Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spain's Peace Minister

Spain's Peace Minister

The International Herald Tribune headline screams the news: “In Spain it is a Boy!” I look back in my running memoirs and dig out what I had written over a month earlier about the same subject:

“April 17, 2008:

I pick up the daily paper at the gate, the Herald Tribune with its accompanying English version of Haaretz. I skim through the depressing local news headlines. There is nothing uplifting till I reach the fourth page where a familiar picture seers my eyes, a massive olive tree from my village. The caption reads “Dr. Mordechai Kislav and a 3,000-year-old olive tree of the Syrian variety, in Arrabeh.” The article is totally irrelevant. It reeks of the standard pseudoscientific manipulations used by religious crazies the world over to explain their odd beliefs and practices whether it is creationists showing their ancestors herding dinosaurs or this ‘scholar’ determining the amount of matza that a Jew should eat at Passover. I am aware, of course, of the potential a photo of anything ancient with a man with a kippa – skullcap -- in it has as a proof of the Jewishness of the Galilee. Someone, somewhere, someday, when you least expect It, will surprise you with this photo as a proof that this spot and this tree are holy to the Jews and must revert to them. And it stands every chance of being proven in the highest court in the land. Still I am tickled pink with the mere presence in a mainstream paper in Israel of an article with the name of my village in its heading, even if misspelled. And, lo and behold, it is not a report on a crime or a treasonous activity by ‘Israel’s Arabs’. It gives credence to my own less than scientific claims for the astronomical age of my own olive tree in my front yard, the same age as the one in the picture, give or take a millennium or two.

I leaf through the Herald Tribune of the day and get some mild satisfaction from the fact that my candidate, Barack Obama, seems destined to win. Too bad I have no say-so in the matter. Twice I got a green card and twice I gave it up, once out of fear of being drafted into the Vietnam War and the second on the doubtful advice of an immigration officer who thought the green card is only an added bother if I didn’t intend to get my citizenship right away.

As I proceed to clean half a dozen old papers from the dining table I see another photo that grabs my attention. I read the caption and it blows my mind. It is the most uplifting news photo I have seen since Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly. It stuns me and I sit down and try to digest its true meaning. This photo of the new Spanish defense minister tugs deep at my very core unifying me with all humanity, screaming its hidden message ‘there is still hope!’ The new Spanish defense minister is reviewing an honor guard and SHE is seven months pregnant. I have always appreciated the prank-like message printed on a fashionable t-shirt: “God is watching you and SHE is pissed off”. It is not only my feminist predisposition that is piqued here; more, it is my pacifist commitment. I know there have been other women war ministers before and there are others now. But this one says it all. Look at her in the picture: a young, casually dressed, red-haired, obviously pregnant cutie with an endearing --at least to me as a physician-- slight pallor of the skin throwing a mildly apprehensive glance at the stiffly frozen members of the honor guard. I have no doubt what she is thinking: “fuck you, brutes!” or at least that is what I want her to say, and the fluttering edge of her pregnancy blouse outlining her life-giving bulging belly reassures me that, of course, that is exactly what she is saying under her breath. The high-riding constrictive black cloth belt reminding all of the once stylishly thin waste fit for the most elegant of Spanish dance partners to hold and to caress announces her total femininity by bringing into further relief both her full breasts above tingling with the promise of milk and her blooming uterus below. The ever so faint hint of a half annoyed smile is probably due to a kick from the fetus just at the right moment. As all mothers know fetuses know when to tease. In the face of it all, the good mother keeps on meditating on peace as you can surely tell from the way her two hands are held at her sides in the classic index finger tip to thumb ‘ohm’ position. And the casually knotted ends of that black cloth belt hanging on the left side of the fruitful uterus give added embellishment, a knotted black ribbon signaling mourning for all the war dead, to the in-your-face icon of pacifist rebellion I insist on assigning to my new friend, Carme Chaco’n.

My only worry is what if ‘they’ have already co-opted her to be the figure head of their killing machine? What if she is really another gong-ho aggressive bitch? That would be a real stab in the back for me. Still, my feminist/pacifist vision stands. Since I know zero about the woman behind the image in the photo, my interpretation of its message is a matter of free choice for me and I choose to worship her as the first Spanish Peace Minister.”

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