Sunday, January 25, 2009
For many years -- until the proliferation of thermal-melded soccer balls which are now fashionable-- Sialkot, a city in northeastern Pakistan, was to leather soccer balls of quality as Cuba is to cigars. Pakistanis have never managed to assemble a decent soccer team, unlike our Persian neighbors to the west, but as a child I would take great pride in the fact that the instruments of the sport were manufactured -- nay, delicately hand-sewn -- in my homeland.
And as a child, if I ever found myself in a sporting goods store, I would inspect the pricey Adidas soccer balls for their "Made in Pakistan" label, and beam inwardly. It was only a couple of years later that I realized or was informed that Sialkot had managed such dominance in the soccer ball market because of its surplus of poor children and surfeit of capitalist impulse. You see, hand stitched soccer balls are a marvel of construction. You need tiny hands to patch together the small leather hexagons into a ball in such a way that identifying the last stitch sewn is impossible for the human eye. To be able to do this while maintaining 650 uniform seams is a skill that eclipses any I am possessed of.
My youthful nationalism, my naive pride, those childish things, faded away as the years passed. As an older child, I'd walk into sporting good stores, and cringe at the labels on the soccer balls. It wasn't just the icky feeling all of us have when confronted by the uncomfortable truth of our reliance on sweatshop labor. No, at nine or ten, with a mind polished in the Episcopalian tradition, I came to understand a new concept: there but for the grace of God go I . Why those kids and not me?
There are a lot of explanations, I suppose, for why them and not me, but ultimately, the only real explanation is luck. The sheer dumb luck of being born to parents who wanted more for themselves than their parents had, who wanted their kids to have more than they had, but more important, parents who had the ability to achieve those ends.
Now, I've not blogged for weeks, I realize. Readers Owen and Anonymous Alex and others have drawn attention to this fact, and while I have had taciturn periods in the past, this particular extended silence had less to do with lethargy (my constant cross) than with John Bradford's words above. I know I tend toward misdirection in these pages quite a bit, so let me say it bluntly: From December 27th to just a few days ago, I've resisted the urge to put into words my fury at what Israel has wrought in Gaza. I have resisted the urge to link to Juan Cole, to Glenn Greenwald, to Haaretz editorial writers, to BBC and Jazeera podcasts -- though those resources kept me at bay, reminded me that though Israel policy goes undebated by the petty children who bloviate about everything else in the august halls of our Capitol city, there are in this country voices of reason as well. Now, I resisted this urge not to spare you, reader. You're an adult and you've made the conscious choice to tour these pages, and I make no guarantees about what thine eyes will see here. No, I resisted because my anger just made me inarticulate, and if this blog is anything, it is a record of my attempt at artful writing -- or at least writing that I will not be ashamed to revisit in the twilight years.
But none of this changes the fact that Hamas places no value on the lives of Palestinian children; in its nihilistic enterprise it offers them as sacrifices to a murderous and bloodthirsty IDF. Israel meanwhile can't even feign a serious justification for its quixotic quest. With no military or political goals (other than internal electoral ones), it has murdered scores of children. Powerless and frustrated, I see the pictures of their corpses (on non-American news sources) and I revert to childhood stupidities: There but for the grace of God go I.
So there you have it. A serious post. I feel better for having committed it to these pages. Thanks for indulging, thanks for returning (if you left), and I'll get back to regularly scheduled programming shortly. There is buffoonery in this world worth writing about and I will get to it.