User:CasualObserver'48

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Welcome to my page, it ain't much but you must start somewhere. I am new (Sept'07) to Wikipedia, but feel that I must participate. To give others some bettter understanding of my edits, I feel it is best to explain some basics of who I am and my perspective. If, for any reason, you object or agree with things I write, please feel free to comment on my discussion page.

Who I am[edit]

I am American of 1948 vintage (baby-boomer), born and raised in New England and grew up in the Midwest. Ethnically, I am a WASP, culturally, I am a product of my life and times, which included the Cold War, Middle East wars, going to the Moon, the Civil Rights movement,the Vietnam War (and the associated domestic turmoil). I learned a lot and it included both good and bad, and missed service with Uncle Sam, thanks, Mom. I received two degrees in the Earth Sciences (non-oil). Then I left, stuff happens, and I grew up as a citizen of the world (with American roots).

I worked 4 years in Iran before the revolution, 2 years in Jordan during King Hussein and another year during King Abdullah II, nearly 30 years later. I worked a year in Egypt and a year in Indonesia, 9 years in Philippines and 2 years in Nepal. I also worked for several months at a time in Pakistan, India, Zambia, Uganda, Laos, Korea and St.Lucia. For shorter periods of time, I have traveled or worked in Afghanistan, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Spain, England, and Thailand. It was great, I traveled for free.

My work generally kept me in very rural areas, rather than cities. That was good because I learned that country people are generally much more typical and characteristic of their country than are the city people (that goes for America too). I was often the only foreigner/American around and to do my job under those unusual conditions, I developed knowledge and a point of view, which allowed me to be accepted, if not particularly appreciated, dispite what had happened/was happening around me. I often found myself acting like some kind of unofficial western/American ambassador, of sorts, working to gain understanding and be understood. I spent much of my career in the MidEast and other Moslem countries. After spending that much time in the MidEast, however, I found that the Far East is a preferable place to live.

My first job took me overseas in 1973 and a career kept me there until 1980. I returned to the US for most of the 1980's, but it seemed so different, too much keeping up with the Joneses, so 'fat, dumb and happy', too perfect on many levels and subjects, so unreal compared to the rest of the world. Then I just moved out and have spent most of the the last 20 years living overseas and am now retired. My personal thoughts and POV come from those experiences and from the perspective they provided, been there done that; I come by then honestly. Those years and travels have taught me many things. I believe that I can use them for the benefit of Wikipedia. I see no reason to move back, especially post-September 11; the world had indeed changed. The US and much of the western world is now a whole different place. Welcome to the Middle East, people.

To be continued..... Continued as a result of Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Palestine-Israel_articles and a more optimistic outlook

What others think I am[edit]

to be continued....

Some happenings on my way to the Wikipedia forum[edit]

Yup, stuff happens, there is nothing you can do except deal with it. Probably the biggest instance of this 'stuff' is being born, but that would be dirgessing. I want to get into other things, which I hope, will allow you to understand my personal perspective/bias and degree of NPOV.

When I first left the US in 1973, I was a typical flag-waving American; it was ironic at the time because I wouldn't have done that state-side (because of VietNam). I was also Ameri-typically pro-Israel; I'd seen Exodus and believed it and had listened to the news. Go Israel! It was all so simple then because I didn't know Arabs or Moslems; I didn't know the other side of the truth, but I was now on the other side of the world. In Oct'73 on a quick visa trip to Kuwait, I awoke to learn from the hotel newspaper that another war had erupted, an Arab invasion, wow, go Israel! I spent that day shopping, since I was in a city and that was rare; Arab shopkeepers are very hospitable and typically serve tea and talk with customers. In two of the (5 or so) shops I visited, our conversation was suddenly cut short; I was politely hurried out the door and the shops were closed. I can't remember what we were talking about, but it got me thinking and I eventually realized that this reaction was related to the morning's news, me being American, and likely something I had naively said that showed my Ameri-typically strong pro-Israel POV.

Why didn't they like that, it was the truth, right?- how could people possibly feel the way I thought they felt; they are good people. That incident caused me to learn more about the conflict in order to better understand it. In this process, I learned the other side of the truth, or more properly, I learned that I had only been taught/told one side of the truth. Being in the Shah’s Iran was unique in itself and just happened to be a great place to learn about the MidEast; I can honestly say that I learned more of what was true in those four years than I had had the opportunity to learn in 25 years in America. I learned history and the value of an historical perspective. It had been the Persians that had freed the Hebrews from their Babylonian Exile, before there were such things as Christians and Moslems, before the Sunni-Shiite split; it was thousands of years of history and America has 500 on the best of days.

Iran, at the time, was pro-U.S. and an ally of Israel. Iran supplied both Israel and the US with oil during the ensuing oil embargo; the people are non-Arab Moslems, and were not anti-Israeli per se. My Iranian co-workers looked at the conflict from an historical and equality point of view; they could see both sides because they are not geographically, and were not immediately involved. I learned to see things similarly and improved my NPOV in the process. This knowledge started me on a quest of sorts. It is ironic (many people might say oxymoronic) that I learned my MidEast NPOV in Iran. With 30 years additional perspective, things certainly have changed; that is why I say, ‘Welcome to the Middle East, people.’

