on record questioning whether the Holocaust ever really happened. A bit antisemitic, a bit pregnant. I have written here of my sadnesses, angers, rejection of the actions of Israel as a nation state and its treatment of the Palestinians. That is one discourse and the other--the growing Christian fascism of the extreme right. Power, God, nationalism--and the human body, naked in its need for care.


Barbara said...

Thank you Joan.
As a cancer surviver, ovarian, stage 3, and post-chemo thriver, I heartily endorse your words and vision for a just, humanitarian Middle East.
Barbara Hammer

devadevoted said...

Greetings Joan. What a delight to find you again. I remember inserting my hand to move your uterus the first time I met you; you had menstrual back pain and I had the passion of the women's self help movement as justification! Please! Don't ever stop talking. We will make spaces of peace and justice between the wars and we will not forget the dead the ill the marginalized. Thank you for surviving, and for taking those of us you've inspired with you along on this ride we call living.

So delighted to find you,

Barbara Ruth