The World's Desire

from "The Braindead Megaphone"
in The Braindead Megaphone: Essays
George Saunders

Storytelling is a language-rich enterprise, but Megaphone Guy does not have time to generate powerful language. The best stories proceed from a mysterious truth-seeking impulse that narrative has when revised extensively; they are complex and baffling and ambiguous; they tend to make us slower to act, rather than quicker. They make us more humble, cause us to empathize with people we don't know because they help us imagine these people, and when we imagine them--if the storytelling is good enough--we imagine them as being, essentially, like us.

The truth embodied in this exposition leads to another truth, which I sense rather than have substantive evidence of.  The vast majority of people in the world want nothing more or less than to be left in peace to pursue their lives.  They don't look much beyond the family (and close friends, are for these purposes family).  They are not interested in conquest of new lands.  Their imagination is not captivated by abstract political slogans and theories or economic motives.  They want to eat, sleep, play with their children, work, and be left alone to pursue these ends to the extent and degree possible in their station in life.

Saunders makes this point in another essay:

from "The New Mecca"
sourced as above

And the kids keep coming. On their faces: looks of bliss, the kind of look a person gets when he realizes he is in the midst of doing something rare, that might never be repeated, and is therefore of great value.  They are seeing something [snow in Dubai] from a world far away, where they will probably never go.

Women in abayas video. Families pose shyly, rearranging themselves to get more Snow in the frame. Mothers and fathers stand beaming at their kinds, who are beaming at the Snow.

This is sweet, I scribble in my notebook.

And it is. My eyes well up with tears.

In the same way that reading the Bible, or listening to radio preachers, would not clue the neophyte in to the very active kindness of a true Christian home, reading the Koran, hearing about "moderate Islam," tells us nothing about the astonishing core warmth and familial sense of these Arab families.

I think: If everybody in America could see this, our foreign policy would change.

For my part, in the future, when I hear "Arab" or "Arab street" or those who "harbor, shelter, and sponsor" the terrorists, I am going to think of the Arabian Ice City, and that goose, moving among the cold-humbled kids, and the hundreds of videotapes now scattered around Arab homes in Dubai, showing beloved children reaching down to touch Snow.
 It would seem that if we could call to mind, while making decisions involving the lives and deaths of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people, that each of these people is a person, not a resource, not human capital, not any other thing than a person, who in all likelihood loves and hates mother and father; hates vanilla ice cream, but loves chocolate sprinkles; laughs at romantic comedies, and ineptly tries to imitate the touching moments from them; in short, is someone just like us or those we know intimately, perhaps our decisions and actions would not be so precipitate.  Whenever people enter an abstract group, "Arabs," "Muslim Extremists," "Christian Extremists," "radical fundamentalists,"  it becomes possible to do terrible things in the name of abstract labels and slogans.  Sloganeering is no substitute for walking a mile in another's moccasins--a requirement for anyone considering blowing someone out of those moccasins.


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