In Jordan, 1977, I started to meet and know Arabs in general and Palestinian Arabs and Levant Arabs in particular; I learned each is quite distinct. I saw my first refugee camp and was shocked; at that time they couldn't build permanent structures, because of their supposed 'temporary' nature (30 years then, 60 years now). I had long and informative discussions, drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of felafel, shiwerma and, ahh, mensef. I defended Israel and my my previous learning throughout and learned a lot more. Most importantly, after Begin’s election, I learned of the word 'Zionism', a very political side of what constitutes Israel and the Jewish People; this term was not used in American mass media (and still isn't). I didn't know the word, basically never heard of it and this was hard to imagine, given America’s theoretically free and open press. I was suprised because I quickly recognized this word as the pivotal word that allowed both sides of the conflict to rightly and justly have very different truths on their respective sides. I was (and am) still a supporter of Israel, but given what I had seen and learned, I could no longer justify a level of support that meant the exclusion of similar status/rights for the Palestinians. I considered that level of support inequal, unfair and, well, un-American. The Camp David Accords and Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty indicated movement in that direction.

The decade of the '80s, back in the States, was a real eye-opener for me, and became a period of considerable observation, study, learning and some activism. In those days my activism consisted of new books, magazines, Israeli newspapers, and a few letters to the editor, congressmen, etc. What I was learning from Israeli newspapers was of more use to truly understand the situation than what I was reading in American newspapers. The previously secret and new information presented by the New Historians was just starting to come out. There was no lack of happenings in the news at the time, including the Iran hostage crisis, fulfillment of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty (1982), the 1982 Lebanon War, the First Intifada (1987) and the first movement of the PLO toward peace (1988). What I saw in America was an uninformed and nearly blind support for Israel, as it was before. What I found, however, was that information and education on the Palesinian side of the truth caused considerable reflection and adjustment in thinking toward what might be called a just settlement. I saw for my own eyes the level and extent of anti-Iranian and anti-Arab feelings in America; much of what I saw (‘they (Moslems) are all the same’) seemed specifically to result from a lack of knowledge and the uninformed and excessively one-sided support for Israel. I also learned of the amazing and growing strength of the Israel Lobby. As the 80's ended and the 90's rolled in, current events again seemed to show movemeent toward peace. In 1991 we have the first Iraq war, but there was also the Madrid Conference of 1991, the Oslo Peace Process and the end of the First Intifada (1993) and the Israel Jordan Peace Treaty and the birth of the Palestinian Authority (1994). But I was traveling again or just gone, and lost touch. I had better things to do and basically dropped out; I lost the desire to continue my quest.

During the summer of 2007, a son visited and introduced me to Internet surfing and Wikipedia. I had used a computer for years, since my Kaypro64, but never for anything other than work, email and data, and I still can’t type. Well, it was an awakening of sorts, opened up a whole new world that I had shied away from for the previous 15 years. I spent the next three months looking at Wikipedia, comparing it's contents with what I knew from before. Wikipedia had most of the ‘fine points’, most of the 'little-known facts' that allow a just and truthful understanding, but these facts tended to be hidden in the ‘main’ article, never in the lead, seldom where they would provide insight; sometimes just burried. I also looked at the editors, talk pages and the admins of Wikipedia, because these provide information on how Wikipedia works, or is supposed to. I started to learn new things and was quite suprised by some particular developments; other subjects were the same old stuff, just more of the same.

In the intervening years there was the seemingly unsuccessful Oslo II in 1995. That year also saw the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the start of a period of bloodshed and political deadlock, through the Wye River Memorandum, the end of Israel's 18 year occupation of southern Lebanon and Camp David II, which lasted to the end of 2000. The Second Intifada started at the end of 2000, largely due (for whatever reason) to a lack of progress toward peace and (my read) a Likud political stunt. Ariel Sharon gets overwhelmingly elected (2001) because of disillusionment with movement on the land-for-peace formulas and the continuing opposition and suicide bombings and then re-occupies the West Bank in 2002. In 2003 the Quartet publishes the delayed 'roadmap' and Yasser Arafat dies amidst continuing violence and repression. In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas takes over as the head of the PLO and the PA, but Hamas, especially in Gaza, is gaining popularity as an alternative to the corrupt image (fact?) of the PLO/Fatah-led PA.

Israel, courageously but unilaterally, disengages from Gaza at a time when the ability of the PA to control their internal situation had been severly degraded; with the withdrawal completed but the violence continuing, the Israeli peace movement gets cut off at the knees. In 2006, the Palestinian people overwhelmingly elect 'terrorist' Hamas to power and stun most of the world. The response of the democratic world is to cut off all ties and money to the democratically elected government, hmm, something seems not-quite-right here. Hizbullah instigates the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and much of Lebanon, well beyond Hizbullah, gets destroyed; the west holds back condemnation long enough to give Israel a chance to hit hard at the terrorists, as well as the innocents. Israel finds that massive military superiority can not defeat the designated enemy or their foreign supporters, and certainly not the real reasons for the conflict. In 2007, the west realizes their cutoff of aid to the PA has shot themselves in the foot and they resume some support for the side that lost the election. Something, again, seems not-quite-right, but it was 'their' chosen side after all. They seem to be missing something basic in their stated democratic beliefs.