Sunday, September 02, 2007

Conflict in the Middle Beach

This a shot of Coronado Beach in San Diego. What happened here today was an amazing illustration of what I imagine must be much larger and frequent problems in the Middle East. Around 12:00 a group of around 30 Arabic-speaking people moved decisively into the middle of a bunch of other people already sitting and laying on the beach. They followed a leader who was dressed in a head-to-toe black robe and was, I assume, a religious official from their mosque. They arrived with four large pop-up tents... the kind that you see at street festivals defining a sales booth. To say there was room for maybe one would not be exagerating the case. But they proceeded to setup all four right on top of the others around them. One-by-one, we all looked up in amazement... thinking they couldn't possibly keep expanding. But expand they did. The third tent went up within a foot of my chair and the remaining space was later taken up by one of their coolers. As they continued to set the tents up, the people that had been sitting nearby... all comfortable spaced apart began to get up and move away... incredulous at what was unfolding before their eyes. I took this shot an hour later after even more people had moved away in disgust and disbelief. The fourth and final tent went up literally right on top of another couple's two chairs and umbrella. The couple was somewhere else at the time so they were up for a rude awakening when they returned to find their stuff folded up and moved away.

The majority of this obnoxious group seemed oblivious to the rudeness of their actions. Three quarters of the beach was empty... they could have had all the room they wanted if they had setup just 50 feet further back from the water. Did they want to piss off everyone around them? I have no idea. There was one teenage boy who was helping to setup and finally noticed that the rest of us on the beach were not happy. He told his buddy who seemed to tell him to ignore us. Which is exactly what they all seemed to be doing. I don't think you could do something this rude and callous if you were aware of the reactions of those around you.

It was just space on the beach. No one got hurt. But I can't help but think that their actions have something in common with the problems going on inthe Middle East. Over the last 10 years, my support for the Palestinian cause has grown while my acceptance of Israel's heavy-handed aggression has decreased. But I have to wonder whether behavior like I experienced on the beach in San Diego had a lot in common with what is going on everyday in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and anywhere else there are land disputes between Israelies and Palestinians. Disputes among neighbors are normal and happen everywhere. But most are resolved by being aware of how your neighbors react to your actions. If they can engage in overtly rude behavior in a foreign country while ignoring the reactions of people only inches away, what hope is there for the towns in conflict across the Middle East.

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