Understanding the world in hopes of changing it

(Regarding the Israeli assault on Lebanon and the petition of U.S. Jews mentioned below, I just sent this note to my friends in Ramallah, Lois & Khalil Nakhleh. Khalil is an anthropologist and all-round intellectual; years ago he and I were colleagues in the Sociology and Anthropology Department of St. John's University in Minnesota.)

I don't know what I can do. Something, I hope. I didn't sign this petition because I'm not Jewish, but I've signed others. It's a small gesture, barely noticed anywhere, but then, even serious, risk-taking journalism is not taken into account by the decision-makers. And I'm a little old for such adventures, anyway, and my skills are different. The only thing I can think to do -- to save my conscience, if not the world -- is try to understand and then explain events clearly enough that other people may avoid repeating such barbarities. Sociology and fiction (the two modalities in which I write) work slowly, painfully slowly, but it is better to affect generations of the future than to surrender and have no effect at all.

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