Mourning and Honouring Edward Said
Hearts are filled with sadness at the demise of this great champion of humanity. His eloquence, relentlessness, courage, perception and sense of identity and history was unparalleled. A lesser man would have been bruised by the fight with the media, but he turned his sensitivity into a weapon — a weapon so effective that according to Ha’aretz, “many Israeli acquaintances and had many Jewish friends in the United States. However, among the American Jewish establishment, he was considered public enemy No. 1″.
The mainstream media started to ignore him, but he turned that fact into a loyal political following. Hanan Ashrawi talked today about ‘his searing honesty’. The home page of CNN.com does not have a reference to his death. On the MSNBC.com page, there is a reference to the other sad departures of the day — singer Robert Palmer and author George Plimpton. It is obviously a bad editorial decision to put three obituaries on the front page on one day. In his death, Said is still exposing the farcical media.
It is hard to crystallize his views into a few sentences. Edward Said compared the Palestinian situation to apartheid. He continuously exposed the ambiguity of the situation of Palestinians — it is already one country — Israel. You cannot enter the Palestinian Authority without going through Israeli immigraton! Said was sensitive to the artificial perception there are two nations at war — it is a minority government that has taken away the land, human and political rights of the majority of the population of that land. He rightly feared that the two-nation theory started in Oslo was merely buying time by hanging the carrot of ultimate autonomy while undermining the existence of the the resistance movement. Israel would continue to be a ‘democracy’ if the majority was kept in limbo. Since Palestinians live under the Israeli state, depriving them of their rights is akin to apartheid.
Edward Said also represented the ‘globalization of thought’. He was a Christian,Palestinian and American. ‘Out of Place’ is a very apt title for his memoirs, which he wrote during his terminal illness. His relentless quest for justice transcended religious, national and ethnic barriers. He was the perfect example for those of us who feel passionately about causes, but think that we may be trapped in our religious or ethnic identities.
Like the death of a parent, we suddenly feel vulnerable. Whenever some abominable verbal atrocity was committed, we always counted on him to come up with a ‘counterpunch’ at counterpunch.org.
We have to continue his work. Think hard, analyse, and then stick to our guns. Let labels and attacks spur you on to increased honesty and clarity of purpose.
The attribute of a progressive and viable human community is to replace its loss with a renewed sense of purpose. Our best tribute to Edward Said is — We will continue your work. We will not let wolves pass us by in sheep’s clothing. We will cut through lies with searing honesty and truth.
May God rest his soul in peace.