Friday, May 18, 2007

Faced with such unnecessary ignorance, what the hell do you say...

Took my niece, baby Safiya for a walk in the park. She lives in a Jewish neighbourhood. I have no problem with that, obviously. We saw a man with a Dalmatian dog, reading To Kill a Mockingbird and my new thing is talking to strangers as it always makes me buoyant, so we started talking about babies, dogs, reading.

When I tried to discuss one part in the book, he said oh I haven't got that far yet, so I dropped it. Then he told me he was reading it for his daughter; on behalf of his daughter as she doesn't read. 'Doesn't' means what I mused; I must be careful what I say, she may have special needs. No, she's a bright pupil, but she has no time for literature. Fine, school can breed a resentment of books; the desire to read might come later as it did with me. On the walk home, we moved towards the topic I felt sure I could avoid - it was a long approach, beginning with the Persian name, Shirin, which means sweet. He said it's also used in Egypt for sweet, I said I thought not. He said, you speak Arabic then. I said a little (I never miss an opportunity for false, false modesty) He tells me his wife speaks Arabic. How come, I ask. She studied it at school in Israel. Cool. Then I don't recall how we got to the point in the conversation where he says, "you can't trust an Arab, he will stab you in the back.", but my response is predictable enough, yet too small to cover up the bloody, stinking metaphorical shit he's just dumped in front of me. So what, move on. But we're stuck now. If I moved to Israel I'd be an extremist, he said. Fine I said, then we'd be on different sides of the fence. I'm a pretty cute blond young lady pushing a round-cheeked baby in a pram towards a Jewish address so there is a limit at this point to how offensive he is finding me, remember. And he asks me why I'm pro-Palestinian and I say because I've studied the situation, I've read books. It seems to me he knows nothing about this land his wife originates from or the surrounding region and he warns me that there will soon be a Shi'a Islamic government in power in Egypt, if we're not careful. What...?

Don't we have an education system in England, aren't people taught to read books, and learn about the world and start to speak some sense if they're going to speak at all?

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