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Is Psychosis Contagious?

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Message Jayne Stahl
"My land is being occupied and I don't have weapons...Put explosives on me now, and I'm ready to go ," Shadi Najdi, resident of Srifa, Lebanon (Reuters, 7/23/06)

German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote that there is no such thing as a private language. I think of Ludwig now, and wonder what he would say about private vision. Is vision, something generally believed to be internal, a shared thing? Surely the events of the past 12 days have shown, if nothing else, that division is shared.

As Israel strikes northern Lebanon, wiping out resort towns, and displacing hundreds of thousands of people, more than 130 Hezbollah rockets lace into Israel. (WaPo) From Haifa to Kirya Shmona, these enemy twin nations rip into each other. As the U.S. speeds up delivery of much-needed bombs, we can only guess who's arming Hezbollah. These twin forces of destruction have taken on a mimetic quality, a kind of cultural narcissism which tries to pass itself off as holy war, but fails miserably, and can only fail as it is based on a false model, a counterfeit paradigm of misplaced anger which is what, alas, our great country has now become. So, it is clear that with Israel which has, from the start, modeled itself after the United States, the sins of the father have been visited upon the son, and what we've done to Baghdad, Israel aims to do to Beirut.

Oddly, though, when thinking of the concept of psychosis, and pathologies of the psyche, we think of the individual not the collective, or communal, ethos, but what happens when an entire nation, culture, or civilization develops the kind of pathology, and weapons of mass delusion, that enables it to contaminate the entire planet, and pose a clear and present danger to survival of the human race? What we're seeing today, in the Middle East, shows a kind of perverse codependency between a superpower and its progeny, the U.S. and Israel, as well as a codependency between the Saudis and the Bushies. At its nucleus, this is not merely about addiction to oil, but for power and aggression, the line of thinking that the ends justify the means, and might makes right, suggest that national sovereignty has been relegated to the realm of relativism, and statesmanship transformed to brinkmanship.

One has only to think about the meeting between Vladimir Putin and President Bush last week in which the president suggested Russia emulate our democratic ways to recall the Russian president's response that he wouldn't want Russia to have the kind of democracy we just created in Iraq. When the transparency of this White House's ideology is evident to the rest of the world as rank hypocrisy, our foreign policy can only be seen as little more than a private joke. A very costly private joke, I might add, one that is daily costing American, Iraqi, Lebanese, and Israeli lives.

Whatever pathology drove this White House, and machinery of government, to invade Iraq, topple one dictatorship, only to replace it with our own brand now drives Israel to emulate us, and invade another sovereign state in the name of a war on terror. But, whether by Israeli, or American might, the occupation by any state of another can only lead its citizens to the brink of psychosis, as evidenced by statements like "Put explosives on me now, and I'm ready to go."

We who contend, as I myself have in the past, that we cannot sit down at table with a bunch of suicide bombers must face the grim reality that we, by our actions, have created this class of asymmetrical warriors, as our military likes to call them. Those who anthropomorphize evil, and insist we may find it a cave in Pakistan in the form of Osama bin Laden, must also confront the grave, and inescapable truth that we trained evil, armed, financed, then labelled evil a "freedom fighter" in Afghanistan.

In a sane world, no one would want, or expect, anything less than sovereignty for the Jewish state, nor deny that Israel deserves to exist as a nation, or Palestine, Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela for that matter. No one state has the right to deprive another state of its right to survive. The need for national sovereignty is essential, and must not be confused with nationalism just as pride is not the same as hubris. Make no mistake, those who the death, and devastation caused by Hezbollah rockets, and celebrate, or contemplate the annihilation of Israel, are, at their core, no different from those who wish to deprive Palestinians of the right to a homeland.

When reading today that, as a result of Israel's current invasion of Lebanon "dogs are eating corpses" in the streets (Reuters), less than 100 miles from Beirut at what used to be resorts, one can only wonder when will the insanity end, and how can anyone expect to claim the moral high ground in a battle that can only leave blood smeared on the hearts, souls, and minds of all participants. More sickening still, war crimes in the name of self-defense accomplish nothing more than sowing the seeds for a future generation of suicide bombers as, after all, Hezbollah rose from the ashes, blood, and tears that was Beirut 24 years ago.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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